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: 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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Conclusion: Organisations source and procure research and advisory services for a range of reasons. The benefits of access to external research and advisory can vary widely from organisation to organisation. Today’s business and technology environment is changing in more radical and rapid ways. Organisations that fully access and embed the information and advice available from research and advisory services can enhance the problem identification and solving process, ensure staff are incorporating a broad range of information into their thinking and systematically include changing environmental information at strategic, tactical and operational decision making levels. Research and advisory can also be used to improve staff analysis and presentation skills. 


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Conclusion: Design thinking is increasingly being utilised by organisations in Australia and globally to create new products and services. Based on the current level of adoption by leading organisations and those investigating design thinking it could be considered the next best practice concept. However, like other best practices, it is the art of applying the technique that reaps benefits, rather than just following the process.

In other words it is the nuances that need to be considered closely and not just the elements that can be seen and touched. Understanding the elements of design thinking and, most importantly, applying the right people using the right approach with the right expectations will ensure that the results match the promise. Empathising with users, customers or consumers is the first step in the process and is critical to the success of all the effort that follows.


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Conclusion: Organisations often look to their competitors for new ideas and innovations and to provide a comparison to their own operations and business direction. Public sector organisations tend to look at other public sector organisations at different levels such as local, state or federal and public sector operations in other countries. Australia generally looks to Canada and the United Kingdom for advances in public sector administration and operations.

However, there are many lessons to be learned from other sectors and industries that could have significant benefit for individual organisations. Failure to identify and harvest the lessons and ideas from other industries will place organisations at a significant disadvantage in the future.


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Conclusion: Organisations building new products and services need new tools and skills to reinvent old business offerings or build completely new business products and services. To be successful, organisations and key decision makers need to be continually assessing the environment for tools and techniques that can be introduced to assist in providing creative thinking and service design activities. Rather than focus on volumes of detailed assessments and documentation the new approach for tools and techniques is creative and visual. Combined with a culture that supports innovation and change, these tools assist organisations to confirm their service and value direction or to identify and build new value for their customers and their organisation. Having staff who have the right skills and the right aptitude to be creative will be critical even if an organisation partners with a specialist business.


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Conclusion: Many organisations looking to transform or innovate their existing business find it difficult to think about it in a completely new way as the past is always present. One way to approach the common strategic planning activity is take the perspective used by start-ups and build a business model for the future which re-evaluates current paradigms. Existing business models can be dissected into key elements and each element can be critically examined and evaluated in terms of its contribution to the desired value proposition.


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Conclusion: Progressing digital transformation strategies requires a much more holistic view of service delivery and extends beyond existing business process review and business systems improvement. Designing services that support digital transformation objectives need to look at the end to end service including customer experience. Traditional business analysis activities that captured the requirements of the business process owner and are used to implement business systems will not be adequate.


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In June 2015, the then Minister for Communications, Malcolm Turnbull, introduced a report based on CEDA research titled ‘Australia’s future workforce’. The report examined the impact of the next wave of digital disruption on business activity, how automation will eliminate many of today’s current work roles and the impact of digital disruption on existing business practices.

Based on the previous industrial revolution, workers moved to metropolitan areas to gain employment. This model meant that physical proximity to a workplace was the key defining factor to both the worker seeking employment and the organisation seeking skilled and unskilled workers.

However, the CEDA report highlights that many of the current roles undertaken today — up to five million of them — will either disappear or be changed significantly by 2020. Significant automation will replace many manual and predictable activities, including accounting and even roles in the health sector. To date there has been action to adapt to the coming change in technology organisations and private companies; however, there is still significant lag in the public sector

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Conclusion: To progress digital transformation strategies there are a number of new competencies (such as problem finding and problem framing) that organisations need to recognise and master or partner with specialists to ensure that investments and efforts are aimed at solving the right problems. CIOs and business executives will need to assess the problem finding capabilities within their organisations or risk implementing a better digital solution to a problem that is no longer relevant.


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Conclusion: Australian Organisations are actively developing and refining digital transformation strategies in recognition of the changing business and government operational environment. Innovation is generously mentioned in most strategies and there has been an increase in the number of Chief Digital Officer roles being offered and filled to assist organisations to achieve the transformation they are striving for. However, organisations need to actively develop innovation and entrepreneurial skills and capabilities across their organisations to ensure that they have broad skills to contribute to transformation and innovation programs and an entrepreneurial culture to support ongoing experimentation and change.


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Conclusion: It has been well established in recent reports that future workplaces will be significantly different from today and the workers of tomorrow will demand to work differently. Technology has enabled organisations to provide greater freedom to their workers with a new, greater understanding of the strength and weaknesses of flexible working. In addition, organisations will gradually casualise their workforce for greater flexibility. Organisations that fully harness the potential of providing highly flexible or flexible and creative workplaces early will be able to attract and retain the best talent for their workforce. Other organisations will be forced to adapt as work roles and practices disappear or change radically.


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Conclusion: While benefits management is considered highly relevant to project challenges facing organisations, benefits management has proven difficult to fit into the way that the organisation undertakes projects. The potential of effective benefits management is understood, but the ability of organisations to apply it continues to lag.

Implementing a pragmatic approach which considers the culture and relative maturity of the organisation will assist in improving this key area of IT investment governance.


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Conclusion: Nearly all organisations recognise that the world, their industry, and their customers are changing. Evidence of that realisation can be seen in company restructures, strategy and vision documents, and the discourse used by executive management. Change vocabulary such as transformation, innovation, anything Cloud, as-a-service or mobile is widely used. However, history shows that even highly successful companies find change and transformation difficult, with icons such as Novell and Netscape either failing completely or being relegated to market followers.

Review of these and similar organisations shows that being overly committed to a previously winning formula, misreading the market and competition dynamics or responding to market changes too slowly were common missteps.


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