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Bully building body replacement's tech transformation trips before bouncing back

George Nott | July 7, 2016
‘Intimidation and harassment’ had become part of the culture at the Queensland Building Services Authority, but tech has transformed its replacement, the QBCC

The demise of the Queensland Building Services Authority (QBSA) wasn't pretty, but neither was the organisation.

'Intimidation and harassment' had become part of the culture, according to the 2012 parliamentary inquiry that resulted in the regulator's dissolution. The committee heading the inquiry received submissions from both homeowners and builders about QBSA's 'bias, rudeness, bad behaviour and incompetent decisions'.

One certifier said the body's 'victimisation' of his colleagues had led to 'nervous breakdowns, financial hardship, marital problems, and death from strokes and heart attacks'.

The QBSA was replaced by the Queensland Building and Construction Commission (QBCC) in 2013. With a new board, constitution, commissioner and executive leadership team it would clean up its act and focus on its customers. Doing so required a complete renovation of its technology platform to meet the surge in demand for digital services. But before the digital transformation succeeded, it failed.

'WHATEVER'

The atmosphere in QBCC's Brisbane office was 'bleak' says Bruce McGregor, executive director, customer service.

McGregor had recently relocated from Sydney to take the role. His wife would soon join him along with their children who were packing up the last of their possessions ready for the big move. She rang.

"As I'm on the phone I saw this [writing] on a whiteboard. And it says: 'You can train a person to do a job but you cannot train a person to be pleasant and easy to get on with'. Then someone has come along with a red marker and put 'WHATEVER'.

"I'm on the phone and I've gone: 'I'm not sure if this is a good decision'."

The so-called Service Transformation program began by setting up a leadership team consisting of McGregor, the CIO and an enterprise PMO manager, each reporting directly to the commissioner.

By early 2015, the business case and funding for a digital renovation and extension program known as SF15 (Salesforce 2015) had been approved.

"We went straight to a tech focus," says McGregor. "We basically got existing processes and put them on a brand new system."

Off the cliff

McGregor admits that he was blinded by the "razzle and dazzle" of the new platform and was eager to "put in the new flash bells and whistles, because it's just cool".

Before work began in earnest, the QBCC's commissioner called in an external auditor for a 'health check'. The scope, funding and resourcing were insufficient, said the auditors, and would fail to deliver the desired organisational change, the data migration or the successful switch from redundant legacy systems.

"In the space of three weeks we knew we were on the rails," McGregor says. "We knew we were on a train driving straight off the cliff.

 

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