August 11, 2016

Leveraging existing infrastructure and partnerships



Yesterday I had the pleasure of facilitating a roundtable discussion at the 16th Annual Government Contact Centre Summit. There were three discussions running simultaneously. My end of the room seemed over-represented with 20-30 delegates, so the topic seemed to be a popular one.

The topic was “Leveraging existing infrastructure inside your own organisation or in partner organisations”.

I started the conversation by giving some context:

  • We don’t often get the funding we need to implement the infrastructure we’d like.
  • Upgrades seems to take years and often under-deliver on what was promised.
  • We can use lean thinking to continue to add value for customers and the business.

I opened the discussion up to the floor, prompting around the following areas…


There were some great example from the group. Examples centred around not being able to fund or wait for gold-plated solutions, and taking a light-touch approach. Then using the success of the basic solution to justify further investment in a longer-term more robust approach.

These examples aligned beautifully with the Agile and MVP mindset: Start small, prove the value, test your assumptions and solution with customers, then refine, iterate and improve.


Two key risks with this approach were identified by the group:

  • If the first solution is too good, you might get stuck with it as the final solution. This was only a problem if the solution was perceived to be good enough while carry significant risk or process overhead ‘behind-the-scenes’.
  • There’s a danger in focussing on this opportunistic and pragmatic approach alone. We need to be opportunistic, but also progress longer term more system improvements in parallel.


The group saw tremendous value in being able to take action and learn in an agile way. But also in the economies of scale to be achieved through leveraging the infrastructure used by partner organisations. There were some good examples of this in practise, but barriers to this approach were also raised.


Two main barriers were raised to leveraging infrastructure outside your organisation:

  • Disagreements about requirements
    “we can’t use your solution because it doesn’t meet all of our requirements”
  • Risk aversion
    “we can’t use your solution because it could be a security risk”

The first barrier can be addressed by focussing on the 20% of functionality that will give you 80% of the value. Be firm on that 20% and flexible on the rest. This is better than no solution at all, and allows for significant economies of scale and speed to market.

The second barrier was harder to address. I borrowed a strategic foresight technique from Causal Layered Analysis to help put us in the risk averse blockers’ shoes. I asked the group to tell me what the underlying mindset or metaphor was that was preventing them from embracing this approach:

Chicken Little… The sky is falling!

There were smiles and chuckles. Humourous, but still very true.

Now to challenge the paradigm. I prompted the group to find a new and better metaphor or mindset. What mindset should they have?

Not if, but how? We can make this happen, we just need to commit and work constructively

A powerful shift. But how do we get people to think this way?


I prompted the group to think through how we could influence these blockers to think differently. The group responded that we need to incentivise senior executives to make collaboration across divisions a priority.

We then deconstructed an example from Queensland where agencies had worked well together to meet a greater customer-centric goal.

Here the key was having a shared purpose greater than that of individual agencies, and collaboratively designed processes to enforce that broader customer-centric thinking.

But it was acknowledged that for larger change and collaboration, you need both. Fostering a shared vision and promoting that from the bottom-up but awareness and commitment to the bigger picture from the top-down as well.


It was fantastic to hear that governments around Australia are thinking this way, not waiting for the perfect solution that may never come. They are taking acceptable and manageable risks and making progress to improve the experience for citizens and save tax-payers money.

The ability of strategic foresight and facilitation techniques to help people solve the challenges they face never ceases to amaze me. These are powerful tools we can use to collaboratively define a better future and generate commitment and buy-in together.

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