CIO50 2020 #7 Lynn Warneke, Department of Premier and Cabinet, Victoria
Lynn Warneke joined Department of Premier and Cabinet (DPC) as CIO in 2018, after a five-year tenure as deputy chief digital officer at Deakin University. Whilst at Deakin, Warneke received local and global recognition for her pioneering approach to the application of emerging technologies like AI, IoT and augmented reality to transform the student experience and support Deakin’s innovative ‘cloud campus’ digital business model.
After joining the Victorian DPC, Warneke conceived and led the successful delivery of a broad and ambitious digital transformation program known as IGNITE (innovative government networks, IT enabled).
As with most government agencies, DPC had a long history of being run by complex, slow and inconsistent manual processes, while there was a deeply entrenched cultural resistance to change, especially among the longer-serving public servants in charge, as well as unions.
This had the effect of creating and fortifying silos throughout the organisation, limiting the potential for collaboration, and therefore the overall effectiveness of the DPC.
While not unusual for public sector agencies, being a core department in the Victorian government suddenly charged with managing Australia’s worst outbreaks of COVID-19 demanded rapid organisational change if it was going to cope and lead.
The changes initiated with IGNITE were a critical success factor for DPC’s COVID-19 response. In March 2020, IGNITE enabled Warneke's team to transition the department to full-scale, productive remote working in just two weeks.
IGNITE totally re-imagined the employee experience, shifting DPC from a face-to-face, highly manual way of working, to a digitally-enabled culture where Victorian public servants and Cabinet work, meet and collaborate anywhere, at any time.
Highlights included a full digital office upgrade spanning mobile, an accessible, inclusive end-user computing catalogue, Office 365 and Teams, as well as enterprise video conferencing. Core enterprise applications were migrated to the cloud, supporting greater mobility, cyber security and general data management. Significant operational improvements were realised after just three months.
In this short time, adoption of new digital tools skyrocketed 550 per cent, while overall staff engagement and satisfaction levels increased by almost a third. The resulting lift in productivity is estimated to be worth $8 million a year.
“I’m now planning to introduce ground-breaking AI-powered solutions, such as Microsoft Cortana, to further empower staff. Our objective continues to be transforming the citizen experience, and I see extraordinary opportunity to use carefully selected AI-prototypes to accelerate our impact”.
While program objectives included cost reduction and operating efficiency, IGNITE’s primary driver was to digitally transform the public sector employee experience, to sustain an outstanding citizen experience.
The Victorian Government is ambitious for public sector and citizen service reform. Upon joining DPC, Warneke recognised its significant progress in digitising citizen services, but observed key gaps in the employee experience.
“I’m now planning to introduce ground-breaking AI-powered solutions, such as Microsoft Cortana, to further empower staff. Our objective continues to be transforming the citizen experience, and I see extraordinary opportunity to use carefully selected AI-prototypes to accelerate our impact."
Warneke maintains that addressing digital experience transformation across the entire spectrum of customer to employee, or citizen to government, is critical.
“How can public servants truly understand the needs of our citizens and industries and effectively address them through current and emerging digital solutions if the VPS [Victorian public service] is not also using those digital solutions or lacks the digital literacy to leverage them effectively?”
Driving digital transformation and success for DPC requires properly communicating to stakeholders and the community the positive impact technology is having on the organisation.
A key focus has been ensuring communications minimise ‘IT-speak’ and engage audiences, through accessible language highlighting the ways technology is delivering important, relatable benefits.
Warneke and her team created a KPI dashboard that reports key IT metrics relevant to end users. A digital ambassadors network of ‘super-users’, encourages awareness and adoption of new technology in a peer-to-peer model, supported by the introduction of OCM and UX resources on all enterprise projects
Executives and staff also receive regular ‘From the CIO’ emails, news and stories in DPC’s internal newsletter and intranet. Regular Q&As and ‘Town Halls’ are held with staff and executives to demonstrate business impacts, while there are regular posts on dedicated project micro-sites.
Given the challenging government context of nascent digital maturity and resource constraints, the scope, scale and speed of Warneke's transformation achievement were particularly remarkable.
“There was little precedent for such a holistic transformation agenda, nor a methodology to deliver successfully and ensure sustainable change,” she tells CIO Australia.
Applying a truly 360-degree perspective was critically important, especially in bringing to fruition her vision for proper human centred design (HCD).
The result was a successful harmonisation of technology with the physical and cultural elements of transformation. Warneke’s status and influence within the executive and in the broader public and private sectors was key to pushing through such an ambitious change agenda.
She formally represents the department and influences CIO peers, partners and senior executives via a range of DPC and Victorian Government forums, including: the Victorian Government CIO Leadership Forum; DPC’s Senior Leadership Group (SLG) and DPC Audit & Risk Management.
She is also on the boards and is an advisor to the Victorian Single Digital Presence Project and the Cenitex Tenancy Board governing strategic development of Microsoft 365 for government.
As a women in IT, Warneke has become an important voice for great female participation in the sector though her work with #TechDiversity, and elected roles on the ACS National Diversity & Inclusion Council and Victorian Branch Executive Committee.
In 2019 she produced the highly successful Empowering Women for the Future summit – a successful program of keynote speakers, career development workshops, and networking opportunities for more than 1100 public servants.
Warneke's biggest professional lesson has been that “she needs to be the change she wants to see”.
A 30-year career has taught her how important it is to be a visible, proactive and “fearlessly female” leader in the male-dominated technology sector.
As a young business-technology consultant, Warneke focused on personal progression – becoming established and building an impressive CV. The all-too common stresses of maintaining currency in mid-career while raising children made her more conscious of the many systemic barriers that professional women can experience, from structural through to cultural and psycho-social.
Rising through the ranks to senior ICT leadership, Warneke was often the only woman in executive teams.
She now understands leaders aren’t neutral. “If I’m not actively a positive influence, then I’m not leveraging my full leadership responsibility”.
Continuing to live by the ‘fearlessly female’ mantra, she leverages her position to raise awareness of the benefits of D&I across the ICT community. A member of the ACS National Diversity & Inclusion Council, a judge for the #TechDiversity Awards, and a sought-after speaker, she continues to promote the importance of women in ICT, and in doing so is fulfilling her full potential as an inspirational role model for others.