CIO50 2022 #22 Adam Carthew, Service Victoria
Over the past two years, Service Victoria’s chief information officer, Adam Carthew led a team that has delivered critical services used by millions of Victorians every day.
The Victorian government has backed Service Victoria in the 2022-23 state budget with an investment of $100 million to continue its work to offer a more personalised experience for citizens, including providing better ways to pay and making it easier to find and apply for government grants and services.
Carthew’s approach and foresight has contributed to a capability to ideate, prototype, learn, test and deploy that is unique to government.
“This means that new services are now delivered in a fraction of the time of traditional government IT departments. What previously took months can now be delivered in weeks, sometimes days,” he tells CIO Australia.
“New innovation and improvement opportunities are quickly identified, prioritised and delivered at a bigger scale and faster speed than ever before".
One of those innovations is the Service Victoria app, which in 2021 was the most downloaded app in Australia, in front of Service NSW and TikTok.
The app has been added to 6.6 million devices with Carthew instrumental in positioning it as a primary channel for the government’s interaction with citizens.
Service Victoria has delivered more than one billion transactions including COVID check-ins, car registration payments, ambulance subscriptions, vouchers and cashbacks to help ease the burden for citizens. Victoria was also the first jurisdiction in Australia to enable customers to add their Vax certificate to a state app, making it quick and easy to show proof of vaccination. Customer satisfaction remains high at more than 95%.
A move to native cloud microservices, which Carthew spoke about in 2021, meant Service Victoria was well placed to build platform technology at scale with a time to market that was previously unavailable to government.
QR code check-ins peaked at 8.1 million per day, 6.6 million Vax certificates have been added, border permits were delivered in under a week, and regional travel vouchers were delivered in two days.
New structure for faster delivery
Carthew has also modified his organisational structure, creating delivery squads so the organisation can adapt to better delivery practices. Multi-disciplinary squads were arranged into ‘tribes’ with a split focus on delivering services while enhancing product capabilities.
“This meant that the organisation could develop a significant change program rapidly while also delivering business-as-usual activities,” he says.
Lesson learned from inability to make decisions
Carthew admits that in the early days of his executive career, he lacked decisiveness. He was once accountable for a $50 million project IT project in the banking sector – an initiative that was at a crossroads.
“Rather than leading with clear purpose and vision, I allowed my decision-making to be influenced by too many other voices and opinions,” he says.
The result was uncertainty from continual pivots and stop/start efforts, which created a perception of a lack of decisiveness in his leadership.
The changes added unnecessary costs and time delays to this high-profile project, which caused some senior stakeholders to question Carthew’s judgement.
He now leads with confidence and clarity, seeks input when needed, makes clear decisions when required and knows the difference between the two.
Talking about technology
Carthew joined Service Victoria in 2020, bringing with him extensive experience in the retail and financial services sectors.
He's always recognised the importance of making technology part of every conversation, and includes staff within Service Victoria, key partners in other government agencies in all discussions, while keeping a close eye on customer needs and expectations through customer feedback and testing.
A clear example of Carthew’s influencing skills was on show during the roll out of the QR code check-in service. He moved Service Victoria to cloud technology capable of handling erratic transaction spikes.
Carthew helped decision makers understand the benefits of this solution, demonstrating how the agency could deliver the best results for Victorians and government by using new and emerging technologies.
The result was a check-in service that processed many millions of check-ins without a single outage.
Finally, Carthew collaborated with his executive IT colleagues across jurisdictions to deliver the digital vaccination certificate and make it available to the state-based app. This has meant that the record of vaccination is added in near real-time by a doctor, chemist or immunisation provider and it is made available immediately to people on their smartphones.
There was considerable pressure on the team to have the certificate available for Victorians to give people confidence and to help reduce lockdowns and kick-start the economic recovery.
Carthew’s leadership of the team helped meet and exceed critical dates, giving government the support it needed and maintaining the confidence of citizens.