Sue Johnston

Sue Johnston

Sue Johnston is an IBRS advisor who focuses on strategy and governance of private and public enterprise ICT. She is an accomplished and innovative strategist with more than 25 years’ IT and business experience across the public and private sectors. Sue has held a number of senior executive positions with IT vendors and major management consulting companies and provides coaching to IT teams looking to change the conversation with their customers, their executive and each other. As a CIO, she has led the ICT function through significant transformation for organisations such as Department of the Premier and Cabinet, Auscript Australasia and TriCare Limited. Sue has also run a successful software development company and transitioned the company through an acquisition process. Sue chaired Innovation Committee in State Government which was responsible for generating, developing and funding innovative ideas and improving the skills and capabilities of public sector staff in pitching ideas and successfully executing innovation projects.

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Conclusion: Organisations everywhere are implementing Agile as a dynamic approach to speed up the creation of value and improve development of new and improved services and products. Adopting a best practice such as Agile is more than learning a new process and skill and then applying it in a project environment. Implementing Agile in an established organisation means that there are often a number of other frameworks, best practices and procedures that will need to co-exist with Agile. It is critical to consider these elements and adjust them to ensure that Agile is effective in delivering the value and benefits expected and is not another “best practice” fad.


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Conclusion: Project management in organisations is commonplace. Reviews are often undertaken at the end of the project to gain learnings for future projects. Project reviews completed during the life of a project need to ensure that they are inclusive of appropriate stakeholder groups and assessment is targeted at the appropriate focus areas. Active and inclusive review and assurance activities need to be well understood and supported within the organisation so that it is not viewed as an exam that needs to be prepared for and passed. Applying reviews and assurance as a process checkpoint only is ineffective and will not ensure quality project delivery.


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Conclusion: Most organisations today understand that business change requires the effective management of stakeholders. Whether they be internal or external, the inclusion of their opinions, needs and concerns is critical to the success of the initiative. However, too many projects and change programs still struggle to be completed successfully or to achieve desired outcomes. Change management and stakeholder engagement is too often handled as a linear process and many are under the assumption that working through the activities in sequence will be sufficient. Stakeholders are complex to identify and to assess as their relative power and influence often go beyond the obvious. Effective stakeholder engagement absolutely requires a full and frank appreciation of the power and influence of each stakeholder.


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Conclusion: Organisations are under pressure – pressure to keep limited budgets in check and pressure to deliver more in short time frames. Full time headcount is down and a significant amount of the work undertaken by organisations is project based. This has driven many recruitment practices including the engagement of skilled professionals to deliver on those projects. Induction processes are limited as this is seen as an overhead when it is critical to focus on the desired outcomes. As a result, organisations are limiting their resource pool and the benefit that experience in other sectors can bring. In addition, there is limited focus on what longer-term contribution or skills transfer can be provided for the broader workforce as they transform towards a digital workforce. Unless recruitment and resource management practices change, staff and skills shortages will continue to dominate the CIO risk list.


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Conclusion: It is difficult to plan when innovation will occur. It is particularly difficult for established organisations to be innovative – they have been successful through sound business practices and an ability to execute, not innovate. Nearly all organisations, both public and private, understand and accept that innovation and the ability to change is critical to success and ongoing viability. However, the very structure of organisations could be killing ideas and management processes can slow change down to a glacial pace. Budget cuts and efficiency measures have largely been focused at the operational level which means that there are less resources to do the same or more work, and then there is the added pressure of being innovative. Real change is effected when the change is applied throughout the organisation, starting at the executive level.


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Conclusion: Australian governments at the federal and state levels have been implementing, modifying, discarding or persevering with shared services models for the better part of 15 years. Most of these initiatives were based on the premise that consolidating corporate service functions into a single entity and providing “shared services” back to the originating agencies would provide significant efficiencies and cost savings. While the concept of shared services does have considerable potential for value creation and efficiencies for government sectors, it is the execution that needs to be rethought.

Shared services operational units need to heed the learnings from other activities including:

  • the entrepreneurial sector
  • application of UCD
  • other service redesign techniques, and effectively generate a spin-off that everyone wants to receive services from.

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Conclusion: Australian Government digital transformation programs tend to adopt the model implemented by the UK Government and use this to develop priorities and implement programs. This will provide line-of-sight improvements and may help to identify some breakthrough options. Additional priorities will ensure that there is appropriate leadership to lead cultural and behavioural changes. In the future, citizen-centric should not mean a better way for each tier of government to deliver their traditional services but that services are designed to meet the needs of the citizens regardless of the jurisdiction or level of government service delivery.


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Conclusion: All organisations have technology partners. Some will have long standing partners and some technology partners will play the role of innovation lead or be responsible for introducing new technologies to their customers. However, relying on these traditional technology partners may prevent organisations from achieving digital transformation goals and may even be detrimental to innovation objectives. Organisations that are successful in the digital era will use innovation as a strategic, systemic and technological lever for establishing and supporting agile innovation cultures, new accountable business management practices and processes, and establish or participate in global industry eco-systems. This means being a capable and proactive organisation and knowing how to utilise technology partners without being led by them.


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Conclusion: In organisations across Australia, there is a push for digital and business transformation. Many of these same organisations utilise business analysis in a traditional way which results in the standard capture of requirements and the conversion of requirements into system specifications without really challenging business processes. In addition, there is often a trend of allocating too many responsibilities to a single role and not providing appropriate authority to the role of rigorously analysing processes, systems and requirements, which will impact on many digital transformation activities.

Business Transformation needs comprehensive analysis and a complete reassessment of the process or analysis with a capital “A”. Failure to objectively and fearlessly review and remove outdated processes and system functions will result in a failure to appropriately transform the business for the future.


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Conclusion: User Centred Design (UCD) and Design Thinking are terms that are often used interchangeably. However, each approach is better suited to different scenarios and understanding the strengths and focus of each approach enables organisations to build capability and processes that leverage the opportunities presented by each to maximise service innovation and new product service design. While often used as approaches to identify and design products and services with a technology focus, they are in no way limited to technology elements. Not only is it important to leverage the most appropriate approach but organisations also need to build and apply skills and knowledgeable internal resources in the most effective manner to yield the expected results from these experiential methods.


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Conclusion: Public policy over the past decade has been considered by many as reactive with resulting implementations ineffective. In 2012, the Institute of Public Administration Australia (IPAA) published a report that reviewed the policy development approach of the Australian Government and determined that approaches could at best be considered ‘Policy on the Run’. It was the opinion of IPAA that this approach was ineffective and that a business case approach would be more effective. UCD provides evidence to support the business case approach and put the community at the centre of policy development.


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Conclusion: Organisations in both the public and private sectors have been actively improving capability and implementing processes and frameworks to improve project delivery effectiveness over the past decade. Project management approaches such as Prince2 and PMBOK have been adopted to improve project management practitioner capability and equip project boards and project sponsors to understand their roles and responsibilities in supporting project delivery.

The Gateway Review Process was designed and implemented as part of assurance activities and was intended to be a supportive and proactive activity that highlighted areas that may impact on successful project delivery thus enabling organisations to take corrective action well in advance of major milestones.

However, based on a number of high profile project disasters in organisations that have implemented the proactive assurance approach of Gateway Reviews, there are some learnings that will assist other organisations to avoid project failure.


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Conclusion: Australian governments at all levels are in the process of rethinking, reimagining and redesigning systems, process and services to improve government service delivery to an ever more demanding community. A number of government jurisdictions have or are adopting a user-centric approach to the design and delivery of a new generation of government services.

User-centric approaches such as User Centred Design puts the user at the heart of design and implementation and focuses on building products and services that are usable and useful through an approach that is inclusive and iterative.

However, simply adopting a fashionable approach under the guise of best practice alone will not provide optimal benefits and often places undue focus on the process at the expense of critical cultural and capability elements. Agencies looking to design and deliver improved government services need to also anticipate and provide for critical success factors such as: what is the most appropriate user approach, what skills and personalities should design teams include and leverage, and what behaviours should user-centric change programs support, encourage and reward to facilitate a successful user-centric program?


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Conclusion: It is widely recognised that public sector organisations do not have the same market drivers as private enterprise to be able to innovate in the same way. Drivers such as competitive forces and profit incentives stimulate and support breakthrough innovation. However, by understanding the elements that are active when breakthrough innovation occurs and reframing it within the context of the government sector, significant benefits and progress can be achieved.


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