The 2021 IPAA National Conference – Riding the wave of service transformation – was proudly hosted by IPAA Queensland. Attended by over 500 public purpose workers (both in-person and virtual), the outstanding line-up of speakers examined the transformation of service in the digital age.

We were pleased to present two members of the IPAA community with complimentary tickets to the conference. Colleen Bright (TMR) and Jeff Ikin (DES) were the lucky recipients after attending an IPAA event this year and entering a draw when completing the feedback survey.

Read on to hear their key takeaways!

Colleen Bright works in Customer Services Branch at the Department of Transport and Main Roads as a Senior Advisor (Learning, Training and Development). Colleen has been on the service transformation journey for some time and found her passion for developing and supporting her workforce along the way – all while studying a Bachelor of Psychology.


Jeff Ikin is a Project Officer at the Department of Environment and Science. Jeff’s background in conservation science led him to this role where he applies his knowledge of water quality and biodiversity in the Reef Programs team at the Office of the Great Barrier Reef.


Which sessions challenged your thinking?

Before the conference Colleen told us she was most excited to see Dr David Rock (Co-Founder and CEO, NeuroLeadership Institute). Did he live up to the hype?

Yes, he’s always great! He really highlighted the need to start using his methodologies like SCARF and the Growth Mindset in that transformation and change piece … be it technology or design, how do we bring people on that journey with us? It was fantastic.

Any other highlights?

It was amazing to see how Services Australia have transformed over the last decade. There are some similarities [between TMR’s Customer Services Branch] and their service model – they are shifting a lot of people into the service centre whereas we are shifting a lot of people out – so how can we leverage what they are doing, but in reverse.

One of the big things for me was around their self-service desks and how they maintain that privacy even though it’s open plan – they have shown that it can be done. It’s good to hear that such a big organization is experiencing the same sort of challenges [that we are] and to learn from them.

… and I was totally taken away by Peter Williams from Deloitte! It was an absolutely fantastic session … I was wowed by it.

For Jeff it was the session featuring Dr Alex Antic, Prof Melissa De Zwart and Peter Williams on designing joined-up digital ecosystems for service transformation.

that was definitely my favourite session of the conference. I took away the concepts of the Privacy Enhancing Technologies (PETs) and the twin systems dealing with real-time data and how that could influence management decisions. It was what I was expecting plus more … fantastic to see the applications of that work and where it could be incorporated in the future.

For example, with PETs, we collect a lot of stakeholder data … and there is sometimes concern about privacy and how data will be used, particularly for compliance action in the environment sphere. I’d like to see a world where PETs could be used so they don’t feel any hesitancy providing that information … which would allow the government to inform better decisions and lead to lasting impactful outcomes.

[The presentation on twin systems] really got me thinking about what other things can we do with the data that’s available that we assume isn’t possible just yet – but if we set up these systems we could incorporate that sort of decision-making. Twin systems could mix in meteorological data, real time forecasts and rainfall patterns to anticipate when flooding events might happen and see if there are any management actions that could pivot on that to improve the water quality going out to the Great Barrier Reef.

Building connections
is a key goal at IPAA and something we encourage at our events.

When asked about extending his professional network, Jeff told us about a fantastic opportunity he had to speak in-depth with a senior government leader about everything from their career journey to managing diverse stakeholders across different levels of government. He also enjoyed the diversity of attendees from across the public purpose ecosystem – it was great to speak with a mixed bag of people from all over the place and hear about their experiences.

You do see connections that move forward after these types of events

Colleen extolled the benefits of building her digital network after the event and following their transformation journeys – we are stepping out of the silo space and working together to overcome this [service transformation] challenge. You do see connections that move forward after these types of events … we are digging deeper into how we can bring this into our own organization … it goes beyond the session.


Your number one takeaway? Collaboration is key.

Colleen shared that one of the great things about the conference was highlighting some of the things that we feel are going to be challenging but seeing that other people have done it. It’s about making sure you get a balance with collaboration between your people and your customer … For every one of the presenters that was key in their findings – at the end of the day, that is who you are there to service.

We can learn from each other’s lessons

Jeff’s key takeaway was all about sharing and learning from each other – If there’s something that looks like it can be done, chances are there is somebody else that tried to implement it or is currently working on it. We can learn from each other’s lessons, and by sharing information we could fast-track a lot of processes. Collaboration when implementing a lot of these technical measures could really go a long way.


Would you recommend IPAA events to others?

Jeff looks forward to attending future IPAA events and recommends the Chief Executives and Young Professionals Breakfast. He added that he enjoyed the use of technology at the conference including the conference app – it was great to see people’s ideas pop up [in each session chat] and it allowed the conversation to keep flowing.

Colleen agreed, Yeah I would! Part of the group I was with were attending their first [IPAA event] and I told them they were fantastic – the presenters are always knowledgeable, and you will always take something away from them. It was a great opportunity, thank you.

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