How to build a business model to enable mobility


Developing a business model that enables mobility means compromise and cultural changes. Someone who knows this all too well is Claire Foo, Executive Director & Chief Information Officer at the Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP).

DELWP provides many different services to customers and staff, and with 101 offices across Victoria, Ms Foo has the challenging task of ensuring that everything in IT runs smoothly in all offices. She and her team are also the driving force for enabling mobility in the government department.

And she’s not naive to the fact the IT departments can be a blocker. They are cumbersome, slow and have an “it’s IT's way or the highway” approach to dealing with different problems and questions. This then leads into other areas of the department going underground and finding their own solutions, like using non-IT approved products to get the job done quickly. Ms Foo gives the example of staff purchasing Dropbox and other SaaS solutions before consulting IT. This is not only costly, but can compromise security and privacy, which are both high priorities for the department.

She says there are two approaches to dealing with this:

  1. Lock everything down and tell staff they cannot do anything without IT being there. But she says for obvious reasons that’s not an answer and will never work.
  2. Take a risk and concede some control, but don’t allow a free for all. This means assuming those closest to customers know what the customers want and how they want it. And assuming that staff want to do things well and don’t want to compromise security – they genuinely want to help people.

DELWP is working towards the second option. Instead of IT controlling everything, they now work as an agency for all other departments to come to and seek advice. IT ownership within departments sits in line with decision making and product ownership - and therefore the associated risk sits with that person or area too. In essence, IT has handed back ownership to the ‘businesses’ within the department.

If an area of the department would like to build app, change hosting or to improve Wifi access, the IT department provides an expert advisory service, but it’s not mandatory to use.

Ms Foo says: IT is now an enabler, not a blocker. We’re no longer the land of no. People are no longer feel like they have to do things under the radar.

Ms Foo states that this model allows DELWP to be more innovative and move towards building a mobile workforce. The experts in the fire service are likely to understand best what kind of caseing will best protect a tablet device from extreme conditions compared to the IT department, so they can make the choice.

But a cultural change needs to take place within the business to make this model work - and it’s especially necessary in the IT department. Ms Foo says it’s been challenging as it means IT has to:

  • Open up to loss of control, which is particularly difficult.
  • Take a risk and give control to those who really need itl.
  • Switch off the mentality of control and lockdown, and move toward a mentality of working for the business and customer needs.

Ms Foo says they’re slowly getting away from the 1980s model of IT delivery and so far everyone who has been serviced by IT have been extremely happy.

CeBIT Australia CIO Summary Report