The Frog Prince: A Cautionary Tale

The Frog Prince: A Cautionary Tale

While true, this story has all the elements of a Grimm's Fairy Tale, along with a happy ending - sort of . . .

Once upon a time a handsome Prince whose organisation bore more than a passing resemblance to a useless ugly Frog (through absolutely no fault of his own) embarked on a perilous journey of transformational change.

The Prince was in dire straits. The "Frog" - WorkCover Queensland - was a process-driven, bureaucratic organisation with a limited reward system. Worse, the internal corporate culture of the organisation was entirely unsuited to a commercial business. The Prince was determined to bring it to a healthy state as a customer-focused organisation. The road was hazardous, the business and IT traumas manifold, and the Wicked Witch Inertia eager enough to keep the Frog under her spell, but eventually the Prince and his IT team triumphed in implementing the new core business system and were able to shake the Wicked Witch's dreadful hex.

Only in this modern-day fairy tale it did not take the kiss of a beautiful young Princess to turn useless ugly Frog into a thing of beauty. As WorkCover Queensland general manager IT Lynn Kincade made clear in a recent telling of the tale: "The Frog Prince Story - Implementing CARE+ Warts and All", which she presented at CSC's 11th Annual Financial Services Client Conference, what was really behind the "Prince's ultimate triumph was sympathetic adherence to a number of boring old croakers like "senior management commitment" and "business buy-in"; not to mention a huge leap of faith, and a determination never to gild the lily. In Kincade's words, and if you'll forgive her puns, the effort required that everyone toad the line . . . but, she says, at least no one had to ponder their future.

In one of the most honest and open accounts of an IT business transformation project seen in Australia in recent years, Kincade has bared WorkCover's business and IT traumas and triumphs in implementing a new core business system. In both her paper and subsequent interview with CIO, Kincade details a perilous journey with many dangers met and overcome along the way but, she says, one that proved well worth making.

Some Flies on Us

Established in 1997, WorkCover Queensland has since its tadpole days sought to excel in workers' compensation services by delivering the best possible benefits to injured workers at the most reasonable premium cost to employers. But when Tony Hawkins was appointed CEO in 1998 he found an internal culture that might have been specifically designed to hamper those goals. The needs of customers were far from paramount. Instead, the internal culture focused on rewarding best those who were most process-driven. There was no commercialised business focus, no customer satisfaction measurements, no formalised business planning, and no rewards on offer for customer service delivery. "In short, WorkCover Queensland was a 'factory process', not a customer service organisation," Hawkins says.

Hawkins was determined to achieve transformational change to secure alignment of all organisational resources (human, financial and technological) towards WorkCover's ultimate goal of transmogrifying into a customer-focused organisation. "[Hawkins] looked at it as three key areas," Kincade says. "One is that there was a need to change the culture of WorkCover from the very old, outdated context of a public service organisation where people came in, did the processes and left, to a far more commercially aware organisation where there's the concept of key performance indicators, there's the concept of customer service . . . all the standard hoo-ha that you read about that companies really need to live to exist.

"Then behind that sat the processes that needed to change in order for that culture change to occur. You can't go out to somebody and say: 'Right, now we're commercially focused - get on with it', without looking at defining the basic processes and tools and authorisations and responsibilities and accountabilities and all that sit behind it. So the services project looked at all of the business processes and identified those areas that would need to change - and did change - to make us far more customer-focused than we were in the past," Kincade continues.

"The third area is the IT. In order to enable us to support the business and how it was changing and how the workforce and the employers were changing, we needed to change the technology. That was the underlying driver for looking at the core system, the policy and claim system. A lot of people ask: 'What's the core business driver?' Is it profitability? No. We actually didn't expect to get any major advantages or major cost savings or major people savings or any of that. It was purely to position us such that we could respond to where the business needed to go, and how the business wanted to work into the future."

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