by Divina Paredes

CIO100 2018 #31-100: Allan Lightbourne, Tauranga City Council

Mar 28, 2018
Digital TransformationGovernment IT

Allan Lightbourne was head of ICT at Mighty River Power (now Mercury) when he took on a new challenge, moving sectors, to become the inaugural chief digital officer at Tauranga City Council.

The first six months, he says, were focused on creating understanding and alignment between the digital services team and the wider organisation.

He says the team has developed a digital strategy focusing on three areas:

  • Becoming more customer centric in what the council delivers and how they deliver it.

  • Leveraging more agile practices to increase speed of delivery and reduce risk.

  • Creating a strategy and roadmap that enables the organisation to achieve its goals on behalf of the wider community.

  • Developing a Customer Experience strategy that embeds a different way of thinking into the organization.

This, he says, has resulted in a large number of small initiatives, that will deliver a more efficient and effective organization, that puts customer at the center of what it does.

Philip King, the general manager of Community Services, says Lightbourne is essentially leading the digital transformation at the council.

“Coming in with a private sector perspective, he has actively prioritised what was a wide range of often uncoordinated ideas and projects into a schedule describing organisational and customer benefits,” says King.

“After reviewing the structure of his team, Lightbourne is now focusing resources to ensure quick delivery of key initiatives.

Information imperative

Lightbourne says one of their strategic projects is information management.

“For a council, our ability to store and retrieve information effectively is paramount,” says Lightbourne.

“Working with the project team we have taken a ‘customer first’ approach. This has resulted in the delivery of 20 minor improvements across the way that our information management processes work.”

“We have begun offering weekly training courses to our people and now have a project team out in the wider organisation, supporting teams to improve their information management practices.

Lightbourne says another project is the rollout of enterprise social, using Yammer to increase knowledge sharing across the organisation.

“We did this as a rapid prototype, replacing legacy tools with Yammer. In two days, 360 people signed up and could see the depth and nature of information sharing increase rapidly.”

Both of these initiatives required a level of executive buy-in and a willingness to move to a more agile way of working, he says.

“We have spent a lot of time as an executive team talking about different ways of working, including agile. We may break a few eggs along the way, but we will do it quickly before we invest large amounts of time.”

“For a council the focus isn’t competitive advantage, rather it is building a city and cities are for people,” he says. “Our people need quality of life, quality of economy and quality of environment.”

The projects he and his team work on cover a wide spectrum.

We have improved our customer self-service, through a number of small initiatives which are each designed to make a large impact.

These include texting customers with overdue rates, before any penalties are incurred. They have also implemented a simpler online bill, which reflects the needs of their customers.

Our next change has been to implement Net Promoter Score in the Building Services area of the organization. We believe that this is one of the first implementation of NPS in a government organization in Australasia. We believe that leveraging NPS enables us to understand if our service and investments (on their behalf) are aligned to our community’s needs and aspirations. Over the next six months we will roll NPS out across the wider business.

When we turn our mind to a more efficient organization recently, the team implemented a meeting room management system. If the meeting room is empty five minutes after the meeting starts, the booking is deleted. “No more booked, but empty rooms,” he says. “It is only a small improvement, but allows us to reduce our meeting room requirements and therefore less floor space and lower rent.”

Tauranga is also faced with addressing low historic investment in process improvement and systems. This means that a number of significant platforms will need to be replaced over the next three years. Planning how to achieve this without undertaking a large ERP type project is front of mind for the team.

The digital services team continues to expand the city fibre network, providing cheaper and faster data access across the organisation. Our fibre is used to connect our traffic, CCTV and water network, plus connecting to our business as service location. We have also begun offering GIS and scanning services to other councils and organisations in the city, says Lightbourne.

“Our GIS team have built a 3D model of the city that enables our people and elected members to gain a better understanding of what the future will look like, including the ability to model for climate change such as sea level rise and water table rise.”

Working with PwC, the council has begun implementing robotic software to automate high volume tasks that historically require high levels of manual effort.

He says the council has also deployed ‘wearables’ for its parking team to reduce risk and increase personal safety.

“Transparency is key, making sure that everything you do is aligned to strategy and that your team and the wider organisation are given the information to support making those connections.”

“As part of the executive team I’m focused on running the city, not simply digital. In an organisation of our complexity, enterprise leadership and having a highly effective leadership group is key to success,” he states.

Lightbourne also spends as much time as possible collaborating with his peers. He worked with three other council leaders to develop the organisational strategy.

The strategy helps to give our people a strong understanding of what we are doing and why we are doing it.

His team, meanwhile, knows that he is always focused on three questions: Is it safe? Does it deliver on our strategy? Do we have funding?

“Getting the team to the point where they can ask and answer these questions without him around is key,” he says.

“We also run use multiple methods of keeping our finger on the pulse of team engagement and sentiment. Everyone in the team has a one-on-one with their manager every two weeks and we run a team survey every month. At 9am every morning the digital area is a buzz with all of the daily stand-up meeting running”

To engage with the organisation his team uses a mix of newsletter, face-to-face updates in other teams meetings, daily standup meetings and inviting other people to their meetings.

He says the team is also building a video of their digital strategy to make it even easier to share it with the rest of the organisation.

Over the years in ICT, Lightbourne has learnt some things that apply across industries:

“Celebrate the successes and the learnings (from failure).”

“Feedback is a gift and always be open to it.”

“You achieve through the people you surround yourself with and the environment you create for them.”

And, he says, “Whatever you do, don’t focus on the technology.”