by Jennifer O'Brien

Fresia Segovia: CIO ‘change agent’ at Hurstville City Council

Jun 01, 2016
Technology Industry

Through her IT support roles, she has helped build roads, bridges and wireless networks in warehouses and countless other male dominated arenas. But Fresia Segovia, CIO of Hurstville City Council, says despite the fact she was “the only female voice” at the majority of her engineering and surveying jobs, it has never been a stumbling block.

Instead, she prefers to focus on the bigger picture, explaining her journey is more about exploration and making a difference.

“I wasn’t trailblazing. I was just very much engaged in learning,” Segovia says, discussing her involvement with Wi-Fi in the early days and some of her achievements. “The beauty of that job was we basically built wireless networks in warehouses. We were out there building these Wi-Fis before people even knew what Wi-Fi was,” she says.

“For me, it was about changing and making things more efficient for the people that we were working for. And they were our customers. I took my projects very seriously and I would hand over documentation. I ended up getting ‘Employee of the Year’ in that job. I really loved the project management perspective.”

The Chilean-born Segovia, who migrated to Australia with her family because of the 1975 coup, takes inspiration from her father – a person who never made gender an issue. Rather, he encouraged her to be passionate about education, particularly mathematics and science.

“My father never restricted us. He never said, ‘You are a girl, so you can’t do it.’ He opened the doors for us.” she says. “It is about not being afraid of mathematics and science. A lot of girls get frightened in Year 7 and Year 8 and that’s wrong. It is about being inspired. It is about saying, ‘Maybe you aren’t good today, but you could be tomorrow.’ It is about practice and process.”

Segovia took her father’s encouragement to heart. “I have never seen myself as a woman in technology – I just see myself as a professional, so to me it is about taking that approach. Be who you are. For me, it is about promoting the core of who you are. If you are a collaborator, promote that. In local council, we are a service, and it’s about delivering that service.”

Certainly, Segovia was always interested in IT and scooped a UNSW Bachelor’s Degree in surveying engineering, with a major in land information systems, and also clinched a Master of Management from the University of Wollongong.

From her IT work with helping teams build the M5 and the Glebe Island Bridge to her “big management break” at Stellar call centres (where she helped take the company from one call centre and 300 staff to nine contact centres with 3,500 employees), Segovia’s career has spanned across private and public sector posts.

Transforming local government

She says her journey into local government, which took place seven years ago, came about because “she wanted the opportunity to give back” in a service-oriented role.

“I came here and I remember people saying, ‘How are you finding working for local government?’ For me, it has been rewarding. If you have a business case and you can articulate that business case and communicate that, then you can get things done,” she says, shrugging off the perception that local government is sluggish and change adverse.

Over the past seven years, Segovia has transformed the business as part of a total enterprise system change. Segovia says one of the biggest turning points for the council was when it implemented a best practice approach thanks to the adoption of a preconfigured solution.

“When I came here we were the one city council using the CivicView system. For us, we needed to manage the risk. So then we went to market and even going through that process was quite unique because I came from the world of out-of-the-box solutions, the 80/20 rule.

“But here the world was still, ‘I am writing the requirements, you then deliver the requirements.’ No one had thought of it from a best practice perspective, and asking the question, ‘What do you expect?’ and having those discussions. For me, it was a rewarding experience to present people with best practice requirements – and for them to realise that it was exactly what they wanted and more.”

She says the process council took was one of engagement. “When we went through that process there were only certain players in the market. TechnologyOne OneCouncil was the first solution. It is configured to promote best practice – and that was the change in approach. Systems should drive that proven practice approach and therefore that enables you to get consistency of practice across the platforms,” she says.

“It was about asking the questions. Even to the vendors, asking, ‘Has this been done for local government?’ I think at that time, it hadn’t. From a Hurstville perspective we asked the question at the right time because the market was ready to say yes, ‘maybe we can take this approach,’ And out of that came the OneCouncil solution.”

The main benefits of the system includes getting a consistency of approach – having 87 per cent of it almost there and then being able to tweak it to meet customer needs – and being able to use the application management framework.

It takes council into the world of digital enablement. “It is property and rating, it is finance and HR parallel; it is a totally integrated system, but it also is property based. Local government is all about that property information. For me, the inspirational part is that it is 80 per cent there, but it helps you automate. It is about digital government and about promoting digital services, and being available for our digital citizens so they can transact with us anytime.”

Amalgamation in full swing

Segovia says there’s never a dull moment in her current role, and now with the amalgamation of Hurstville and Kogarah to form the new Georges River Council, it has never been a more exciting time to wear the CIO hat.

At the moment, council is very transactional. “People come to us and they can transact and get a zoning certificate, they can get a 603 certificate, but it’s about bonding that together. The next step is building that relationship with our constituents. The opportunity that amalgamation affords us is we can concentrate more on the constituents.

“At the moment, it’s about consolidation and continuity of service. We are committed to our customers and offering the services that we have always offered, but then we can improve on that – so it’s a huge opportunity,” she says.

Additionally, council has also started investigating Office 365, which will offer a myriad of opportunities including SharePoint in the cloud and being able to get continuity of service. Segovia says it would be a timely decision given the recent amalgamation.

“We need to stop seeing business continuity as, ‘Oh my god the comms room has burnt down.’ It is more than that. It is being available to our customers and ensuring that availability. And with cloud services that is now reachable for government to provide.”

She said council is looking to adopt more hybrid cloud solutions and is already using cloud services for its e-recruitment systems. “It allows specialist type interaction, but it is seamless because you can brand it. And it is seamless within your website,” she says, indicating there are a few issues to iron out with cloud in general.

“Sometimes cloud is very siloed and I think that’s what needs to change, and then the uptake will be massive. If we enable integration, that can change our world again. We are looking at hybrid cloud solutions, and I think that could be the middle ground.”

Visionary steps

Asked her vision for the future, Segovia says it is all about promoting digital service and digital government.

“It is about being part of this transformational change. There is a lot of work we have to do to consolidate our services.” she says, adding one integral project is the Works Assets initiative.

“Our drainage crew are going out in the field and utilising technology to document and update work order schedules. They get work orders every day, either preemptive or reactive, and this will enable them to complete work and, in a way, improve quality because their team managers will be able to review the work and sign off. We will be more effective because we will be able to get back to the customer a lot sooner with an update of exactly what work was done.”

She also expects to see more analytics entering into local government. “Analytics is huge, especially for government; there is so much to learn from how we interact. At the moment, we use analytics from a monitoring perspective, but there is so much more we can do with it. When I was at Stellar we created a lot of proactive monitoring because for agents it is all about the statistics – and that’s an opportunity for government.”

Analytics technology would assist in development assessment (DA) turnaround times. “Being able to proactively provide those figures to our planners. At the moment, we do those reports, but they are reactive in the sense they are weekly or monthly. But imagine having KPIs for them available so they can see how they are going, so that analytical process would help.”

Digital transformation involves all stakeholders, she says. “It is about promoting not only to our customers, but also internally and externally and seeing how digital transformation can assist them. For internal customers, it is a tool of trade, helping them transform what they do. At the external customer end, it is about empowering the constituents to self-service and get the information they need. That to me is digital transformation – it is power in their hands.”