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Chris Turnbull on Innovation – it’s most successful close to the business

by Emily Ord •
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Understanding that the best innovation occurs close to the business, that smaller and shorter time-frame projects are preferred, and that risks must be managed appropriately will stand any supplier seeking to do business with his agency in good stead, according Chris Turnbull, CIO at Queensland Treasury and Trade.  Turnbull made his remarks at the Intermedium/AIIA Queensland Budget Briefing on 22 July.

“Innovation depends on the perspective you have, and the closer you are to the business, the more relevant and successful the innovation is likely to be. Innovation from afar is not usually successful,” he said.

In addition, there will be a move from large, centrally managed ICT projects, to smaller, agency-led projects in the Queensland public sector, according to Turnbull. 

“I’m firmly of the view that Queensland is moving to much smaller projects, much closer to the business,” he said. “The days of centrally led massive ICT projects are, in the main, dead.”

In support of this statement, Intermedium has identified only eight new ICT initiatives in the 2014-15 Queensland Budget, which were provided funding in excess of $10milllion.

Turnbull is of the view that an ICT project lasting more than a year can quickly become irrelevant.  “If it takes 5 years to determine what the user requirements are, in all likelihood by then Industry is offering something completely different, and government policy requirements are likely to have changed too,” he remarked.

The role of the agency CIO should be close to the business and its individual challenges, advocated Turnbull. “I am in this role is because I come from the business,” he stated. “I see the data analytics issues which the Treasury needs to address, I know the data flow and procedural issues which the Treasury needs to address.”

The role of the Whole of Government CIO should also work to facilitate this agency-led, small projects approach, in Turnbull’s view.

Turnbull called on Industry to respond to the shifts in the Queensland Government’s business practices by adapting how they work with Government to provide innovative solutions.

“Government is changing the way we do business,” said Turnbull. “Industry needs to change with us.”

Every agency is different and Industry should be willing to understand individual agencies, according to Turnbull.

Risk Management, in particular, should feature prominently in Government/Industry collaboration, said Turnbull.

“The public sector has a determination to change its risk aversion; to be more courageous, to take initiative, to do things quickly, and be able to move on,” he noted. “We are looking much harder at managing risks and understanding the risks associated with government investment. Industry needs to help us to address this risk.”

Turnbull was also keen to emphasise to Industry that the Queensland Government intends that ‘as-a-service’ solutions will play a large part in enabling government to develop its capabilities.

“It is a government policy requirement for agencies to check first if there is an ‘as-a-service’ solution available; all requests which go out to the market will include an ‘as-a-service’ component,” he affirmed.

Turnbull gave examples of the Treasury’s current requirements for ‘as-a-service’ solutions, noting that the Treasury is in the market for a HR payroll system.

He also noted the Office of State Revenue is about to go to market for an ‘as-a-service’ offering for its revenue management system.

Nonetheless, the push for widespread ‘as-a-service’ adoption should not override the imperative to directly respond to the agency’s business requirements, as discussed above.

“This doesn’t mean that agencies will always choose an ‘as-a-service’ solution – if Industry can’t meet a requirement, agencies will look at other ways of the achieving that business goal,” Turnbull warned.  “However, we are hoping that Industry will meet every one of them.”

The Queensland Government announced 2 new budget-funded initiatives for Treasury in the 2014-15 Budget.

$1.1 million of Capital Expenditure is allocated for ongoing asset replacement, primarily the replacement of existing IT assets, office equipment and leasehold improvements, of which Intermedium estimates that 75% will be spent on ICT.

Further, $5.5 million of Capital Expenditure has been allocated for the development and implementation of new system capability to support improved fine collection and debt recovery by the State Penalties Enforcement Registry (SPER), with $20.3 million in Operating Expenses over four years to transition SPER to a new service delivery model developed under the contestability framework.

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