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Article: Digital transformation projects play a significant role in helping some of the most vulnerable members of our community

In challenging times of bushfires and floods, the community needs to know the government has their back.

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As appeared in The Mandarin September 2022

Digital transformation is about people, not technology

In challenging times of bushfires and floods, the community needs to know the government has their back. Getting disaster and support payments to vulnerable communities is job number one for many agencies, but often those agencies and departments are stuck in old, pre-digital ways of doing things. Those vulnerable communities are left wondering when they will get their payment, and whether the process will be easy and transparent, especially for culturally and linguistically diverse people. Recently, Brooke, who specialises in implementing complex, business-wide change through digital transformation, together with Salesforce, undertook a digital transformation project for a Victorian government agency aimed at solving these problems.

The agency needed new systems and processes to receive a high volume of applications for support payments and be able to assess the applications in a timely manner. They also needed to make the right decisions about allocating payments. This project had helping a vulnerable section of the community at its heart, and because public commitments had been made, it needed to go from a standing start to a minimum viable service in four weeks, with the ultimate aim of an end-to-end digital solution.

Digital transformation is about people, not technology “We don’t work with the public sector just to implement technology,” says Bruce McGregor, managing partner at Brooke. “It’s all about collaboration to achieve business results and we work with our clients to meet those needs.”

More importantly, it’s also about accomplishing a cultural change within the department or agency and to do that, the people who work there need to be brought along for the journey.

Bruce McGregor

According to Mr McGregor, it’s the cultural change which represents a bigger part of the digital transformation project than the technology being rolled out. The question is, how do you achieve the required cultural change without leaving anyone behind? And how does the technology fit into this mix, with digital transformation essentially being about replacing old, dated technology and processes with new ones?

At the core of Brooke’s methods is what’s called ‘human centred design,’ which means, as its name suggests, putting people at the very centre of the change process, instead of making technology the focus. “We relate it back to the people who are going to use the technology, rather than the tech itself,” says Guy Ghattas, who was Brooke’s project manager on the Victorian government undertaking. “We seek to engage with the people who will use the end product and understand what their needs are and how the new technology will help them do their jobs in a more productive way.”

Many departments and agencies are still in the stone age when it comes to technology. Green screens, DOS prompts and lots of paper files are all, to varying degrees, still in use. “We aim to continually reassure people throughout the design process that we are here to support them, not just implement some new technology and walk away,” says Mr Ghattas. Brooke does this through a staged process, from design – which has people at its heart – through to having the project go live and then into managed support. “We have staff on the ground,” he says. “We deeply understand government business and we also understand change management is constantly evolving.”

Helping vulnerable people

The Victorian government project, like many projects across state and federal jurisdictions, focussed on providing a range of support, including grants payments, to a vulnerable sector of the community. As has been seen over the last few years with natural disasters like floods and bushfire, government agencies are increasingly offering grants and payments, along with an array of non-financial support, to
help affected communities.

In the case of the Victorian government, Brooke implemented the Salesforce Public Sector Solutions (PSS) Grants Management product to increase the speed and efficiency with which eligible members of the community could make an application seeking support and funding. It is also a transparent process and was designed to be easy for culturally and linguistically diverse people to use.

With only four weeks to ensure the minimal viable service was operational, Brooke utilised its well-regarded hybrid project methodology, which meant every two weeks both the end user and client were able to give feedback on the new capabilities and experiences being designed. The feedback was then incorporated back into the iterative development process.

“Our agile methodology enables the project team and the client to prioritise and deliver what is
most important,” says Mr Ghattas. “Using this approach, the focus is on achieving the best outcomes for our client.”

Using this methodology also meant there were no unexpected surprises for the client or customer where something is delivered that is not the highest priority, or where critical details (such as culturally sensitive onscreen wording) has been left out.

The Public Sector Solutions (PSS) Grants Management product is cloud hosted and includes pre-built objects designed by Salesforce specifically for government.

The pre-built nature of the product means very little, if any, customisation is needed. Being in the cloud, it’s optimised to scale rapidly and is available to any device (mobile phone, desktop computer, tablet, or voice call) an end user might have.

It’s also located in an Australian data centre, making it compliant with government requirements for data to reside onshore. “Salesforce looks after all the risk elements,” says Mr McGregor. “That’s the power of Salesforce being local, and secure.”

More than ever before, the community has elevated expectations for government to respond rapidly to their needs. Pre pandemic our target was to have customers live in 90 days; this became more like 90 hours in emergency situations. The team at Brooke have consistently risen to this challenge and embraced Salesforce Public Sector Solutions as a key mechanism for delivering faster outcomes that make a positive impact to the community.

Mike de Hennin, Regional Vice President, Public Sector APAC at Salesforce

Given the tight timeframe allocated to the project, Brooke delivered ahead of time, and within budget. But as Mr McGregor notes, it’s not just a technology project being delivered, but a project seeing the way the relevant department or agency goes about its business being digitally

“The change impact of a project like this is immense,” he says. “When digital transformation projects come up, people get worried about change. They want to know how it will make their job easier, simpler, and better overall.”

“Change management is more important than the technology,” he adds. “People working in those roles do it because they are impacted personally by it, and they want to do the right thing for their community. By managing change properly, they’re able to do their jobs with the right tools and serve the people they care about.

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