The Hard Decisions #1

Hi guys, what’s up? Have you been trying to decide whether to do that startup in your bedroom, or maybe just get an EL1 job down at the Digital Transformation Office? Sure it’s a major decision, and Digital KoolAid UK has been checking out the Discovery Channel for start-ups.

Your Australian  DTO is leading the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science and the Australian Taxation Office in a wonderful innovation about starting a business. Everyone involved is a public servant and nobody has ever started a business or is even thinking about it, but the discoveries are totally awesome.

Just to get you right up to speed guys, the whole thing about digitally starting a business is totally original imitation. Here at the GDS in London we have been working on it for years. Here’s a screen shot of Tom Loosemore, who was the Number 2 guy at our GDS until his boss left, then he left too, and here he is at the Code for America Summit in October last year. Tom’s doing a really big demo of our GDS Start-a-Company Beta. And we know down there in Australia it’s Imitate 2 Innovate, so the guys at your DTO got right into innovating the same thing as our GDS had innovated.


To get some ideas about starting up business your DTO reached out to loads of people who aren’t planning on starting up businesses. That’s 32 business owners who already have businesses in 15 metropolitan and regional locations across Australia. And there was 10 people who already have businesses that help other businesses – you know; mentors, advisers and accountants, so they aren’t starting businesses either.


The DTO discovery bus even dropped by the ATO, the Productivity Commission and the Office of the Australian Small Business Commissioner where loads of people are not planning on starting businesses either.

So, you know, who could possibly be better?

Our DTO discovery bus driver was Simon Fisher (and he has blogged about the awesome experience). Simon has been the go-to-guy for over at the Department of Industry for 10 years, and was a great guy to have at the wheel. It’s likely he’s never actually started a business himself, but don’t let that make you think he’s been just chilling at a desk for a decade. He was right there with the team discovering what had been happening in the business start-up space while he was catching a fortnightly salary at DIIS. He’s totally taken to the whole Agile KoolAid thing. Plus he’s a serious KAN BAN guy too, right up there with a sticky note. There’s Simon at the stand-up thing in the photograph below.

Simon Fisher

But really guys, how could Simon know that ASIC Connect already has a totally efficient business registration system that works every time, and you really must try to let him off that one. Really. It’s the coolest innovations that just plagiarise.

Simon and the gang parked the bus and got into some serious discovery about business start-ups. The key things they wanted to get out of this “work” were:

  • Understand the different motivations behind the decision to start a business … really, we aren’t motivated to start a business, you are, so just asking ….
  • Understand how different business types interact with government information and services … well, apart from having to read that is …
  • Identify and assess the touch points (where a user interacts with a service) in the application and compliance areas of starting a business … but your DTO ream had never done compliance, so they pushed that part into the next sprint …
  • Understand industry requirements and expectations, and
  • Identify barriers and pain points in the starting a business process … remembering of course, that the best way to avoid pain was to not start a business at all and just become a salaried civil servant

After hours and hours and hours, your DTO Discoverers learned that:

  • There’s a lot of information from government about starting a business and it can be overwhelming … you know, having to actually read it and all that annoyance
  • The terminology and language used by government can be complicated … after all, it is English
  • Local government regulations are inconsistent and can be hard to understand … they speak funny, not at all like us
  • Business planning is optional but might be a good idea … but nobody at your DTO was really sure about that one
  • Funding can be hard to secure, but the DTO didn’t actually try because they aren’t starting a business … they actually work as civil servants
  • Businesses don’t always fit into government-defined frameworks or categories, and therefore …
  • Advice is preferred from friends, family and other business owners … and not your DTO
  • Government is often not the first source of help or information … which is just so totally UN-AGILE.

And guys, think of the other benefits way out past Simon’s user research findings, where the gang also learned to work together as a new, multi-agency, multi-disciplinary team. It’s totally important to think about major outcomes like this and how people who aren’t starting businesses can get together to talk about starting a business in a new sort of way. Your DTO is innovating this cool new approach so everyone can talk about things they won’t ever do …

blah blah

So, if you’re not planning on starting a business either, then the DTO is really the place for you. Just think, if you were planning on failing really fast why not actually get paid as well? But then, is it really about the money? Isn’t it knowing that Australia can be the very best in the entire world at digital government; just by copying us at the GDS in London. Why not take Paul’s advice and apply for that EL1 position today?



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