Austrade's new customer-focused transformation is reaping rewards

The government entity pushed out a project in 10 weeks under its new way of operating.


Screenshot: Asha Barbaschow/ZDNet

Austrade last month released the beta version of the Global Business Support Finder, which is a new online service aimed at helping Australian businesses take their operations global by centralising all the information they need.

The Global Business Support Finder uses two questions to match service providers with information relevant to their sector and the countries in which they intend to do business.

The tool then brings together information from various sources, putting it all into one place.

Speaking at Forrester's CX Sydney 2019 event on Thursday, Austrade chief client officer Kelly Ralston detailed how pushing out the Finder tool in such a short amount of time was the result of a new way of operating that kicked off in June last year.

"We launched our first product which we delivered in 10 weeks, in a very agile manner," she said. "It wasn't perfect but we put it out on the public website for anyone to play with and in government that is quite unusual to do that at a beta stage."

Ralston said around 12 months ago, Austrade had set out on a journey to "reset" its client vision. She said it was a mammoth task given the nearly 100-year history behind the organisation.

"We've been a client experience organisation for a long time, the challenge with that, of course, is we have a lot of legacy systems," Ralston said.

"With history comes legacy ... we've got a 100 year almost history, we've got legacy systems, we've got legacy processes, legacy customer segmentation models, legacy business practices, legacy technology, and we're really trying to reset that, to simplify that, to deliver better value to our clients.

"In government, one of the pain points is that there's so much information out there, there's so many people trying to help me, how do we navigate this plethora of help and make it simple."

She said the agency's goal for the "reset' was to make everything simpler for its clients, not to add more information or create more platforms. This posed a difficult task given its clients are Australian exporters, which includes companies that have never exported before, companies that are already exporting and wanting to grow, companies that are taking their business to set up overseas, as well as foreign investors and foreign buyers.

Ralston's role was created around 15 months ago to hear the voice of the client. She also said her role is to create the space for staff to take risks and chances, as well as work on tight timeframes.

"In terms of resource models we are experimenting with what works. We've  got a couple of design teams where we've done largely in-house with some expertise -- we've brought mostly outside expertise, one or two internal subject matter experts -- we're just trying to model to see what's the most cost-effective and what also will get the fastest delivery," she said.

"We've been trying really hard to focus on doing things really simply, bringing an MVP culture to the way we're doing things ... we've adopted agile in its very infancy across the organisation, but my teams are at the vanguard of that and it's setting the tone -- and perhaps terrifying people around them because they're seeing these different work practices play out."

As part of Austrade's experimentation towards finding a more sustainable future business model, the government entity has also partnered outside of the organisation.

"We've brought in a range of partners from the private sector and other government agencies and state and territory governments to actually help design with us -- there's no point us designing as an island, we've all going to be part of this cycle from the client's point of view," Ralston continued.

"We still haven't necessarily achieved our nirvana on that just yet, but we're working very hard to do that."