Four years ago, just 12 per cent of Australian citizens and businesses filing intellectual property and trademarks did so using digital services. It was an unsustainable practice as consumers and organisations were increasingly going digital, and warranted a change to the government agency responsible – Intellectual Property (IP) Australia.

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“We needed to change the way that we were approaching the business because it was just not effective,” said IP Australia’s CIO and general manager, Rob Bollard, who discussed the change with Which-50 during Pegaworld, the Pegasyatems annual conference, in Las Vegas.

Today, 99.6 per cent of the 850,000 yearly IP Australia transactions occur digitally, a considerable turnaround and one that has made IP Australia the first “fully digital” government service agency. When trademarks are filed now, customers get an immediate acknowledgment, a far cry from the one week plus it took before the upgrade. 

According to Bollard, switching their services to digital was necessary to generate better outcomes for citizens and the agency. It is also unlocked innovative ways to deliver the services.

“[Digital] delivers an amazing platform to reimagine how services delivery can be achieved,” Bollard said.

“Because when you’ve got people on that single platform you can deploy a whole bunch of new digital assets to service them, and to take the savings and efficiencies that you’ve made in the older channels and refocus them into [improving services].”

Robert Bollard, Chief Information Officer & General Manager at IP Australia

The transformation, Bollard says, means IP Australia can offer more seamless services and better support Australian innovators in what is quickly becoming a global “knowledge economy” – where intangible assets make up the bulk of an organisations’ assets. 

“As the IP office within Australia, we want to be front and centre helping Australian innovators to succeed in this new economy,” Bollard told Which-50.

IP Australia also, in turn, improve their own resources.

“Customers get much faster service delivery and [IP Australia] wins because we get fully structured data in the door, which means [data] quality is better, efficiency is better and the outcome for customers is better.”

At the organisational level, there have also been significant efficiency gains – good news for a public sector regularly asked to produce “efficiency dividends”. According to Bollard, contact centre costs have dropped by two thirds while maintaining a customer satisfaction rating of 88 per cent.

Driving change

However, Bollard maintains the transformation is not really about efficiency gains. It’s a nice byproduct but the move is fundamentally about improving services and engaging with customers who are increasingly moving to digital channels, he said.

“Customers actually want to engage in that [digital] channel. But I think part of the bargain is, they want to engage but they want to do it in a seamless fashion. They don’t want a clunky [experience].”

And the bar for digital experiences is rising quickly. Bollard agrees that government services are in some ways competing with digital leaders in the private sector in regards to digital service standards.

“The experiences that people are having with other sectors influence what their expectation are with us as a government body and so we need to lift our game in that space. And we wanted something that was much more agile and be able to deliver success for us in that area,” Bollard said.

To deliver that service level required a significant upgrade to the agencies IT and IP Australia tapped Pegasystems for much of it, after being attracted to platforms design thinking, adaptability and “no code” approach.

“The platform now that we’ve got in place with Pega really positions us to be a powerhouse in IT, and that’s what we are heading for.”

IP Australia was recognised by Pegasystems for its innovative use of the platform, receiving the global Pega Business Impact Award for 2018.

Bollard identified the ability to “copy and paste” Pegasystems functions for more efficient and consistent development across their system, as well as the software’s BI capability and flexibilty,

That IT flexibility will be critical as services transition to a more holistic approach, according to Bollard.

Clicking in to life events

Bollard envisions a future where, rather than directly interacting with individual organisations, citizens receive services as part of an ecosystem that caters for “life events”. The example he gave was a person starting a business would often need trademarks, an ABN and even insurance from the private sector at a single point in time. Creating an ecosystem to enable that holistic service delivery is the natural evolution of government services, says Bollard, because that’s what citizens want.

Pushing harder for that scenario is the one part of his agencies transformation Bollard said he would have approached differently. Nevertheless, that is where he sees government service delivery heading.

“Instead of dealing with IP Australia on a on to one relationship, you are trying to achieve a life event – I want to start a business, I’m having a baby, I’m getting married. I don’t care which government department I need to talk to, I just want to get it done.”

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