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Failure can be the most valuable lesson: But better to observe from afar

Failure can be the most valuable lesson: But better to observe from afar

The New Zealand (NZ) government might be geographically small in comparison to its South East Asian neighbours but its mantra of working smarter, not harder is paying huge dividends.

“Eliminating government agency digital silos, and collaborating systems across government departments is better,” said Tim Occleshaw, NZ Deputy Government Chief Digital Officer.

“But doing things across borders is far better again,” he added. “Imagine if we could travel from NZ to Australia or visa versa and take our medical records with us or get that prescription filled out in either country?”

I had this conversation with Tim at the 2nd Australian Digital Government Summit in Sydney, where he delivered a paper as one of two Digital 7 (D7) leaders speaking at the 2-day summit on digital government.

D7 is a network of the world’s most advanced digital nations with a shared goal of harnessing digital technology. Tim’s presentation was titled, “Establishing NZ’s position in the D7 and collaborating to ensure continuous improvement.”

One of the key messages of that presentation was the importance of collaboration in the NZ government.

“In NZ, we use a network leadership model, a governance framework that includes about 70 senior people from across the public service from five different government committees, four of which report to the chief executive group.

“This digital government partnership, develops, steers and oversees each iteration of the government strategy, which has promoted good buy in and accelerated the digital transformation across NZ.”

His key piece of advice to the 150 odd delegates is to “bring the system with you”. Make sure the key stakeholders can see what’s in it for them.

He believes there’s something very powerful about being on the field of play with the agencies who are delivering services every day, rather than the side lines shouting instructions to them.

NZ’s mantra is that its digital transformation is centrally led but collaboratively delivered.

According to Tim, it’s delivered by the departments themselves. “We provide the foundational pieces, central strategy and architecture, but the strategy itself is delivered by the agencies collaboratively.

“We know government can’t solve everything and that we’re a small nation. It’s far better for us to learn from the experiences of others, than to try everything for ourselves that’s been tried elsewhere. We do this by travelling to various parts of the world to understand what’s going on in the leading digital nations.

“Often the most valuable lessons are those where they have failed.”

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Damian Martina
Brolly Sales Manager