“Ensuring Australians benefit from great ideas” – that’s the passionate mission of IP Australia, the Government agency responsible for administering Australia’s patents, trademarks, designs and plant breeder’s rights systems. With the value of intangible assets including IP growing within the top S&P 500 companies from approximately 14% in 1975 to approximately 86% today - IP is front and centre in the new economy.
IP Australia has worked hard to position itself in the digital capability space, becoming one of the first fully digital Federal Government services agencies and a leader in AI and Machine Learning within the public sector.
Deloitte recently collaborated with IP Australia to support their journey to drive a customer-centric, digitally-driven test bed for innovation within the Australian Public Service (APS). The first phase focussed on a refresh of its IT Strategy and IT Operating Model to continue to build organisational success.
The challenge? IP Australia needed a truly business-led approach to defining their IT Strategy and Operating Model to support the agency’s passion of ensuring Australian’s benefit from great ideas.
We sat down with IP Australia’s Chief Information Officer, Rob Bollard, to discuss how we approached this challenge to truly be business-led and share some insights on how other organisations could approach this.
“We had to become more a part of the business, aligning ourselves to corporate success. The IT Strategy belongs to IP Australia, all of us, not just the CIO.” – Rob Bollard
Before embarking on this phase, it was important for the agency to step back and consider why they wanted to head in this direction. There were two compelling reasons:
Both factors brought about the need to align the IT direction with the corporate direction – and ensure they remain aligned.
“Rather than dictating the priorities back to the business, the priorities and direction were shaped with all the senior leaders across the agency.” – Rob Bollard
A core challenge of the various strategies an organisation may have (corporate, workforce, digital, IT, communication) is ensuring they align and are supportive of each other. To tackle this at IP Australia, we deliberately aligned the IT Strategy to the revised Corporate Strategic Roadmap 2030. This ensured the thinking that emerged in the IT Strategy was aligned with the corporate direction and important enablers for 2030. It brought a healthy blend of ‘big picture thinking’ and the ‘everyday pain points’ we often focus on when looking at our IT. This approach allows IP Australia to deliver a strategic perspective plus ‘quick wins’ to increase internal and external customer satisfaction and build trust.
“That simple graphic was a game-changer. Being able to have an evidence-based conversation about where our investment was now, and where we wanted to position ourselves shaped our whole strategy.” – Rob Bollard
A key component of the strategy was showing where IT investment was, and where IP Australia intended to shift it. It’s important (and difficult) to strike the right balance between investing in “core” operational improvement and refreshing existing IT, and investing “strategic” growth in new capabilities and experimenting with innovative products that may not always deliver an improvement. Presenting this model enabled strategic conversations with the Executives, and ensure the IT strategy struck the balance appropriate for IP Australia.
“It is pivotal in the minds of senior management to define operating models and organisation structures early.” – Rob Bollard
Following IP Australia’s endorsement of the IT Strategy, we supported the redesign of their operating model for IT. In response to feedback from across the agency, and its customers, it is shifting to a model that shares most of its characteristics with a ‘platform’ archetype. What they really needed to focus on was not just who people reported to, it was how they worked and the kind of culture they wanted to continue to embed. A common lesson learned from several other organisations is that there is too much focus on the hierarchical/structural model where it was very siloed, and although they may have fantastic people – it stymies their ability to deliver in a fast and effective way.
IP Australia’s journey to shift the way it works will be an iterative one, but it has been designed in a way that really lives up to the ethos of being business-led. It aims to introduce more shared metrics and accountability between the teams under the CIO and other groups across the agency. It is taking little steps in the right direction, but not being locked into a new archetype that may cost a lot to implement, or prevent future adaption. You need an approach that shifts you forward but does so in a way that brings people with you. It really comes down to the attributes of your organisation: what makes your organisation unique, or what are the common things, and then design the model fit, rather than just trying to press a generic model straight off the rack onto the organisation.
“Shared metrics actually makes you legitimately business-led because you’re both working to achieve the same goal, and both measured against your ability to achieve that goal.” – Rob Bollard
The design of the revised model has sparked broader strategic conversations within IP Australia about applying the approach across everything they do. A number of organisations, both public and private, continue to shift their modes of operation into multifaceted teams delivering a particular outcome for the organisation and then dispersing and moving onto the next one.
In terms of measuring success, traditional IT metrics such as frequency of releases will still have their place. In addition, we are looking for the subtle changes in people and language that can be a far better indicator of whether the organisation is heading in the right direction. Success can be measured when IT teams start communicating more with the business to solve a particular problem. Looking for feedback cycles that show IT is moving in line with the direction of the business, delivering real value. We look for a change in language within investment committees, for example, a change from an ‘IT project’ to a ‘joint platform project’ with business and IT co-presenting investment cases.
After all, a joined-up focused and cohesive organisation is the best way we can ensure that Australian innovators and business benefit from great ideas.
“We’ve made tremendous progress, but it’s a journey not a destination.” – Rob Bollard
IP Australia has just started; the proposed long-term vision is to deliver on the 2030 Corporate Horizons in a “Value Stream” aligned delivery model. In this model, IP Australia is organised around stable and scalable technology platforms with delivery executed in Value Streams, with cross-functional business, customer and technology teams for each Value Stream.
When concluding this exceptional experience for both Deloitte and IP Australia, we stayed true to our original intent on being business-led. It was hard work, with some significant challenges along the way – the biggest challenge was defining shared metrics. But what we achieved was a strategy that was truly aligned to corporate success and an operating model that really lives up to the ethos of being business-led.