Transcript - Paul's speech at the Digital Transformation Agency Community of Practice Webcast (September 2015)

JANE SPEECHLEY: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome and thank you for joining us today for our Digital Community of Practice Forum. My name is Jane Speechley, I'm the Head of Communications for the Digital Transformation Office. 

Of course, I’d like to begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land we're meeting on today, the Ngunnawal people, and pay my respects to their elders past and present and the valuable contribution they make to our community. 

I’d like to begin, also, by welcoming all our guests here at the 50 Marcus Clarke Theatre in Canberra. Thank you so much for your time and commitment in joining us today. And of course, a warm welcome to those of you joining us via the World Wide Web and we look forward to your participation and contributions today. 

We do have a lot to get through this morning and a relatively short period of time to get through it. So I'll ask for your cooperation as we move fairly quickly through our proceedings. 

Two things I would like to emphasise, though. You will have ample opportunity to ask questions today and we really encourage you to be forthright about asking your questions. You'll have an opportunity after both of our speakers have concluded their presentations. You’ll also have a further opportunity at the end to grab any of our team members that are milling around and have a chat with them as well. 

We’re welcoming questions online, of course, via the chat box in your webcast window. You can also Tweet us using the hashtag DCOP, #DCOP. And we’ll be monitoring that hashtag and welcoming questions via the web as well. 

I will ask you also to keep your questions brief, if you can. It’s not the Academy Awards, we don't have a live orchestra to play you down if you get too lengthy in your questions, so we do have a lot to get through today and we do want to give everyone a chance to speak, so please do be concise in your questions. 

In terms of our program today, we're going to open with an address from the CEO of the Digital Transformation Office, Paul Shetler. Jacqui van Teulingen, who is the Head of our Standards Team, will then talk you through our Digital Service Standards, how they've come about and importantly what they will mean for you. Our Head of Technology and Security Pia Waugh will then talk you through our design guides, where they fit into the picture and how they can help you in your work. And finally, Jackie will then wrap up with some great ideas on the next steps for you and what you might be able to do with the information we've shared today right now. So, I'd like to first introduce the CEO of the DTO, Mr Paul Shetler. Most of you would be aware that Paul commenced with the DTO in July of this year. He’s a technologist, an entrepreneur, with over two decades of experience. He’s worked on large-scale IT programs and projects and organisational change projects, spanning both the public and private sectors. He comes to us having co-founded two start-ups, having worked in two others and also having worked with such large organisations as Oracle and Microsoft and the global payments network Swift. 

More recently, of course, he has been working in the area of transforming the way government delivers public services, most recently with the UK's Government Digital Service and prior to that with the UK Ministry of Justice as their Chief Digital Officer. Can I ask you to please welcome Mr Paul Shetler? 

Paul Shetler: Thank you. Thanks. Thanks very much. So, I was just about to do a little introduction of myself, but that has been done beautifully well! So welcome. 

I’m told there are about 180 people who have signed up to come here and be physically present and about another 300 who have registered to be able to get on this online. And I think, if it’s like last year, or actually the last time we did this, we’ll have quite a few more. So welcome, everybody. 

And I’d like to start out with this little clicker that I have in my… No, not in my pocket. We have a question, which is, "Why are we here?" 

We've got about 180 people here, we’ve got a few hundred people coming online, hopefully more people streaming in, and so what’s this all about, this digital thing? Because everybody in here is part of the broader digital community in Australian government. The DTO might be the organisation that is throwing this thing, that is holding this event, but actually, it’s the broader community that is going to be doing the transformation. 

So why are we here in the first place? And I think the answer is, actually, fairly simple, although sometimes we forget that. It's just that people are online. We are online. Every single one of us is online. Many of us have been online since, well, since the beginning, basically, since the early ‘90s. And people's experiences in real life, that sort of distinction between real life and digital, that’s already sort of melted away. 

And people's experience of, or expectation of, what service provision should be like are really, more and more, informed by what they can get when they go to an Amazon, when they go to an Uber, when they go to their bank to transact, when they go to get a vacation somewhere, or holiday - I'm not quite sure if it's vacation or holiday in this country - but it’s usually something which is pleasurable. It’s something which is simple. Something which sticks no barriers between you and getting that service, the actual service itself. And that's because, in many ways now, digital is not just about the ordering of a service, but also the consumption of that service, right? Everything is happening increasingly online. Everything is usually very simple. Everything is usually associated with pleasure. And that’s the standard by which we’re judged. 

So think about what we do and then think about how it would be delivered in the commercial world. That’s the standard that people are holding us to. Right? That’s the standard. We have to keep pace with the outside world. 

Now, we did a little bit of research and we found out that, of course, Australians are accessing government services as much as they are any other kind of service. And over any month, about one in eight Australians will look up government information or try to transact with the government online. But over half of them will face a problem. 55% will face problem. 

And that can be because the information is fragmented in multiple different websites. That can be because, perhaps, little bits and pieces of the service don't join up, so an agency might allow you to do a particular thing with their bit of the user journey, but the next bit of it is handled by another agency and there might not be a real join-up. So from the end-user perspective, it appears disjointed, it appears broken even if, from the agency perspective, they're doing everything they need to do. Right? 

And if people have that problem and they're not able to do what they want to do online, then usually a policy intent won't be met, because there was a reason why the service was put up in the first place, or there was a reason why the information was made available in the first place. But, also, then they will have to go to other channels to get things done. Right? 

So that means they may have to call a call centre. That means they may have to go to a storefront and that means, first off, that we have unhappier users, because they can't do everything in one fell swoop, which is what they would want to do. But also it costs more money. It costs more money to have unhappy users and that is not a situation we want to be in. So we must do better. 

In the age of Amazon, Uber and Airbnb, it’s not good enough to have a fragmented experience. It’s not good enough to actually have to call a call centre. And if you’re on Amazon and you had to then print out a PDF and then send that in to get your book and then somebody had to rekey that information into their internal systems, you know, you’d kind of wonder what was going on. It would be kind of crazy, yeah? 

So, public servants, we're all public servants. We’re all here because we’re here to serve the people, that’s why we took this job. And we all believe very strongly in it. But we’re often hamstrung, right? Often hamstrung by poor IT, or IT which hasn't kept pace, people being forced to read things from a document, or a printout from a webpage and input it into a green screen somewhere else, perhaps copy it from that green screen, write it on a piece of paper, read that piece of paper, copy it into another screen… Turning people into human APIs, when actually that's what a machine should be doing, probably isn't the best use of our time and our effort. And it's certainly not the best way to serve the people, certainly not the best way to serve the people. 

So again, although we're not in a competitive marketplace, we’re judged by the standard of service delivery people have in everyday life and we’re found wanting. And it’s worse because, often times, when people have to deal with government, it’s because it’s not something which is a regular thing, it’s not like paying a bill online. It’s not like ordering a book online, it’s also something which tends to be irregular and in many cases, involved with a major life transition, having a baby, opening a business, immigrating to another country, getting sick and having to get Medicare. All those kinds of things are not associated with pleasure. Right? So, at a moment when people's lives are under stress, we still provide them with services, which could be a lot better. And should be a lot better. And really must be a lot better. 

So we think we have a huge opportunity. We think the opportunity here is immense. We have the chance, with the rise of cloud technologies and so on, which have made compute and made data storage at the all those kinds of things, which sort of were the reasons why traditional IT is so expensive in many ways, having to spend huge amounts of capital to get servers, having to procure expensive IT systems. Those days, really, for most start-ups and most new companies, those days are over. Right? And that’s why they can focus all their effort on designing beautiful services. And designing absolutely brilliant services. They can spend all their time and all their effort on actually meeting the needs of users, rather than struggling through the constraints of boxes, wires, cables and IT. 

And we think we have a similar opportunity here. That’s why the DTO was started. That’s why we are all in this room and that is to radically redesign government services, the face of Australian government, across all three levels and across all channels, so that it can be simple, clear, fast and humane when it deals with end users. So that people can get the things that only government can provide without having to have a degree in constitutional law, or a map of how government works in their heads, without having to know that I have to go to this department, at this tier of government, this agency, in this state, in this authority, in this local municipality, or this channel, or a call centre, or a shopfront, or digital. 

So we think that if we get things right at the point of entry and we provide a simple, clear interface to government services, Australia can become the best and can actually lead the world in provision of digital services. And that’s our ambition, right? That is why we are here. That is why we were brought in here. 

This team, you and everyone who’s listening, are part of the larger Australian digital community. And that is the challenge we have ahead of us. How can we leapfrog and make Australia the absolute best in the world, learning from what has happened in other countries along the way, as they’ve done on a digitisation journey, how can we make Australia the best in provision of public services? And how can we transform the face of Australian public services so users are happy when they deal with us and they leave feeling really good? 

So we have a slogan in DTO about simpler, clearer, faster, more humane public services. And I’ll give just kind of really clear... Some simple ideas I want to talk about here. When talking about simpler, we mean that when a user has a problem only the government can give them the solution to, that they don't need to have a Ph.D. in constitutional law. Real, real simple. They don't need to have that map of how the government works. So the government has actually done the hard work to make the experience simple for them. They have actually gone through and said, "Do we actually need to have this many forms? Do we need to ask this many questions? Does the user journey actually have to be fragmented amongst all these different websites? Or can we actually think about what we're doing and work real hard, so that our users walk away happy that they got something done really simply?" 

And I can give an example of that from what I've seen in the UK. And I know than we can do at least as well. It used to be in the UK that when you wanted to sign up to vote and there, of course, voting is not mandatory like it is here, you would have to go through a pretty laborious process, including sending in documents and so on and so forth, for a so-called online service. That was recently reformed as part of the government's Digital Exemplar program there and now it takes about three minutes to sign up. 

Now, I had lived in the UK for 13 and-a-half-years before coming here and it was only in the last year that I was there that I actually registered to vote. Kind of shocking, I know! But it was just simply because it was too difficult. But when it takes three minutes to do that and a simple form, then people do do it. And the rates of participation in the last election, if you start looking at the actual number of people registering to vote, they went through the roof because it was simple. 

And then we were able to integrate that form with social media, we were able to put it on Twitter, able to put it on Facebook and drive huge amounts of people registering to vote. And it was because it was simple. It was because we spent a lot of time and a lot of effort thinking about what do people actually want to do with this, rather than could we get an additional piece of information from the user? Could we get something else from them? Could we make things a bit more complicated because it might make our lives a bit more easy? Right? So having empathy with the users and keeping things really simple and aiding the fragmentation, it’s hard work, but it’s absolutely worth it. 

Clearer services. Think about when you go onto a website, any government website, I’m not talking about only Australia, pretty much around the world, and try to understand what people are actually telling you. And think about what level vocabulary you need to have, what level of education you’d need to have and how you actually, in many ways, the actual writing is not geared towards making things clear and simple. 

So simple, plain language and guidance that focuses on what users need, so the government can actually serve them is absolutely essential to transforming public services. Again, you don't need a lawyer when you’re on Amazon to know what button to click next. You just don't. And if you did, they would be out of business. And that is the standard we’re being held to. 

Faster services. If we make things simpler and we make things clearer, then we can make things a lot faster for our users. Again, it took me three minutes to register to vote. 

When I was at the Ministry of Justice, one of the exemplars my team produced was a booking system so people could visit other people in prison. Whether they’re family members, or friends, or whoever. Typically, that used to take over an hour. And it was a real, real, incredibly frustrating experience, because people would be calling up a phone number - a different phone number per prison, by the way - and at that time, there would be like one or two people answering the phone. That’s when everybody is calling in. And, by the way, those one or two people were doing their other job at the same time. 

So what that really meant was an awful lot of people hanging on the phone, call not being answered and if they ever did get answered, people were panicking and trying to book every single available slot all at once. A really, really unsatisfactory experience for everybody. 

We were able to change that so that you could actually, again, make a booking to visit somebody in about three minutes. That's because we did the hard work to make things simple. And that kind of speed is internet speed. That’s what people expect. That is the standard we’re held against. Not an hour and then perhaps getting the information wrong and then having to call a call centre or go somewhere else to get it remediated face-to-face. That’s just not acceptable in the age of the internet. 

And all that means that our services become more humane. It’s perhaps a strange word to talk about humane public services, but we have to think about when do people use public services? And unless it’s, you know, a yearly event and there are some yearly events like paying tax, oftentimes it’s because there’s something that has happened in somebody's life where they need what government can provide. Keep in mind the difference between us and the private sector is we don't have customers. We’re not in a competitive market. We’re providing things that only government can provide. 

People who use our services have no choice, because we are the only provider, government, writ large, is the only provider and government has no choice. If somebody is qualified or entitled to use our service, they’re entitled to use our service. So we’re not looking for custom. We’re not looking for more customers. We’re not marketing to an audience or anything like that, we’re trying to provide the best services we can to our users. 

And that means we have, in the lack of a market, an ethical obligation to provide the absolute best services that we can. And that's why we use the word humane. And that means focusing on the user needs and not agency or department needs. What does the user actually need? That’s how we build brilliant services. 

So, principles, the DTO and for the Australian government digital community, writ large. Users first. Focus on the user need, not the departmental need. Think big, because the task ahead of us is enormous. It’s juicy, it’s an incredible challenge. I mean, think about it. Here, we’re talking about Commonwealth, we’re talking about states, we’re talking about localities and we’re talking about multiple channels. That is a massive, massive challenge. And it requires us to be imaginative and visionary, in terms of how we actually go about in terms of what it is we’re actually going to be doing. 

But we also know we can't do that all at once. We also know that the only way you’re going to get there is by delivering that transformation in small slices quickly, testing the results with real users, not focus groups, not studies, but putting the code out there in the wild, so people can actually check it out, see how it works and so we can respond to what actually is their feedback. Is it good? Or is it not? 

At the Ministry of Justice, my team delivered things within a 20 week time box and the reason for that was very simple. You know, if your parent is getting dementia, if you need to visit somebody in prison, a three or four year IT timeline is absolutely unacceptable. 

Also, equally importantly, getting things out really quickly allows us to see do they actually meet the user need? So we don't wind up spending huge amounts of time and huge amounts of money and at the end of that process, understanding that we didn't. 

Delivering quickly. And once we have done that, after delivering quickly, iterating what we’ve done wildly. Right? So we’re not talking about change controls, we’re talking about products, not projects. We’re talking about meeting user needs in slices and then continuing to add to that, continuing to meet them, until we finally reach a point of steady-state. That’s very, very different from the way the government typically, or most governments do, IT management and that’s why we think it’s really important to make this point. It’s also the way we drive cultural change inside the public service. 

When I was at the Ministry of Justice, we had a guy there who was a pretty visionary civil servant. That's what they’re called in the UK. And he was responsible for the delivery of a number of services to people who are particularly vulnerable. And he was also somebody who was very, very used to real traditional IT management type of text. Things like PRINCE2 and so on and so forth. He loved his waterfall. He loved having reports. Loved the risk registers. Loved the thick documents and all that kind of stuff. And we asked, "Could we do something different? Can we try a different way of doing this thing?" 

And we convinced him to try going with an Agile way of development, with incremental delivery, with sprints every two weeks. And can we please cut down the governance, so that we can actually have delivery, rather than reporting? 

And he was a little bit sceptical, but he let us do that. And after about six months, he was turned around. The man understood that he had, I think in his words was he had much more visibility because of the transparency and he had much more control than he ever did using traditional techniques. And because he cared, he actually deeply cared about his users, he was getting better results for his users in less time and less money. That's how we drive cultural change. And that's how we deliver brilliant public services. 

So, I like to say we’re part of a worldwide movement. Because we are, right? Our job is to infect government here, just like government has been infected in other countries, with the digital way of doing things. The challenges we’re facing here are not unique. Right? If you look at the United States, if you look at the United Kingdom, if you look at New Zealand, Singapore, Israel, South Korea, Estonia. Every single government is dealing with the same kinds of pressures, right? Which is that they’ve got budget pressures, they have unhappy users, they have people saying, "Why can't you do things in a better way?" Right? 

And I think, right now, we have a chance to lead, but we also have a chance to learn. We have a chance to look and see what has been done in other countries, to take the best of that, to adopt that here, to improve that and give back as part of a larger worldwide community. 

Again, doing the hard work to make it simple. Government as government, across all channels and delivering to expectations of citizens, showing that we can provide experiences that are at least, at least as good as those provided by the public sector… by the private sector, excuse me. I think that’s actually really important. 

When I was at the Ministry of Justice, we were extremely proud of our delivery. We were extremely proud of the quality of the products. We were extremely proud of how short a time it took to deliver them. And it was something which got us out of bed in the morning and I would like to see that exact same kind of spirit here in Australia. 

So I guess the last message is, in the DTO, we’re not the start-up. Most people refer to DTO as the start-up. DTO is not the start-up. The start-up is you. It is the digital teams in the agencies who are delivering services. DTO is the incubator. We will work with you. We will support you. We will challenge you, but we all have the exact same goal of making public services in Australia the best they can possibly be.