Ralph Chivers leads the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment to sustainable, innovative and robust ICT outcomes in order to provide better public services.
“With every new service or enhancement, we take a ‘digital first’ approach and look to digitise and automate processes or bring them online where appropriate,” says Chivers, who took on the CIO role at MBIE late last year.
Throughout MBIE there are various service design functions that work with our customers to understand what they want and ensure our services are designed to meet their experiences, he says.
In June 2016, MBIE ICT and Immigration New Zealand partnered to complete the transformation of the immigration environment, which was aligned to the Immigration business strategy.
“While business driven, the transformation focused on people, process and technology, enabling Immigration to more efficiently meet the changing demands of customers and provide maximum value to New Zealand. It also created operating efficiencies and helped better manage risks associated with greater migration volumes.”
IDme, Immigration New Zealand’s state-of-the-art identity management system, was initially launched in June 2016, and enables automated matching of all biographic details, fingerprints and facial photographs.
This has significantly improved MBIE’s automated ability to confirm an applicant’s identity and is a vital new enhancement in protecting the New Zealand border against fraudulent applicants, says Chivers.
An online immigration health processing system was also introduced. Through this eMedical service, medical practitioners can submit medical information electronically and the system automatically triages, and the majority of health cases are auto-cleared within minutes of receipt.
“In addition, we worked with Immigration on their new digital channel which went live in May last year,” says Chivers.
User feedback has been positive with comments on the intuitive and easy navigation, and content. It is one of MBIE’s most visited sites with more than 32,000 visits each day.
As well, a risk and value triage engine now triages immigration temporary entry applications. This creates a more efficient decision-making system for immigration officers and a faster decision for those with low-risk applications.
Chivers also points out that MBIE has established an API (Application Programming Interfaces) channel at https://api.business.govt.nz/ as one of the primary communications channels for New Zealand businesses and citizens to utilise.
“The aim of this new channel is to provide a diverse range of APIs for connecting directly to various government services and information sources, leading to greater automation and efficiencies, less errors and potential cost reductions.
“Through APIs, we allow intermediaries to innovate using our data, information and services, making it easier for businesses and citizens to interact with MBIE and the wider government. As we continuously build new services, we consider whether APIs can be used to access services,” Chivers says.
MBIE has also been providing guidance to other agencies that are beginning their API journey.
“We are reviewing our ICT operating model and how we better serve the businesses’ needs and demands moving forward including how we can increase capacity to deliver projects faster and more effectively,” says Chivers.
“We are also reviewing our project delivery model and how we can better use rapid innovation methodologies; planning to introduce bimodal /two speed approach to projects; and looking to set up an innovative method to capture ideas from the business and prototype in an agile (fail/fast) approach.
Chivers says, “we want to focus on activities that provide high value, rather than owning and managing commodity-based infrastructure services. To make this happen we encourage and grow All of Government (AoG) shared capabilities with the Government Chief Information Officer (GCIO) and other government agencies. This then allows for more time to strategically think of new, innovative products and services to better position MBIE for success.”
“AoG shared capabilities frees us up to partner with our vendors, to innovate when it comes to operational excellence for all of government now and in the future,” says Chivers. “As well, it allows us as an organisation to be thought leaders and drive innovation and continuous improvement in the products and services we provide to our customers.”
“For example, we co-led with GCIO the establishment of Telecommunications as a Service (TaaS).” TaaS delivers a range of cross-government telecommunications and managed security services that transcend agency boundaries and allow agencies to easily connect with each other and with their customers, regardless of the service provider. Agencies have the choice of providers and service solutions to give them flexibility to meet their business and customer needs and maximise their investment in technology services.
“We have a thorough process for gathering and ensuring the right architecture to ensure the right services and that we identify the right speed for the right project” says Chivers.
His department’s position within MBIE and the requirement for it to lead across the Government ICT system, creates opportunities for his team to make important contributions.
“As CIO, I report to the Deputy Chief Executive for Corporate, Governance and Information, who is part of the MBIE Senior Leadership Team and has an influence role with that group.
“A new investment governance structure was established at MBIE last year that is based around each of the business groups. I am a member of each of the boards and influence decisions on various business investments.”
The ICT Senior Leadership Team also has a collaborative and influential role in the current and long-term direction of the organisation, through its involvement in strategic project committees, the annual investment process and long-term planning, he says.
“In addition to MBIE, we also collaborate and influence the GCIO on outcomes for AoG. MBIE is active on core AoG ICT-related steering committees and work groups,” he says.
This has resulted in enhancing the common capability through sponsoring new features that could benefit other agencies, such as RealMe integration and a Notification feature. This was achieved by working with the GCIO and Common Web Platform vendor community.
Other results include delivering the Result 9 Accelerator programme that linked innovative ICT suppliers to agencies and establishing TaaS (of which MBIE was co-lead with the Department of Internal Affairs/GCIO).
As well, MBIE also worked with the Ministry of Justice to deliver a fully integrated cross-agency solution for tribunal services in New Zealand.
“We have ICT roles committed to direct engagement with various business groups in MBIE,” says Chivers, in terms of engaging within the organisation.
An example are the ICT client relationship managers who are assigned to each business and are the initial contacts for IT policy and process advice, new business ICT requirements and escalations. They then provide regular reports and updates, one to the business groups on the ICT environment and the other to ICT on IT-related business activities and challenges.
“In addition, we engage staff with the aim of helping them use technology in an appropriate and secure way. We send a welcome email to new staff about our information and data role along with resources, as well as ‘Fun Fact Friday’ emails to the organisation to provide handy tips and tricks for using MBIE’s core applications.
“We host face-to-face ‘Tech Sessions’ throughout the country on a variety of topics such as on our Electronic Document and Records Management System to help give tips, tricks and insights into MBIE’s ICT environment as well as e-learning modules on various applications.
Developing diversity and encouraging staff to do their best is important at MBIE.
“We support our people by providing an exciting environment, where our people will be inspired to do their best. We provide regular opportunities for rotating staff from within the organisation into ICT and vice versa, so that they can gain valuable experience.
Also, MBIE is a founding agency and was involved in developing the first New Zealand GovTech Talent Graduate Programme, in which selected graduates spend twenty four months rotating through three government agencies, spending eight months in each.
“We’ve always been a supporter in developing graduates and have had formal programmes at ICT in past years,” says Chivers.