Canberra company Gravity Consulting helping public servants 'visualise' strategy
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Canberra company Gravity Consulting helping public servants 'visualise' strategy

What if the next government strategy you read didn't actually involve reading but was more a creative discovery of storyboards, sketches and an animated video?

Canberra's Gravity Consulting is in the business of "visualising" strategy, and employs a global team including movie directors, animators, software engineers and special effects artists to bring the thinking traditionally captured in "boring and unengaging" Powerpoint decks to life.

Gravity Consulting Managing Partner Stephen Hayes, and founder and CEO Kailash Krishnamurthi in the Gravity innovation lab in Deakin.

Gravity Consulting Managing Partner Stephen Hayes, and founder and CEO Kailash Krishnamurthi in the Gravity innovation lab in Deakin.Credit:Dion Georgopoulos

More than 50 Australian federal and state government clients have bought into the concept, including the Australian Tax Office, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, and the Department of Human Services.

Gravity Consulting chief executive officer Kailash Krishnamurthi had been consulting to government for more than a decade when the consistent "printed strategy on a shelf gathering dust" theme inspired him to launch Gravity in 2012.

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StrategyDotZero helps bring government strategy to life via a digital dashboard. The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources and the Department of Communication and the Arts are among early adopters.

StrategyDotZero helps bring government strategy to life via a digital dashboard. The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources and the Department of Communication and the Arts are among early adopters.

The team works hard to deliver solutions (grounded in systems thinking and design thinking) that help the most senior people in an organisation communicate their vision down. This includes visual products like storyboards and short videos that work just as well for SES as they do for APS3 project officers.

"The one big challenge we always observe is the big disconnect between strategy and execution," Mr Krishnamurthi said.

"The common theme is senior execs, policymakers and senior bureaucrats saying, 'This is our vision, this is what we want to do with this department or with this particular function' and then you've got a department of two to five thousand people who need to buy into that vision.

"If you're actually talking about a strategy, it's a vision of where you want to be in two years, three or five years from now, the question is - is that best captured in a Word document?

"And then you lock that document away somewhere and somehow expect the organisation to get there in five years."

At the centre of Gravity Consulting's offering is StrategyDotZero - a platform built on a range of Microsoft technologies that allows users to log in and see a strategy "brought to life" via a digital dashboard.

Senior execs log in and see an immediate overview of their divisions, the business plans being managed by those divisions, current projects, a risk overview and capabilities.

For more junior public servants, StrategyDotZero helps people understand how often trivial tasks - like logging data or managing spreadsheets - is contributing to a department-level objective. Users can navigate up the system to see how their activity contributes to a higher objective, which in turn contributes to an even higher objective, and ultimately the vision.

According to Mr Krishnamurthi, early adopters of StrategyDotZero - including the Department of Health and the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet - are already huge advocates for communicating and executing strategy via their own personalised departmental dashboards.

And there's no telling what effect the platform could have on the future APS workforce.

Artificial Intelligence is a big focus for StrategyDotZero this year, with Mr Krishnamurthi and his team working on building intelligence into the tool to save public servants hours of research and data compilation time during mandatory reporting.

"What we're doing is teaching the tool to go in and read a whole Portfolio Budget Statement file by itself," Mr Krishnamurthi said.

"So it's actually reading a PDF document, and saying, 'The portfolio budget is asking us to deliver these two outcomes. And to deliver those outcomes, we have to deliver these programmes'.

"Then we introduce bots - like Skype or Facebook bots - so people can start having a conversation with the tool, and you can pretty much start asking it questions like, 'Show me my related programs'."

He described the StrategyDotZero platform as "world-leading" and said, as an official Microsoft partner, the business development strategy for 2018 included targeting the US, Canadian and UK governments.

The first public-facing version of StrategyDotZero is being built for the Queensland government this year, to allow Australians to log in and explore the status of $40 billion worth of infrastructure projects being rolled out in Queensland.

Bree Element is the life and entertainment editor at The Canberra Times

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