Intellectual Property Australia, regarded as one of the country’s leading digital government agencies, has begun to decouple it services via APIs. The goal is to have the services the agency provides fit into a whole of government, “citizen-centric” approach to service delivery.

“Customers and citizens shouldn’t have to know all about IP Australia, or be an IP expert, or understand our legislation just to file a trademark with us,” said Damian Giuffre, the agency’s chief digital officer.

“[Citizens] need really clear, simple services at a whole-of-government level so they can actually get on with doing what they do best. Not spending all their time trying to understand which agency does which thing.”

Damian Giuffre, IP Australia chief digital officer. Linkedin.

Giuffre was speaking at the Gartner Application Architecture, Development & Integration Summit in Sydney this week, where he explained IP Australia’s ongoing transition to a “business ecosystem” model, where the agency’s services can be delivered in other platforms via APIs.

IP Australia, an agency of the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, has already digitised most of its existing services and now deals with citizens almost exclusively through digital channels.

In 2014, 14 per cent of IP Australia customers interacted with the agency in digital channels. Today, the number is 99.6 per cent. An AI-powered virtual assistant responds to 38 per cent of inquiries, around 100,000 conversations each year. Giurffe said the bot is able to accurately discern customer intent in 83 per cent of those conversations.

But so far the change has largely been about digitising existing services, Giurffe says, and the agency is now moving to a business ecosystem model of service delivery, a more transformational change.

Switching to a decoupled architecture means IP Australia applications and the services they enable become more autonomous, able to be integrated into other platforms and services via APIs. For citizens this creates the possibility of a less fragmented interaction with government and they can theoretically access services from different agencies at the same time with less friction.

The architecture facilitates the current push to design and deliver government services around life events rather than the agency providing them.

“That is a real transformational change. And that means a different way of thinking, a different way of leading the change in the agency, a different way of communicating with customers; making sure they understand what this change actually means,” Giurffe said.

“We want to be a leader in government services and we want to show other agencies what a modern IT shop can actually look like, in technical practices but also in how they can get past some of the old school thinking ad some of the hierarchical command and control type thinking.”

IP Australia also wants to take advantage of its relatively small size and become a “test bed for innovation”.

The transformation has required a new methodology and governance, Giurffe explained. IP Australia board members and executives now engage in fortnightly stand up meetings on site, experiencing developments first hand — a change from the traditional quarterly board meetings typified by “stacks of paper” and an adversarial tone.

The new bottom up approach to governance has built trust, engagement and technical understanding with executives, according to Giurffe.

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