As the state’s building and construction industry regulator, the QBCC has evolved into the thriving and multi-disciplined public service operation it is today. Every builder and contractor in Queensland performing building work must be licensed by the QBCC, which operates other core business services around dispute resolution, insurance and compliance.
When Ben Ward stepped into the role as its CIO in 2015, he inherited aging equipment, sub-optimal systems and complicated processes in need of serious reform. For instance, many QBCC applications were not configured effectively, or were under-utilised, or duplicated with other ‘like’ applications, meaning many of the key applications were not well aligned with critical business processes.
Across its licensing, dispute resolution, insurance and compliance divisions, the QBCC knew it had the potential for improvement through the adoption of new technology and processes.
So, the QBCC zeroed in on two major areas for reform – digital transformation and technology transformation – and quickly got to work.
“Over the past 18 months, we’ve undergone a digital transformation that has fundamentally shifted service delivery to QBCC customers,” Ward shares.
“Under the vision and drive of the Commissioner and Executive Director of Customer Service, with the PMO and Information Services enabling the transformation to happen, a digital transformation strategy and a three-year technology roadmap were developed.”
The QBCC immediately identified the opportunity to streamline its processes into one single service delivery platform, Salesforce, in a transition away from multiple legacy systems. Currently, it has four different systems in the back end that can be time consuming and inefficient for QBCC to operate and support.
Bruce McGregor, Executive Director of Customer Service sponsored and drove the digital transformation initiative. “We are in the process of moving away from these legacy systems, and transitioning to Salesforce. By using a single platform we’re able to provide a more seamless service to customers, along with improved access to customer information across the business and faster response times to customers,” McGregor says.
“This has allowed us to identify trends across the state and respond quickly with information. It's lowering our training costs too, as we will only have to educate our staff on one system; once they're across it, they have the ability to move more easily to different internal departments without extra training and support.”
It wasn’t just the software and training that required streamlining and reworking, however.
Shortly after he began working at QBCC, Ward initiated a 10-week review of IT, which revealed that more than 50 percent of its core infrastructure and desktop equipment was over five years old and out of warranty.
“As well as this, our disaster recovery times were poor, backup restorations were inadequate, and we identified some security vulnerabilities and non-compliance with security standards,” Ward says.
“To combat this, we’ve implemented security enhancements, developed security frameworks and policies and we’re implementing security awareness training. We’re also implementing an infrastructure migration project across three phases.”
In the Information Services team, a huge and over-looked risk to the business was the fact that it relied on a heavy roster of contractors to perform essential IT functions, many of whom had been contracting to the company for several years and therefore had acquired years of operational knowledge.
“We’ve undergone an entire information systems restructure, so we’ve halved the number of contractors and invested heavily in training and upskilling. This has included hiring more new, permanent staff, but without increasing our overall headcount.”
Improving customer service through new digital channels
Improving internal systems has been a massive undertaking at QBCC, and it remains an ongoing process to move towards an efficient and effective set of processes.
Another key area of digital transformation has been its external offering, in terms of investing in and delivering new digital channels to its stakeholders.
With a goal of encouraging inspectors, contractors and workers to access and complete paperwork, check projects, and access file history, it launched online access to forms and resources as part of its digital revamp. Since launching the first stage of the digital transformation, the business noticed a 38 percent swing towards online.
McGregor adds that partnerships are “integral to this process of transforming to digital channels”, including both the internal collaboration and teamwork between PMO, IS and Customer Service, and the relationship between QBCC and external vendors.
“Those relationships have been critical. As part of the digital transformation weekly meetings were held between internal and external stakeholders to keep everything moving forward,” McGregor says.
The Commission’s heavy focus is already beginning to pay dividends, with customers increasingly using online methods rather than traditional, resource- and personnel- heavy transaction modes, like face-to-face and phone calls. This is allowing the QBCC to engage with builders, contractors, homeowners and other users more efficiently and effectively through digital channels.
Their improvements in service delivery and efficiency aren’t going unnoticed, with the QBCC recognised by the Australian Service Excellence Awards; it was named the 2015 National Winner and the 2015 Queensland Winner for achievement in service excellence, for a state or federal government agency.
This is particularly satisfying, McGregor says, as public sector agencies “don’t have a great track record of agile delivery or successful service transformations”.
From a technology transformation perspective, Ward adds that: “In creating the three-year technology roadmap we’ve developed a number of metrics and benchmarks to assess and measure our progress and achievements, and we're having some fantastic wins already. For example, we identified cost savings of more than $1 million in the first six months of rolling out our technology transformation plan, and we have a strategy to decrease spending year-on-year,” he says.
“We’ve also decreased helpdesk support queue numbers six-fold, from 300 down to 50, as we’ve been able to increase service response times through improved systems and processes in our back end. The whole process is still ongoing; it’s a strategic initiative aimed at delivering superior customer benefits and customer service so it’s not a quick transformation, but it is steadily becoming a successful one.”