Geoscience Australia embedding staff within Australia Post to learn its 'culture'

Staff were sent to the government-owned poster child to change the culture at Geoscience Australia so it can learn how to do cloud right.

The Australian government is eager to shake up how it operates, having taken its staff on digital transformation journeys and sparing no buzzword to do it. But Geoscience Australia took this one step further, immersing its staff in the world of government-owned enterprise through learning from others that are "leading" the way.

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Leading the way, Geoscience Australia director of scientific computing Ole Nielson explained, is the country's 210 year-old postal delivery service -- Australia Post.

"We ended up sending four staff down to Melbourne to go work for Australia Post for 100 days to learn their culture internally and flew another 30 or 40 people down on day trips to see how they worked with continuous delivery and cloud engineering," Nielson told the Public Sector Digital Transformation & Optimisation conference in Canberra on Wednesday.

"And they became the nucleus of a new cloud capability that has since then grown."

According to Nielson, staff at the national agency for geoscience research and geospatial information didn't take to the initiative too positively.

"During that time there was a lot of resistance to it ... there was a lot of 'This is not how we do things here'," he explained. "We had to protect the team and give them psychological safety to fail and to actually experiment until they actually succeeded."

To Neilson, it was about increasing buy-in and advocacy among the government entity to try new things. In this instance, it was cloud and how the technology changed how work was performed.

"At Geoscience Australia we had a situation about four or five years ago where everyone was talking about cloud, but every time we talked about it, it got too hard ... analysis to paralysis," he said.

"It wasn't until we brokered the relationship with Australia Post that we were actually able to break out of that hiatus.

"But now it's mainstream in the organisation."

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