Recent Blog
Recent Blog

12 October 2018

What is Digitisation Anyway?

Author :

Digitisation means different things to every organisation. I’ve just returned from an Inter-parliamentary Union (IPU) mission to Tuvalu to undertake an ICT capability assessment for the Tuvalu Parliament. Tuvalu is a small and isolated pacific nation, which is travel brochure beautiful and full of wonderful people. Tuvalu has little in the way of natural resources, and is heavily dependent on imports and international aid. Getting a computer working after something goes wrong is challenging in its own right. To the Tuvalu Parliament, just being able to store parliamentary documents electronically, in a central repository, and then being able to share these documents with the 15 members of parliament electronically, would seem like digitisation.

When Gartner introduced the concept of the Nexus of Forces back in 2014, it was hard for many of us to appreciate the impact the Internet of Things was going to have on our personal and professional lives. Why on earth would you want an internet connected fridge?! The constant improvement in consumer technology, and the increasing ease at which previously complex tasks can be completed by anyone with a powerful enough smart phone, led to an expectation of the same ease and choice we have in our personal lives to also be available in our professional lives.

New Zealand Parliaments journey of digitisation started back in 2013. We started with the vision of “enabling a mobile workforce to work securely anywhere, with fit for purpose tools”. Like most organisations, we knew we would need multiple streams of activity.

We knew we needed to rebuild the parliamentary network to support a mobile workforce. We also knew we would probably want to move to the Cloud at some point, so the network design needed to support this type of traffic. It was when we replaced our 30 year old PABX with Skype for Business (SfB) we had our first reality check – don’t believe anyone who says you don’t need to have some form of Quality of Service (QOS) in place to make good quality phone calls using SfB! Four years later we have just about completed the network refresh – it is hard to make substantive change around the busy business of parliament.

Another major stream of activity was our Line of Business applications. Many of the systems supporting the House were built on old technologies that were either no longer supported or becoming end of life. With an eye to one day moving to the Cloud, we defined a Technical Reference Model (TRM) for parliament that ensured the same frameworks, languages and technologies were used for all of parliament’s applications. Rightly or wrongly we choose SharePoint as the common platform on which to deploy our applications. We now have a stable and supportable stack of applications that, with a little bit of work, can be redeployed to the Cloud when we are ready to do so.

Security is a major concern in itself. Parliament naturally becomes a target for cyber activity by the very nature of what it represents. We are required to implement the highest level of security our users will tolerate, without impeding members rights around parliamentary privilege. Security is a constant tension against usability, and too often if you leave it up to the security experts to determine what is needed, you end up with something not very useful to your users. You can achieve a lot in the security space just through implementing a good user education programme.

Which brings me to our last major stream of activity – supporting our users. User expectations are constantly increasing against a back drop of evolving technology in the consumer space. If you can’t make it easy for them, they will work around you – implementing their own solution is just a google search and credit card away. More than ever you need to be talking to your users, understanding what they are trying to achieve and help guide them towards a solution you will be able to support them on, will also meeting your own standards and requirements.

I’m still not sure if my fridge will ever be connected to the internet, but it is starting to looking more compelling five years on from when I first heard it suggested, and, at some point, the choice may not even be mine to make.

Still interested? Stay tuned for information on upcoming conferences and summits by following us on Facebook @ Akolade Aust 

Written by: Michael Middlemiss, Chief Information Officer at Parliamentary Service

Michael has worked within the Information Technology industry for over twenty years and has acquired significant experience across a wide variety of roles, technologies, industries, and business processes. 

Michael has been involved in all levels of Information Technology, from hands on design and requirements gathering, through to roles involving Strategic Planning and thought leadership.
Michael is a seasoned people manager who has built several of his teams from scratch. 

09 October 2018

How can a Virtual Assistant help you?

Author :

“Oh my god, this person’s Executive Assistant is a robot!” A colleague of mine looked incredulously at an email she had received, signed off with the job title ‘Virtual Assistant’.

How many of you would have had the same reaction?

We know the Executive or Personal Assistant is dynamic and has evolved drastically over the past few decades. The ability to remember a coffee order and answer phone calls is no longer what defines an exceptional EA. Rather it is now their ability to navigate complex public relations situations, liaise with business leaders and collaborate across departments.

The boundaries of the role have been challenged again by the possibilities brought by the digital era. The virtual assistant fulfils many of the same responsibilities as a ‘traditional’ executive assistant but correspondence is performed virtually.

What a virtual assistant can (usually) do:

  • Complete time-consuming, repetitive tasks- Data entry and administrative work can be mind-numbing but they’re essential to ensuring the smooth running of your business
  • Bookkeeping- Whilst virtual assistants can help manage your budgets and track your expenses, they cannot do your actual accounting. However you will have a very happy accountant when they find your books are in order.
  •  Lead generation- find more opportunities
  •  IT outsourcing- for the tech-illiterate among us, VAs can often help with website building and graphic design
  • Research- Whether it’s for an event, potential investors or office space, virtual assistants can save you a lot of time in laying the ground work for your biggest projects
What a virtual assistant can’t do:
  • Develop your organisational strategy- You know your business best. Usually Virtual Assistants are based in other countries and simply don’t have the thorough understanding of your business necessary to weigh-in on the business plan
  • Relationship building- While virtual assistants will be able to help you with email correspondence, there is little substitute for one-on-one meetings when it comes to building lasting client relationships

If you’re after someone to alleviate your workload and organise your life, a virtual assistant could be an avenue to explore. However if you want someone to discuss strategy and help build your company’s reputation, nothing will replace your face-to-face Executive Assistant. 

Attend the Public Sector EA & PA Summit NZ from 5-7 of December 2018. More information here

Still interested? Stay tuned for information on upcoming conferences and summits by following us on Facebook @ Akolade Aust 

Written by: Claire Dowler

Claire is the manager of Akolade’s government and digital portfolio. She’s passionate about emerging digital trends, particularly in the public sector. In her spare time she enjoys picking up heavy things and putting them back down again and animals are her favourite kind of people. 

Follow me on LinkedIn for information regarding future Akolade events as well as future blogs posts @ Claire Dowler

18 September 2018

Post Conference Media Release: National conference maps the future for Indigenous education

Author :

Media Release

12 September 2018

National conference maps the future for Indigenous education

Education leaders from around the country have mapped a reform pathway to provide Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students the tools they need to navigate through life as part of the 2nd National Indigenous Education Forum, held in Perth.

More than 30 community and government leaders from around Australia presented their thoughts and plans for the future of Indigenous education, with international guest speakers also attending the conference from New Zealand and Hawaii. 

Forum Chair Curtin University’s Elder-in-Residence, Professor Simon Forrest, said building trust and collaborative relationships with communities, families and Elders was the key to ensuring successful indigenous education reform.

Professor Forrest said the forum was working towards a future where all Indigenous young people gained a full understanding of their history, enabling them to connect it to their future.

“My vision for the future of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education is the existence of a situation where healing of the past takes place daily and our culture is embedded within all aspects of the curriculum and the education system,” Professor Forrest said.

“My hopes are for an education system where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students are fully engaged by having our culture completely embedded in the system, creating an environment that inspires our students to achieve in all aspects of life. 

“I also envisage students, family and the community working together as the driving force behind the implementation of a culturally celebratory space that encourages our students to thrive and develop the skills necessary to successfully navigate both worlds.” 

Professor Forrest said the conference delegates were also encouraged to use the Coolangatta Statement on Indigenous Peoples’ Rights in Education, which represents a collective voice of Indigenous people from around the world who support fundamental principles considered vital to achieving education reform, as a guiding principle to influence the education of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. 

“Delegates were also encouraged to use the outcomes from the forum to endeavour to influence change to ensure Indigenous children are successful at school,” Professor Forrest said. 

The 2nd National Indigenous Education Forum was held in Perth from August 22 to 24. 
For more information about the forum, visit here


Notes to Editor:

Interviews with Professor Forrest about the 2nd National Indigenous Education Forum are available. 

Media contacts:

Professor Simon Forrest, Curtin University

Tel: (08) 9266 3130 | Mobile: 0431 659 022 | Email:

11 September 2018

Understanding and building your Digital Strategy

Author :

We all know that technology choice shouldn’t be driven solely by technology concerns but scarily, how often have you seen the reasons for technology as ‘...the Chief said so…’ or ‘… the boss saw it at a conference…’? What’s even worse is that every day, we watch as our social media timelines overflow with solutions looking for problems that seem to then pervade into the organisations that can least afford them. It is too easy to fall into that solution driven trap and think you are providing value to your business and helping solve their problems in this way. You’re not. At best, you are cherry-picking problems that fit your solution.

Across the organisational (government or private) spectrum, strategy itself is all too often misunderstood. So let’s start with moving towards a better understanding of strategy.

According to Ann Latham at …

The biggest problem with the way organisations think about strategy is they confuse strategy with plans. They aren’t the same thing. Strategic planning is an oxymoron.  

Notwithstanding the ‘Twitter-ready’ nature of the commentary, strategy defines the core business of an organisation, the why, whereas a plan will set out how those ideals are achieved. Strategy is the reason for being, an organisation’s raison d'ĂȘtre, and it should be the reason behind every decision made throughout the organisation on a daily basis. Having said that, many executives typically spend a day a year in a Strategy workshop paying scant attention to strategy and deep diving into operational questions.

Companies define strategy in different ways, depending on their place in their industry and the nature of their industry. Often boards go wrong simply because they have not defined the right measures of competition or the right challenges on which to focus. 

It is important to understand that strategy is a moving feast. It is not a foundation stone to stare at forever. Never forget too, that sticking with the wrong strategy can end with a tombstone for the business.

Enter the ‘solution provider’ hawking solutions to problems which haven’t been very well understood or articulated. Too often this ‘solution provider’ is internal to the organisation and many technologies including cloud have seen reduced uptake in organisations because of this blind solution orientated approach.

Technology teams need to understand the business problem in context to be able to provide a proper and appropriate solution. Every business decision should be made using the Strategy as a guiding light and there is no reason to divorce technology decisions from this principle. This is a critical piece of the puzzle and we should be ensuring that every decision can be mapped back to the strategy.

With reference to the strategy, work through every business problem in context. Throughout the whole journey during the decision making process we should be asking how is this solution simplifying, connecting and informing our people better? A clear definition of the problem is always a good start. Spending time on ‘requirements’ is always a good investment. Define the problem and really understand it in the business context. Is there a strategic or business imperative that necessitates a technology solution to the problem? It might be more effective to change a process than deploy new technology. How does your Digital Strategy map back to the organisational strategy? If you decide that Cloud is the solution, why is cloud the solution and in what form will that cloud solution take? If AI is the decision, how will the time and investment spent modelling and testing an AI deployment further the digital or organisational strategy?

This might all seem like pretty basic stuff but most organisations get it wrong. The days of technology teams working in isolation from the business and its strategy are long gone. For everyone in the organisation, time spent understanding the decision making process, the decision making capabilities of yourself and your stakeholders plus what that means to the strategy for your department or enterprise is always time well spent.

Written by: Rowan Dollar,
Chief Information Officer – Information and Technology
Department of Primary Industry and Resources, NT

Hear from Rowan at the upcoming Digital Government WA Summit this December.

06 September 2018

Good writing is all about process

Author :

I've written all kinds of content. From defining a brand to complex financial products, legal documents and everything in between. And I always follow the same process.

It's really very simple. But let's use an analogy to make it a little more interesting.
Imagine you're a builder and your task is to construct a house. You're given nothing to begin with - it's up to you to do it all.

Gather the resources. Design the architecture. Put up the scaffolding. And, finally, pour the concrete, get the damn thing built, and make it easy on the eye.

So how does this relate to content writing?

Well, words don't simply flow from the mind to hand to screen (not good ones anyway). Good writing follows a very clear process.

Hunt and gather
First, I always start with the basics. What do we already have to work with? Often you'll find bits and pieces lying around. This is akin to a builder finding a brick here and window pane there. So first, we gather.

Boil it down
Then we deconstruct. If you've found an old draft that's relevant to what you're doing, strip it down to bullet points. If you've come across something on the net that speaks to what you're doing, take what you need and strip it down to bullets too. This'll leave you with a good long list of everything that exists right now.

Find the gaps
Then we brainstorm. It's a cliché term, and in practice means we look at the scatter we've collected and ask ourselves, "OK, what's missing...? What's relevant to this topic and the audience that we don't have on our plate yet?"

Add it in.

Make it make sense
Finally, we organise. Take your bullets and get them into an order that makes sense.
Look at what you've got from the lens of the audience. Start with the assumption that they absolutely don't care and their time is precious. What do they want to know? Why?

And always front-load the good bits. No one likes a waffler.

Where's the value?
If you have too much, now's the time to cull. It's very straightforward - simply look at each point and ask yourself, "Does this add value?"
If not, kill it. Be ruthless. Remember: no one cares.

And then write
If you've got that far, the rest is easy. You should have a clear structure already in front of you. Each bullet warrants a sentence, and sub-bullets mean you need to add a little more detail.

So write a draft. Then go make a cup of tea or work on another task, come back to it fresh, and polish.


Written by: Nathan Haslewood, Content Lead at  Service Victoria.

17 August 2018

Actioning a decision you don’t agree with

Author :

Whether you’re an executive assistant or a middle manager, one of the greatest frustrations is carrying out decisions that conflict directly with your opinions- perhaps even morals.

 You will likely find yourself performing the task and muttering bitterly to yourself, as well as those around you, that you’re not happy but you have to do it. Your attitude is passed on to the people around you and quickly creates an environment of resentment.

But you care about the future of your company. Your job, after all, is to help the organisation succeed which undermining the decision will do little to achieve.

The first question you ask should be to yourself: Do you trust the leadership of the organisation you work for? If you find yourself having a long mental pause it may be time to look for new opportunities elsewhere.

Otherwise you may need to consider your own stubbornness. Are you fixated on your own beliefs? Are you reluctant to consider alternatives to your own personal beliefs?

It’s logical any decision being made at an executive or board level has gone through rigorous assessment, consideration and discussion. That being said, if you see an issue which conflicts with your legal and ethical responsibilities, then you have a duty to voice your concern and continue voicing this until it is resolved.

The method of delivering the news to your team is important. Michelle Kankousy on Insperity suggests it could sound like, “I know this was a difficult decision for them. Several options were discussed over many weeks and they decided this was best for the longevity of the company.”

If your direct reports already know you disagree, it’s okay to say, “This isn’t the choice I would have made, but let’s try to implement this change to the best of our abilities. We can always suggest adjustments that will make this work better than we think right now.”

It’s in your best interests to be clear and reasonable after the decision has been made by not continually provoking the board or acting with hostility to those you disagree with.

Finally, remember there a few decisions which cannot be reversed. If the decision proves to have a negative effect on the company amendments can be made- with the added pleasure of a quiet “I told you so.”

Still interested? Stay tuned for information on upcoming conferences and summits by following us on Facebook @ Akolade Aust 

Written by: Claire Dowler

Claire is the manager of Akolade’s government and digital portfolio. She’s passionate about emerging digital trends, particularly in the public sector. In her spare time she enjoys picking up heavy things and putting them back down again and animals are her favourite kind of people. 

Follow me on LinkedIn for information regarding future Akolade events as well as future blogs posts @ Claire Dowler

15 August 2018

Community engagement key to educational success

Author :

Overall the education targets for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Children are not on track, according to the 2018 Closing the Gap report.

Neither attendance rates nor literacy and numeracy skills are on track, with school attendance rates appearing to have stagnated and have even gone backwards in the NT from 70.2 per cent in 2014 to 66.2 per cent in 2017.

Whilst the gap in literacy and numeracy skills has narrowed, only Year 9 numeracy is on track across all states and territories.

Despite the negative statistics, some schools are seeing some amazing results, and one of the key reasons for this is the schools’ relationships with the community and families.

It’s not just about teaching children in the classroom, but also getting the support from, and engaging, families, Elders and the community as a whole, and allowing them to have a say in their children’s education. When the family is engaged in their children’s education, so are the children.

Charlie (Wilbur) Klein is the principal of Tjuntjuntjara Remote Community School, located over 600 kilometres north-east of Kalgoorlie in WA. He was earlier this year shortlisted for the Global Teacher Prize award for his incredible contributions to his students and community.

Having worked in regional and remote education for the past 20 years, Klein has developed an effective leadership style in which he incorporates the whole of community. Tjuntjuntjara Remote Community School now operates on a school-community agreement, which includes teaching on country and including other people’s skills and knowledge.

Klein will share the successes of his work at the upcoming National Indigenous Education Forum, held in Perth on the 22-24 August.

Other education leaders sharing their work include;

John Rangiteremauri Heremia, Principal at Te Wharekura O Rakaumanga, who will be sharing the evolution of Maori education

Lionel Bamblett, from the Victorian Aboriginal Education Association, who will share how they collaborate with community and government bodies to see systematic and sustained change

Taffi U‘ilei Wise from Kanu o ka ‘Aina Learning ‘Ohana in Hawaii who will speak about Native Hawaiian Charter School Alliance’s  education model

Ricky Grace, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Girls Academy, will speak about how to get the community involved in the school.

Visit the National Indigenous Economic Development Forum’s website for more information:

Still interested? Stay tuned for information on upcoming conferences and summits by following us on Facebook @ Akolade Aust 

Written by: Naomi Neilson

Recently graduated with a Bachelor in Communications with a major in Journalism and Public Relations, Naomi Neilson has jumped straight into the world of media and press with Third Sector. She is motivated and passionate to explore the industry and thrives on creating an interactive and social platform for Third Sectors unique readers.

In her free time she can be found either watching the footy or designing her next big art piece around sourcing stories and engaging with new people.

Follow me on LinkedIn for information regarding future Akolade events as well as future blogs posts Naomi Neilson

14 August 2018

Maintaining ongoing cyber security within government organisations

Author :

Sometimes, the biggest misconceptions with cyber security are to associate products and services with an ideal cyber security strategy and create a bulletproof level of confidence.  However, most of Australia's ASX 20 organisations including the top four banking institutes, financial services, capital markets and of course the government sector couldn't be further from the truth.

Let’s take a look back over the last couple of years and months - recent hacks have compromised some real sensitive details such as payroll information, user personality tests, medical records, performance reviews, drivers’ licenses, personal addresses etc.  As you can think, organisations at this tier spends millions on cyber prevention however, organisations get involved in an incredible amount of cyber security risk and breaches.  Why?

Often at times people talk about ‘people’ being the weakest link in the cyber security chain.  I disagree.  People aren't the weakest link if they are utilised correctly.  "IT" people see users as liabilities, however, "IT" people do very little to empower, educate and create recurring moments where if users see, or feel something wrong is happening they challenge the situation.  In most cases attacks happen in less than 2 hours by doing a targeted attack on an individual.  Creating a level of pain, or associating a level of discomfort where the user will likely want to know "more information" and getting the user, to do a certain action which essentially causes the breach.

Using and complying with ISO standards is a good starting point, but as anything else it needs more attention.

As part of our cyber security strategy the number one tactic many organisations use is: to ensure they are ISO compliant –making sure they are following the "frameworks and industry best practices to prevent attacks" however, it doesn't seem to do much.  Having policies, documentation, standards and processes doesn't mean anything.  I'm here to give you the understanding that attacks are real and guess what - organisations are doing exactly what each other are doing - they are following one another and are in a state of what I call "mob mentality ". Organisations should rather be in their own dedicated cyber security tier and develop specific strategies that align with their core business challenges.

Sometimes the best strategies and tactics to developing a winning cyber security strategy is often having minimal and simple technology and no flashy lights.  -Not wanting to have the latest and greatest but implementing clear and simple strategies that can take your organisation from a somewhat

I can't wait to share with you some tactics that cost literally $0 to implement and give you a real false positive notification of an actual threat taking place.

Still interested? Come and see my workshop on Maintaining ongoing cyber security within government organisations at the Digital Government WA Summit 2018, Perth from the 4-6 December.

Still interested? Stay tuned for information on upcoming conferences and summits by following us on Facebook @ Akolade Aust 

Written by: Andrew Constantine, Founder & Managing Director, CIO Cyber Security 

Andrew Constantine is the founder of Australia's Largest Private Community of technology leaders specialising in preventing cyber security threats with more than 3,000 private members.  His vision is to improve traditional cyber security education by introducing the real world approach.

Being the author of the CIO Solution Book - This was followed by the launch of CIO Cyber Security, a private advisory firm designed to help fellow Technology Leaders raise more cyber security awareness to executive management, by running simulated cyber security attacks and cyber warefare scenarios in a controlled environment.
 Andrew is an advocate of giving back to the community and supports Bear Cottage -fundraising and supporting children with life-limiting conditions.