What has been the most exciting thing that you worked on?

The Singapore Public Service places great emphasis on innovation to tackle challenges in new ways, enhance the design and delivery of public goods and services, and to be future-ready. To encourage citizens and businesses to embrace technology, the Public Service has to first lead the way. As part of Public Sector Transformation (PST) movement, the Singapore Government encourages all public officers to leverage tech to increase productivity.

I am excited to be part of the PST journey. The Public Sector Transformation is not change for change’s sake; it is a movement with a “higher purpose”, a belief that there is a better future for Singapore, and that all public officers have a part to play in creating a better Singapore.

Over the past two years, I am glad to have had the opportunity to work directly with public agencies to foster greater integration between business-ops and technology (what we term “Ops-Tech”). We engaged senior public service leaders to understand their focus areas for business transformation, and the challenges they faced, and facilitated cross-sharing of challenges and opportunities.

We also engaged line departments to understand pain points and improve their processes for automation. To help shift the needle, we surfaced the impetus to review the existing operating model (i.e. structure, policies, process, and people) to the management team. This has helped to kick start organisation-wide conversations on the necessary shifts on harnessing technology to better meet business challenges and resource constraints.

As with change, we understand that there will be anxieties faced by public officers who are going through adjustments and adaptations to their ‘modus operandi’. Hence, our job is also to help our officers and agencies on this journey address those anxieties and take the necessary steps toward overcoming necessary adjustments. The adjustments could include reskilling, taking on new work and new roles. We helped to build confidence in the officers and agencies – this is a journey where we will lead from the front, but also ‘have their backs’.

Through this process of engagement and partnership with agencies at different levels, we were able to help agencies feel confident and comfortable in adopting technology to augment their workforce and service delivery.

In my coming stint in the new department under Prime Minister’s Office, Public Sector Science and Technology Policy and Plans Office (S&TPPO), I will continue to help agencies forge greater synergy between business and technology planning.

What has been the most exciting thing that you worked on in 2019?

The most exciting project we worked on in 2019, was the Singapore Public Service Robotic Process Automation (RPA) pilot programme. The pilot programme was conceptualised and designed as an immersive experiential journey to ‘hand-hold’ different teams in the Public Service to review business processes, adopt RPA and transit into new ways of working.

The team first came across the RPA technology in late-2017, and saw the potential benefits of RPA in addressing business and operation needs in the Singapore Public Service.

The RPA team, emboldened with a “Dare to Try” spirit, looked beyond the departmental and organisational boundaries. The RPA team launched the RPA pilot programme with an ambitious goal of catalysing a transformation movement in the Public Service that will encourage re-engineering of business processes, use of technology to solve business problems and workforce transformation through re-skilling and productivity improvements.

To garner buy-in and encourage participation, the RPA team solicited diverse process archetypes on issues and pain points that agencies would like to solve and were willing to work with the RPA team and external vendor to explore re-engineering and automation. As part of the immersion programme, the RPA team worked with participating agencies to also identify and assess other processes that could potentially be automated, to build a pipeline for agencies to continue on their own automation journey after the initial pilot process.

The RPA team supported 18 participating agencies and the Public Service through sharing, workshops and training programmes to build an RPA community capable of mutual support to each other in capability building, community building, stakeholder management, change management, and sharing of operating models and automation experiences.

With full support from PSD senior management, the team experimented and worked with public agencies, private companies and educational and research institutions, and was able to achieve beyond what was initially intended. The programme helped to push boundaries, challenge the norms, and effectively catalyse rethinking on the way agencies work. It has accelerated the adoption of technology to improve business operations across the Public Service.

To-date, the pilot programme has increased awareness and adoption across the whole of government beyond the pilot agencies. Through the programme, pilot agencies were trained and are taking RPA beyond the pilot process to improve and automate other processes within their organisations. These pilot agencies have also become fellow advocates for technology-enabled productivity improvements across the Public Service, and to international audiences.

What is the best thing you have experienced in your career?

The best thing I have experienced in my career is the support and empowerment from my bosses. This allowed my team and I to experiment, challenge norms, and build good rapport with stakeholders across both the public and private sectors.

If you were to share one piece of advice that you learned in 2019, what would it be?

“Anyone who keeps learning stays young” – Henry Ford

What tool or technique particularly interests you for 2020?

I am excited to bring diverse teams together, and unlock their potential in creating new and sustainable solutions.

What are your priorities for 2020?

In 2020, under Prime Minister’s Office, Public Sector Science and Technology Policy and Plans Office (S&TPPO), I will be more focused on sectoral strategic development, where Science and Technology are the key drivers for opportunities and risks in the ecosystem. I will spend more time in strategic and programme planning, while concurrently pursuing further studies in digital leadership.

What has been your fondest memory from the past year?

Having supportive bosses, and making great friends across various agencies.