Victor Dominello: First interview 

James Riley
Editorial Director

Freshly-minted NSW customer service minister Victor Dominello will impose mandated digital designs and data architectures across government departments in order to standardise service delivery and data collection in all departments and agencies.

In his first major interview since being appointed to the new role, Mr Dominello told that every new project and program seeking Cabinet approval would first need sign-off from a Customer Service-led Cabinet committee.

All new programs from any of the policy verticals, whether transport, health, education, family and community services or any other portfolio, would need the approval of the yet-to-be-named Customer Service committee before it can be presented to the expenditure review committee (ERC) of the Cabinet.

Mr Dominello also confirmed the appointment of Glenn King as secretary to the new Department of Customer Service. Mr King was previously a deputy secretary within the Premier’s department, heading its behavioural insights unit.

Concurrently, Mr King had also been the NSW Government Customer Service Commissioner since late 2017. It is a testament to the state’s focus that the last two customer service commissioners have been promoted to a Secretary role – first Mike Pratt to Treasury secretary and now Glenn King to Customer Service.

Mr Dominello said government had been working on the new structures, which put data and digital design into the heart of the overall policy approval process, for the past six months.

“If you have a new policy that you want to bring through – from whichever of the verticals, health, education, planning, whatever – the first checkpoint, before heading off the ERC, will be the customer service committee,” Mr Dominello said.

“And the customer service committee will be saying, ‘Show me your data architecture. Show me your digital design’, and ‘Is it in line with the customer service or citizen experience that we expect from Service NSW?’” he said.

Mr Dominello said the new Cabinet approvals process means that all projects need to get a tick against the finances of a project, and now also a tick against the form of the new project before finally getting full approval from the Cabinet.

The new approvals structure raises the bar for approval on all projects that have a digital or data component – which is virtually everything government does – representing a significantly higher hurdle.

The pay-off for departments and agencies will be in better data and a faster customer-citizen feedback loop for the effectiveness of the program.

But Mr Dominello has flagged his intention to start mandating design rules for digital services.

“We are going to standardise a whole lot of things. If a [department or agency] wants an exception, that’s fine, but you will need to go to this committee to get that exception approved,” he said. “Otherwise it’s going to have to be standardised.”

Up until now, in relation to digital design rules, Mr Dominello said: “It’s all be discretionary, it’s all been opt-in, and it’s all guidelines. That is going to change now.”

“These will be mandated, because we need to get uniformity for the customer journey,” he said.

Mr Dominello said the new structures would reinvigorate privacy by design and security by design features with government service development.

“We start from a position of privacy. Privacy is sacrosanct and there can be no compromise there. In fact, one of the great freedoms we enjoy in this country is that right to privacy,” he said. “That is non-negotiable and goes side-by-side with [data] security.”

“Once we bed those two things down [on a given service], then we can move forward on the data piece with a greater degree of confidence.”

The first order of business for the new department will be rolling out the digital driver’s licence, after Service NSW successfully piloted the licence last year. This will be ready by mid-year, he said, and is a first order priority because it provides a pathway to a whole range of other services.

Drivers’ don’t have to wait until their current licence expires to get a smartphone-based digital licence. By the middle of the year, “if you want it, you just download it”.

Mr Dominello said NSW was pushing ahead with a digital program that no government had really attempted before, and that it putting a citizen experience lens across all public programs.

“In structure, every government has silos. That’s a necessary frustration of government, because silos is where we have our deep expertise,” Mr Dominello said.

“The problem is that we end up with a whole series of verticals and not many horizontals [that see across all of government]. This is the first time that we have applied a citizen lens above all the verticals, to drive better outcomes.”

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