Contestability in Queensland: What it means for you.

I’ve been at a few events recently where people have mentioned that they’re intrigued to see what happens with the results of ‘Contestability in Queensland’.

It was during a recent conference where we were debating the future of outsourcing (or partnering) and how it’s being used across Australia where it came up again.

To be completely honest, I knew very little about the topic so you can imagine my delight when I found out we were covering the very subject at our upcoming  Public Sector Transformation conference.

It was time to do some research and speak to Mike Burnheim, Assistant Director-General, Shared Services Department of Science, Information Technology, Innovation & the Arts to find out exactly what’s going on…

Queensland is on the brink of what could potentially be a complete overhaul in service delivery within the public sector.

Recently Queensland Health revealed plans to open its full ICT service catalogue up to the market, starting with end-user services and telephony.

The contestability agenda within the Queensland government came from the Commission of Audit report that was made public in late April. There are 155 recommendations in the report, focussed on transforming government and its service delivery.

To gain an understanding of how the public sector is determining the effectiveness of its current processes of delivery to establish the best solutions, I spoke with Mike Burnheim.

He explained that of those 155, there are over 30 recommendations that have a contestability element, where government is seeking to move into a contestable agenda to test whether it needs to continue to be in that service delivery space or not.

“It’s a fairly broad agenda for government, and it applies to front-office, as well as back-office. They’re even looking at contestability in terms of prisons, public transport, and a whole range of other frontline service delivery areas, as well as back-office. It’s a fairly broad ranging challenge to rethink whether it needs to be in the space of delivering services at all, or moving back away from that and just enabling those services to be delivered.”

Mike’s focus is specifically on the shared services element, concentrating on back office services where he’s currently in the process of assessing the relative efficiency and  effectiveness of current delivery models:

“It’s not a foregone conclusion that back office services will be outsourced,  we now need to go through a process to determine how effectively and efficiently we’re delivering those services internally, alongside alternative delivery models, and make an objective assessment from there.”

What follows now is a process that identifies the different objectives for each service to establish where they will be best placed:

“Outsourcing may or may not be the logical solution. Some  services may remain in-house; there may well be a case for government to retain some of those for a variety of clear reasons – costs, risks, policy agendas, etc.”

” We’re also not in the position to quantify what potential savings may or may not be achieved until we move through this objective assessment process.”

“Where outsourcing is identified as the solution, the benefit is that it’s smaller government. The services are still delivered, we’re just enabling those services to be delivered and contract managing them, rather than the actual doing.  Additionally, when we don’t own the assets that deliver those services internally, we don’t have to make the capital investments that we’d need to build and keep those things up and running. It becomes a shift to operational expenditure, as and when we use those services. There are a whole range of potential benefits if we implement these processes properly.”

This transformation process doesn’t come without its risks; objective assessment of current delivery is a new space for much of the public sector. Mike explained:

“We want to be able to deliver a roadmap of the servicing and functions we think are potentially able to move, as well as the ones that we probably wouldn’t contemplate in first phase. Once we’ve got that endorsed, we’ll move through an implementation planning process.

“The real risk is the fact that government has been used to an internal delivery model  for decades. We haven’t been playing in a competitive market space yet. One of our risks is to be able to objectively assess the market maturity and the potential that the market brings to this space. We’re not skilled to do that, so one of the first things that we’ve done is gone out to the industry to engage an industry partner to assist us to do that. We’re getting claims from various industry suppliers as to  what they can do. We need to reality test these claims with a good industry partner, so that we can discount a range of options and come down with what the realistic options are for government, that we could then assess our internal services against. Our first priority is to get that robust industry partner to work with us on moving through this next process. We hope to have that in place in October.”

One of the other biggest challenges facing the public sector is the softer side of business transformation, one that will ultimately drive success; culture.

“The  Queensland Public Service Commission has said, if we’re going to build ourselves as a public sector for the 21st century, let’s start at reconceptualising what our role is.

“A new set of public sector values have just been released that are contemporary values that we will be moving the sector towards – customers first, ideas into action, unleash potential, be courageous, empower people.  For a transformation agenda, it’s starting at a fairly high level, in terms of how we redefine role, culture, values, look at service redefinition, and then the skillsets that we’ll need to follow through and deliver that new way of operating. They’re big challenges to change our thinking, which, in a real sense, has been traditional delivery thinking for decades.”

Hear more from Mike during Public Sector Transformation 2013 where he will be delivering the Keynote Presentation: Contestability in Queensland – Moving from a Provider to an Enabler.

Our payments system is changing and it’s kind of a big deal

As part of our event The Future of Digital Payments, I did a bit of research into exactly what’s going on with Payments here in Aus.

When I talk about the ‘payments system’, this refers to pretty much anything where a transaction is concerned. For me, that’s a simple as using Paypal when I’ve just bought something on eBay or transferring money across to my sister because she’s spent too much money on wine.. At the moment, these transactions take hours, even days – but we’re starting to change  to the likes of minutes.

For the retailers and payments players it’s huge. There are some big opportunities for both existing players (such as the big 4) and the new ones (the likes of Square and BitCoin) to enable us to make instant payment as we shift to a more real time system.

Developments in mobile have dramatically impacted the way customers have paid or received payments. Immediacy and the concept of anyone, anytime, anyhow is bigger than ever.

As a result we’re on the verge of a new category of infrastructure to make these opportunities happen..

I caught up with Michael Moon, he’s the Director of the Retail Payments Market at SWIFT. Michael’s been heavily involved in the evolution of payments systems over the years having worked for American Express for the last seven years with a background in retail, emerging and mobile payments.

SWIFT provide the messaging services between 10,000 financial institutions, and have been doing so as a non-commercial co-operative for the last 40 years. They have a unique position where they can work with the central banks and larger financial institutions globally. SWIFT are currently working in developing the underlying infrastructure from a payment and settlement perspective.  What Michael describes as “the electricity grid that sits behind the end services”.

He explained the overlying transformation of the Australian Payments system, in what’s become the biggest shift in decades: “From a high value payments perspective, real time gross settlements systems have been run by the central banks. The banks in the market are all connected to that system allowing them to safely and securely move large transactions. On a retail side, Automated Clearing Houses are the bulk file and payment system.

“Interestingly you have a new category of infrastructure coming up which is a real time retail payment system. In Australia the industry is very heavily involved in the retail payments infrastructure, the first new payments infrastructure for the last 20 years.”

Ultimately, we’re seeing a transformation from high value real time gross settlement systems and bulk files to sending low value payments on a real time basis between banks.

The shift to real time started in the UK with the faster payments system and there’s been new developments starting in Singapore and five or six markets globally that have either implemented these systems or in the process of going live with these systems.

So what does it mean for the ecosystem of payers involved in the payments system? Michael described a fundamental change in the nature of services businesses can offer their customers as the need for co-operation and collaboration will become more paramount:

“The infrastructures are going to mean that the end service will have the ability to be completely transformed to be a real time interbank payment service. It’s more paramount than ever for collaboration and co-operation to see new payments systems reach their full potential and have special service offerings across the value chain”.

As the industry continues on the journey to develop a new payment s system, the fundamental demands of developing a payments system to compete in the space will remain the same know your customers and your own unique asset capabilities.

This is going to become of increasing importance as the merchant market opens up, it’s enabling proliferation of the category as the immediacy of being paid means that commerce can occur much faster and to any individual selling a product, even without the ability to accept credit card.

Michael also gave me some insight into the opportunities beyond immediacy of payments and how there’s going to be a unique change in the nature of payment messages. Today, these statement messages are restricted by 16 letter character limits, short description that don’t allow for much information.

The new systems will introduce “new standards that give more features reach information in the message. For example businesses that pay the other businesses will be able to send extra remittance information or a pdf of an invoice etc.”

Globally, Australia is in an exciting position, there are a lot of legacy systems and infrastructure and a long way to go to catch up with the likes of Japan, Korea and Singapore but this is the first new payment system in the last 20 years.

Legacy infrastructure has inhibited the development of e-commerce and a level playing field, it’s a vital time for the big four banks in Australia to stay ahead to compete. Or will we see the customer power moving away from the hands of a few?

2025.. That’s actually pretty soon.

I’ll be completely up front about this. I love healthcare.

We have two major healthcare events; Australian Healthcare Week and Workforce Efficiency in Healthcare. I love them.

I really can’t tell you why , it’s just an area i’ve always enjoyed interviewing people about and writing stuff up. There’s a lot happening with design, development but also resourcing Australia’s health needs.

To start to address the latter, i’ve been researching where the problems lie to identify  how the heck we can fix them….

Tackling the rural workforce challenge

The rural workforce challenge is one that isn’t going away, but unlike many of the challenges in the healthcare system, it’s an area where workforce strategy can make huge leaps towards solving the problem.

We know the story, right? The workforce projections produced by HWA in the “2025” report make it pretty plain that without major reform in the pattern of health service delivery, Australia faces major shortfalls in the nursing and related workforce Australia wide, and in the supply of general practice and many specialities outside inner metropolitan areas.

We train people in these metropolitan areas, but we also need people in rural areas, so how do we start to get them there?

Associate Professor Russell Roberts is the Director of Mental Health and Drug and Alcohol Services at Western NSW. Over the last five years he has led the commissioning of a $43 million mental health capital development program, including the workforce planning, recruitment and training of over 200 health staff in rural NSW. As part of his research, Russell has been identifying the ways we can solve the rural challenge.

The research carried out revealed there are five main factors that attract and retain talent. In order of importance, these are lifestyle, family, health, field of work and variety of work.

“There are several factors for why rural areas struggle to attract talent. The key is to break these factors down into things you can impact (or influence) and things you can’t, that’s how you establish where you should focus your efforts,” Russell explained.

The research showed that the hardest part is attracting people in the first place. It’s much harder to encourage people to work in a country town once they’ve already established a life in a metropolitan city but once people shift, results show they are more likely to stay there longer than they intended to.

The first area to look at is the initial investment into a lifelong career; the training. Our medical centres deliver quality training programmes all over the country, but Russell’s been delivering training programmes that stand out above the rest to really draw people into the rural environment: “You need to offer training programmes that are better than any opportunities available in the city. We offer quite generous scholarships for our staff to do post graduate study, giving allowances for development opportunities to further their professional skills; supporting conference attendance and flying in specialists for hands on training so people can get good training locally.”

The importance of training is an area supported by Jennifer Mason who has been driving The Mason Review of Australian Government Health Workforce Programs. She highlighted the importance of not overlooking your local resources:

“The best results will come from enrolling rurally based students into locally based training, or students with significant links to rural or particular disadvantaged communities. These are the graduates most likely to remain in the community post-graduation, or to return after postgraduate or other experience. For this reason, a key recommendation of the report is the creation of an integrated rural pathway for medical students, facilitating a coherent and supported pathway for medical students in their undergraduate and postgraduate training, significantly based in rural experience, with of course appropriate rotation into emergency and other modules.

Appropriate support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students entering health related careers is a crucial element. The effective use of roles such as Aboriginal Health Workers is very important.”

It’s not just the professional development opportunities that should be used to attract potential employees from inner and outer areas. As Russell’s research showed, lifestyle factors can have a huge impact on a person’s decision to move, particularly once initial training has been completed:

“The hardest part of a workforce strategy is getting over that inertia of moving, so we have to look at how we can provide incentives for people to give it a try.

“There’s a whole series of attractive factors looking beyond the training itself. You have to market the lifestyle that’s available with many of these areas; great places to live, relax, great restaurants, they’re safe, there’s social cohesion. These factors are extremely important, especially to people with families. There’s a community responsibility there to make rural locations attractive to live in, and we should be marketing that lifestyle.”

Of course, this initial attraction is only half the story and the return on investment in workforce strategies will only be truly redeemed if staff retention rates are kept throughout their career in a rural setting.

“We know that there are some prominent factors for why people leave. One is to get a better training opportunity, the other is career advancement then finally, pay and conditions. If we look at how we start to compete in these areas, on top of the training mentioned earlier, we can create structures where there are opportunities for career advancement for people specifically in rural settings. The pay issue is obviously harder to tackle, as it is anywhere. Government however are starting to talk about the potential of offering incentives for people to work in rural settings, so we’ll see how that develops,” Russell said.

It’s these factors that will still be key when attracting international trained staff to Australia’s rural areas, as Jennifer explains: “Even if a process of reform commences, the statistics show that Australia will continue to be drawing upon a high proportion of overseas trained medical staff. The report makes recommendations, drawing upon the work of other reviews and reports, about removing bureaucratic barriers which impede orderly recruitment of overseas trained staff to the areas where they are most needed and the provision of appropriate support to those staff and their families.”

We’re already seeing huge success from international and cross country programmes that have been rolled out incorporating these workforce strategies. According to Russell, it’s when the ‘personal touch’ can make a pivotal difference: “We’ve employed around 200 staff from all over the country and internationally. When we brought the first half dozen people over from the UK, we made sure there was someone to personally welcome them at the airport and then drive to drive them to their new home town. We helped them in their first weeks by touring the town’s amenities and arranging meetings with schools, sports clubs, real estate agents etc. The effect of this personal touch was transformative. The resulting ‘word of mouth’ multiplied applications tenfold”.

The strategies that will attract staff and help bridge our workforce gap into the future will have to look beyond training alone and promote the full rural working lifestyle.”

Are nurses the primary healthcare providers of the future?

Under current policy settings, without reform, a recent study predicted a national shortage of 109,000 nurses and 2,700 doctors by 2025. HWA modelling indicates the most effective policy intervention for meeting the increased demand would be to adopt a process of reform and innovation to increase the productivity of the future workforce.

So could part of the problem actually become the solution?

Catherine Stoddart, Chief Nurse and Midwifery Officer at the Health Department Western Australia certainly thinks so.  She explains “In the key area of health reform, nursing has a big role to play, with highly vulnerable populations that are complex.

“Nursing could effectively be that primary healthcare provider of the future. We’ll see the emergence of nurse practitioner led clinics, of nurses as business leaders in their own right in that primary healthcare interface space.”

There’s been constant change in the demands upon the nursing role over the years in response to advances in scientific knowledge, changes in health care needs and tightening budgets. As a result, the opportunity for nurses to transform to a more strategic position has emerged. Catherine highlighted how the fundamental attributes of nursing mixed with a new set of business skills can drive the health sector to meet objectives:

“For healthcare leaders you have to hold on to the fundamental value base you have from your professional experience. Hold onto the value of the individual caring, compassion, all those things that you hold true. It doesn’t mean that you can’t have the business acumen and the skillset around talking the language of the treasury, or politics, or finance. If you misalign your value base with where you’re going in your leadership, it’s transparent to other people. That’s really important to do. Our great nursing leaders are very clear about why they make the decisions, where they come from and then how they inspire people. Bridging the two is really important.”

To meet this ambition there’s clearly some training gaps that need to be filled. Across Western Australia, Catherine has been leading some major change across the health system to improve patient quality and maximise efficiency with new workforce models.

One of the most recent projects launched is the Leading Great Care programme, designed to address the needs of today’s nursing and midwifery frontline leaders.  The primary focus of the program is to invest and equip SRN 1-7 to ensure safe and effective clinical practice, management and development of the team and positively contribute to the delivery of the organisations objectives:

“Leading Great Care was founded on some research with our nursing and midwifery ladies in the state, to find out what they thought would be the ideal leader. It provides the fundamentals for anything. As a nurse, you have to manage a team of people. It’s foundational management skills from budgeting, safe staffing, through to managing difficult conversations with families, and other clinicians. Those fundamental skills are really important for being able to trigger healthcare, and influence reform.

We will fund all kinds of educational programmes that build capability; we provide scholarships for clinical, management and research expertise.”

In WA, as with many other areas across Australia there’s the additional challenge of providing a rural workforce. Catherine highlights the work being done to increase retention and provide development opportunities to ensure talent in these more remote environments:

“One of the key reasons people leave their job, is because of the leadership they receive. It’s really important, from a workforce and satisfaction perspective that people are informed about the best models for leadership. This will help us provide great care into the future.

“We have a very strong workforce focus, through WA country health service. Our key area is trying to drive retention, allowing nurses to maximise their skills. We know that professional and personal isolation are two of the reasons why people leave that rural and remote environment. We’re trying to tackle those elements by providing professional opportunities, upskilling opportunities and letting people work to the top of their practice effectively. We also have a couple of programmes where people rotate into that space, like the Ocean to Outback programme, and Country to Coast. People can have an experience of a rural environment to get a bit of a taste test, and see if they like it.”

I spoke with Russell, Catherine and Jenny ahead of their presentations at Workforce Efficiency in Healthcare 2013.

Find out more by visiting


eBook or is it?

I’ve seen, with interest a vast array of eBooks being published recently, they vary from 6 pages to 600.

Our conferences lend themselves perfectly to eBooks, they’re well researched by producers and they cover anything up to 24 different angles.

I finished my 4th eBook recently The ultimate guide to excelling as an EA/PA in some way it was my own personal mission.

When you decide to call something; The ultimate guide – i figure it has to be pretty content heavy. The EAPA Summit has been around for over a decade. Speakers cover topics from time management, dealing with your boss, right through to dressing to impress. It’s a fun event, i’ve always enjoyed the chance to have a little fun with the writing. We’ve built up some solid content over the years (An interview with Nelson Mandela’s EA to name one of my faves..) , but in the theme of repurposing, re-imagining or whatever we are calling it these days, i figure we can surely make this something pretty special.

The result, the eBook – 15 pages of jam packed content – in my eyes warrants being an eBook, surely? Ultimately, in content marketing it’s a fine line between branding and valuable content, but i reckon we may have just cracked it with this one.

You can find more information on the Summit here:

P.S If you’re interested in seeing my first 2 adventures into the world of eBooks, take a read and decide for yourself if they warrant the ‘eBook’ title…

Blended Learning: The new normal – A look into some of the biggest trends impacting the way educate and are educated..

Business Transformation Trends 2013 : Big data, change communication, flexible operating structure.. it’s all shaping business for the future. Here’s my first dip into the eBook scene (featuring one of my favourite interviews with Google’s Financial Controller)

Top tips for Employee Engagement : More numbers driven than any of my other eBooks, i had mixed opinions about calling this one an eBook, i think because it doesn’t have clear chapters. Either way i like the design and think the stats work well.

It’s time to tell a story.

I’ve been working in content marketing for about a year and a half now. Before that, i worked in government communications and right before that i studied marketing. To be honest, i don’t know how i got here, but here i am and it’s not a bad place to be.

Moving out to Sydney from North England last year was where my content story began. IQPC was where i took my current job as the communications manager for B2B industry events and conferences. It’s pretty diverse ranging from Mining to Healthcare (a personal favourite) – we get the industries key players and influencers into a room and tackle challenges our customers are faced with.

As a content marketer i get a pretty good deal cause i have access to all these speakers and as such do a whole range of content with them. It normally starts with an interview but then it turns into all sorts of shapes, sizes and sometimes even monsters.

The thing is, once that event has run – off that monster goes into cyber space and the content is just another piece of information on the illustrious cloud.

So that’s why this blog was born, it’s all my dinner party conversations in one place.

To start with, i wanted to share some tips i wrote recently. This is not the first time i’ve written tips about producing content, it is however the first time i’ve been the one giving the advice….

  1. Tell a story: I remember starting out in content marketing around two years ago and harping on about how content should be ‘like a story’, safe to say I got a few odd looks from the more numbers focused people in the room. However, as content marketing has grown and with the help of viral campaigns including Coca Colas, it’s now embedded into many a content strategy.So what does telling a good story entail? When your potential customer comes into contact with the story, it needs to have a clear progression from beginning to end. Your brand is not the hero of the story, it’s merely navigating the customer for a few pages in their quest to achieve their goal.Your content needs to know it’s place in the bigger story, what brought the customer there, where are the going next, what can you help them achieve – this will help you resonate with the right people.
  2. Be personal: It may sound obvious, but you need to remember you’re a person, and you’re speaking to another person. Your conversation on paper should be at the same level as if you were speaking face to face. Use different tones for your miners underground and your CEOs, but ultimately be human. There’s no harm in adding a little humour to your content, keep it loose and engaging to read. Content marketing should be a two way conversation – it’s much easier to engage with your customers and understand their needs when they feel like they are talking to a person.
  1. Add value: Perhaps the most important objective of any piece of content. There’s no shortage of content of all types; eBooks, infographics, articles, videos, interviews – they mean nothing if you’re not providing any added value.Content doesn’t have to be about the big shiny pieces, an article can be just as effective as a 50 page e-book. The trick is to do your research. Know your audience, know what’s out there, know what’s happening with the industry – it’s then up to you to use the resources that are available to you to find that pocket of interest that will generate lots of leads. Maybe that’s a particular expert at your workplace, an industry leader you can interview or a brand new product that you can show off.Always come back to what problem your content is helping to solve, the format should be decided based on the best flow of that information, not information that will best fit your format.
  2. Brand: Content marketing has a purpose, it’s working towards raising the profile of your brand or product. It’s not often we see a shortage of branding, the key is to get the balance so your content doesn’t become a sales piece. Somebusinessesstill make the mistake of thinking the logo and ‘calls to action’ need to be all over their content, but that’s not quite how it is.The best approach is to understand that every piece of content you produce has a different goal. Some content will be about driving that final sale, focusing on the product. It’s talking to people who are in the buying phase and therefore that content should be more heavily branded and it should be more about the pitch.Other content will have a completely different purpose. Maybe it just needs to introduce your brand into their conversation or attract an audience from your target market who may be receptive to further marketing material. The final conversion to a sale could be weeks or months away.It’s about understanding what you’re hoping to achieve with each piece of content and knowing where it’s appropriate to start introducing the brand.
  3. Analyse and convert: This is all about the strategy. Different organisations will have different tools available to help them, it’s important to never overlook the numbers. After each piece of content or before, during and after any campaign it’s essential to take a look at the numbers. Whether this be number of downloads, web traffic, open rates, responses, conversions varies in each organisation, but use these tools to strategize and make informed decisions on what you did, how it went and what you’re going to do next based on that. Finally, don’t overlook the finish line for a piece of content – converting into a sale. This starts with the content itself, then looking after those leads throughout the funnel till you make the sale, this could be instant, or it could be months down the line. Look after your leads.