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Why an information project became a cultural exercise at New Zealand's Ministry for the Environment

Nadia Cameron | March 9, 2016
Implementing a cloud-based document management system successfully at New Zealand’s Ministry for the Environment was less about technology investment, and more about the cultural change required to get people on-board and on-side.

“This poor project manager immediately had this weight of expectation on him, because of what it meant to our organisation. To finally say we were doing this had a big impact on morale.”

Initially, Hurley said he expected about 80 per cent of investment cost went into the technology solution, and 20 per cent into business change.

“But in fact, 80 per cent of actual effort was in the business change,” he said. “The technology side was relatively simple… but putting that time and effort into supporting the organisation over a 12-month period, around why and how we’re changing and what everyone will get out of it, was a key take out. As a leader, that’s where you have to spend the time, as that’s the change you’ll see over sweating the technology change.”

There were plenty of business benefits to the project, Hurley continued.

“Firstly, we wanted to bring as many disparate data sources together as we could, but as we sat down to talk about what we really wanted to achieve, it was about eliminating risk,” he said. “We de-scoped lot of what we did in this project to focus on a document management system that could die at any time – I could recover the data but couldn’t put it on anything if I lost the app. So I had to focus on how quickly we could get onto the new app.

“I took a hard line with the team on things that looked good, but could potentially slow us down on getting onto the app. One thing we also started to do was add in the workflow side of things. This was for the area managing communications between us and the environment minister, which had been a very paper-based process.

“We wanted to move away from response to requests as a document, and into a collaborative digital documents around the business.”

MfE had another separate Web-based system that was 10 years old and was recording and capturing these requests and where they were going.

“Putting that all into one system provided real efficiency gains, but also was a big business process exercise,” Hurley said.

The scale of the product MfE now has is hugely different to what the organisation had before, Hurley said.

“In our early prototyping, there was lot of enthusiasm from users about features wanting to do this and that. Having to ground people around why we commissioned the project without losing the enthusiasm was a key management challenge,” he said.

“We have committed to the organisation that this is a product we’ll be staying with for a long time, and we will add functionality to support the organisation to do what it does best. That’s meant user changes, team contacts, and so on, as well as asking them what they want, what they do, and build a dynamic relationship.”


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