The Parliamentary Service (the Service) provides a wide range of shared services to Members of Parliament, parliamentary and member support staff, the Office of the Clerk and a number of other parliamentary agencies.
There has been much effort over the years reviewing our core services, and trying to standardise them, says its CIO Michael Middlemiss.
Most of the core high-level services require input from multiple groups and many of these services were being poorly delivered due to the siloed and physically separated nature of the teams, he states.
So with a core focus on improving the customer experience and outcomes, Middlemiss and his team embarked over the past year on an intensive programme of workshopping, documenting and embedding these processes across the organisation.
Business Process Flows (BPFs) were developed within the organisation’s Dynamics CRM platform and embedded at the same time.
He says the BPFs control the flow and delivery of the service, assigning tasks to each of the teams involved in the delivery of the service as the dependent tasks have been completed.
The new BPFs were implemented in time to support the huge transition effort involved in the recent change of government.
He says over 2,600 BPFs were completed in the first six weeks after the election, and the use of the BPF’s resulted in a faster and more complete service experience for our customers.
“The use of BPFs has resulted in efficiencies and cost-savings across the organisation – enabling the organisation to deliver more services in a shorter timeframe and for less cost than was possible at the last election with better customer outcomes.”
Middlemiss says the recent election was a huge time of change within parliament.
In a very short period of time, over 700 people have to be moved, hundreds of staff on-boarded and exited, hundreds of workstations replaced and/or reimaged and dozens of electoral Offices opened and closed, all while supporting the transition to the next Parliament, he says.
While a formal programme was set up to implement and deliver this transition, reporting – and therefore management of the transition, has always been reactive.
“Historically, large disparate sources of information – from documents to spreadsheets to databases – had to be consolidated, normalised and then summarised to provide a view of how well the transition was going,” he says. “This required hours of manual work, and meant that delivery decisions were usually being made mid-afternoon and on the previous days data.”
Embedding the BPFs across the organisation provided an opportunity to do something smarter, he says.
“We established a cloud based instance of Power BI in Azure, and created a number of data extracts from our on-premise CRM in order to provide the Election Transition project near real time analytic dashboards.”
The Election delivery team was able to review current state delivery metrics across a large number of dashboard displays at their daily standup meetings.
Not only could they see the processes underway, they could see the upcoming tasks by team for the next seven days – enabling each team to plan for the load accordingly, says Middlemiss.
He says this drove both a proactive approach to delivering the services to customers, and a collaborative approach across teams, who were able to anticipate service pressure points and plan/adapt – including seeking help from other teams – accordingly.
Over 800 services – or processes – were being delivered at any given time, resulting in thousands of tasks being managed across the organisation. The developed dashboards enabled the various delivery teams to filter right down to customer groups (e.g. by party) and demand (e.g. service/process spikes) and respond accordingly.
He says the Power BI Dashboards enabled a more proactive response to service delivery, as well as helping them understand where services were not being delivered to SLAs, and respond accordingly.
“The dashboards were so successful they have now been embedded as business as usual support tools, and continue to be developed and expanded to encompass a wider range of service metrics.”
Middlemiss meets regularly with the leadership teams of the other agencies they supply the services to, to discuss the services they offer, and the emerging services they need.
“Parliament is a very diverse and at times conflicting environment, and it takes a level of political acumen to successfully navigate all the stakeholder groups,” he says.
Thus, he works collaboratively with as many of these groups as possible to deliver the services they need to support them in their very demanding roles. He also attends the regular forums held by the public sector CIOs based in Wellington.
Middlemiss is proud of the strong internal culture that has been nurtured over the years with his team.
“As with most of the public sector, diversity is important to our organisation, and we regularly report on a range of diversity measures, which we then manage as a team,” he says.
We also have a strong focus to provide technical development for technical specialists and leadership development for people leaders, he says.
“Our great record of staff retention is in part attributable to these development and career path opportunities.”
Parliamentary Service has staff in Wellington and several hundreds more in 130+ electoral offices all across the country. So apart from regular newsletters and articles on the intranet, the leadership team holds quarterly updates for the staff in Wellington.
These are similar to Town Hall meetings where they update the staff on their projects, as well as share and receive feedback about new and proposed initiatives.
Middlemiss, as an executive leadership team member, visits the regions several times a year and meets with the staff to share information similar to that presented in the Wellington forums.
Middlemiss says his team encourages and facilitates the appropriate application of IST to meet the business needs of the members of Parliament. IST staff provide training for software and devices that are used for parliamentary business. They also provide a range of online and paper-based training materials.
Members of Parliament and their delegated staff can view and purchase fully supported IST equipment and services from The Store, an online procurement service.
The IST team also set up Office 2020 on level one of the Executive Wing at Parliament. This used to be a takeaway coffee shop but they decided it was a strategic area to set up a space where users can ask any IST-related questions. The Parliamentary Services staff can also check the fully supported devices on display and drop off or collect a device.
For Middlemiss, providing these programmes and services are very important in a customer-centric world.
“Everyone is connected now, and by extension, subjected to all the marketing hype, bad reviews and too good to be true offers that are out there,” he says.
“For every policy you put in place, a rule you create or technical control implemented to stop something, someone will find a way around it. So, you need to work with your customers,” he says.
“But more than that – you need to understand your customers.
“Understand their frustrations, what causes extra work for them, how they like to work, and then see if you can do something to help them,” he states.
“If you can’t help them, explain why, and see if there is a compromise that works for you both.
“The CIO needs to understand the whole organisation – not just IT – and operate from the view of the customer. Doing this will ensure you get included in the right conversations to help influence decision making and direction setting.”