Practical Tips for Digital Innovation

Nadia Cameron of CMO, covered a speech by Cameron Gough, Australia Post’s general manager, Digital Delivery Centre, speaking at the Melbourne leg of the CMO, CIO and ADMA Executive Connections event last week.

Gough gave some great practical insights into how a large organisation can foster innovation within and the fact he has grown the Digital Delivery Centre at Australia post from “a team of 12 to more than 350, including 250 engineers and 100 customer experience and user experience professionals” in three-and-a-half years, is testament to his success.

The three key areas Gough focused on was:

  1. automating processes and activities
  2. the environment on which the teams work
  3. culture

automating processes and activities

What we found at the start was that it was taking us 50 days to follow all the processes and steps to get a change out in front of customers,” he told attendees. “One of the major hurdles was the time it took to get into test environments. We invested heavily in the last couple of years in automation and we’re now able to get an amount of code all through those steps in about eight minutes and out into production. So we went from 250 deployments in our first year, to 250,000 in the last year.

What it does is allow you to start experimenting and prototyping in a way we could never do before. Our bravery to just get something out is going up, because the cost of getting something wrong is very low, as is the cost of fixing it. So the way you work is the first thing.”

the environment on which the teams work (example funding model)

If the governance bodies are asking questions such as: What am I going to get, how much is it going to cost, how long is it going to take, and how soon can we get the benefits, very little goodness is going to come out of that and you’re almost guaranteed not to surprise them on the upside and probably disappoint on the downside,” Gough claimed. Instead, Australia Post’s digital team has gained support for an alternative investment model it calls ‘capacity funded investment’.

What we say is that we don’t exactly know what we’re going to do, but we know there is an opportunity to do something,” Gough explained. “It might be in the mobile space or identity, for instance. What we’ll say is we want to dedicate a certain percentage of capacity to this problem. The questions the governance community then ask is what do we expect to learn, when will we know what we’re learning, and when will they hear back. It’s a very supportive model.

We still have traditional projects, but we have far more of our work being done this way and 95 per cent of my team are working under this capacity funded model. Detaching this strict connection between the funding source and what it’s for, and what you actually deliver, is really important, Gough said.

We have tried to move away from highly defined business cases that state this is exactly what you’ll get, as teams feel very constricted by that, to business cases that are more outcomes,” he continued. For example, we wanted to shift the needle on people receiving parcels when they’re not at home. It’s a simple, high-level target that you then give to the team, along with funding, to get going. They then feel less constrained and feel more able to experiment and innovate.

culture

We have invested heavily in training our people and bringing in leaders that are innovative thinkers, are very inquisitive, to create and support this learning culture we need for this environment,” he said. “Once we have built this way of working, we are in a much better place to support innovation.

Today, Australia Post’s list of activities to foster innovation is extensive. One ongoing initiative is regular hackathons, and the organisation has held 12 to date.

In addition, Australia Post has launched an ‘intrepreneurs’ program to help ensure ideas and creativity within the organisation has an avenue for discovery and advancement. Run every three months, the program sees teams present their ideas to executives for consideration. The best are given up to $100,000 and six weeks to invest and build.

You can read the full article here.

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