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Optimise

OPTIMISE – AUSTRAC continuously evolves and adapts business operations to improve efficiency, effectiveness and sustainability in a dynamic operating environment.

PERFORMANCE MEASURE

5.1. Provide innovative, co-designed technological solutions to drive business productivity and address operational challenges.

Result

Methodology:

5.1.1. The percentage of technology projects, closed during either the current financial year or the previous financial year, that realise their approved benefits.1

Target:

Completed ICT projects deliver proposed benefits.

Achieved

Source:

AUSTRAC Corporate Plan 2020-24 p29; Portfolio Budget Statements 2020-21, Program 1.1. p197

  1. During the reporting period, AUSTRAC slightly amended the wording for this measure from that published in the Corporate Plan 2020-24. The original wording was “Evaluations of delivery and implementation of technology projects funded to deliver system enhancements.” This amendment was made to meet performance measure better practice while clarifying the purpose and intention of the original wording.

5.1.1. Realisation of technology projects' benefits

100 per cent of AUSTRAC’s Information and Communications Technology (ICT)1 projects closed during this measure’s reporting period (1 July 2019 – 30 June 2021) realised their approved benefits2.

Collectively, the ICT projects comprising AUSTRAC’s Capability and Transformation programs ensure that AUSTRAC data, information and systems can be most effectively and efficiently leveraged to deliver regulatory and intelligence functions as well as the work of government and industry partners who rely upon AUSTRAC products and services. Project delivery is based upon Agile ways of working, whereby ICT specialists work closely with business teams to ensure the intended benefits are realised. In addition, each project is subject to AUSTRAC’s project governance processes to
ensure risks are managed within the context of agency priorities and legislative obligations.

Monitoring the achievement of project benefit realisation performance at a macro-level is a means of ensuring value-for-money in our project work, as well as enabling the agency to identify early any problems associated with AUSTRAC’s benefits realisation process at the agency-wide level. This will support AUSTRAC’s benefits realisation work by necessitating its maturing.

The adoption of the two financial years (the current financial year and the previous financial year) time period for this measure reflects the diverse nature and timeframes of every project (i.e. they do not run to financial year or corporate reporting timelines), and to reflect the real-world nature of benefits realisation, that is, the resulting benefits are not always realised upon the immediate finalisation of a project.

Examples of recently completed AUSTRAC projects that realised their benefits

DATA FOUNDATIONS PRODUCT TEAM

The Data Foundations product team was established to provide a highly reliable and efficient method to enhance AUSTRAC data and make it available for partner use.

Benefits identified

AUSTRAC identified the following benefits:

  • Improve productivity for AUSTRAC and partners;
  • Allow technological advancements to remain sustainable;
  • Improve the analytical capabilities of AUSTRAC and partner analysts;
  • Lower costs of internal training;
  • Improve the efficiency of AUSTRAC’s triage functionality;
  • Provide a single point of truth for data;
  • Reduced time to extract data;
  • Improve collaboration with intelligence partners; and,
  • Reduce costs when customising future applications.

Were the benefits realised?

The enhanced data has been used as the foundational data source to inform AUSTRAC compliance and intelligence work. The fulfilment of data foundations has enhanced the availability of data to AUSTRAC and partners, through AUSTRAC’s suite of analytical tools, including the AWB, which provides access to AUSTRAC partner agencies. This is achieved by substantially reducing the processing time of information requests, and facilitating the triage of raw data in clearly defined sets of information.

Since going live the Data Foundations team have performed multiple successful releases adding additional features, while maintaining operational services for the product.

he data foundation capability delivered under this project has a tangible effect on the work outputs of AUSTRAC and partner agency analysts by reducing the need to manually extract data. This allows analysts to spend time analysing critical information and forming analysis for an actionable result.

PLATFORM AS A SERVICE

AUSTRAC's adoption of Platform as a Service (PaaS) has enabled AUSTRAC to adopt a software development environment that supports the rapid build, test, integrate and deployment of multiple digital solutions.

Benefits identified

AUSTRAC identified the following benefits:

  • Rapidly develop applications in a flexible environment;
  • Automatically move applications into the PROTECTED production environment for quality assurance, and integration testing;
  • Effectively utilise platform services such as: security, identity management, logging, monitoring, alerting, storage - rather than implementing these over and over again;
  • Rapidly move applications to the production environment;
  • Better reliability and supportability due to consistent technology usage;
  • Make PROTECTED applications ready for the cloud in future.

Were the benefits realised?

AUSTRAC successfully implemented a modern, automated and cloud ready platform, effectively allowing AUSTRAC to host its own internal and external applications. This allows software engineers to create and test applications across a range of environments.

WEBSITE REDEVELOPMENT

This project delivered AUSTRAC a new website based on the whole of Government GovCMS platform.

Benefits identified

AUSTRAC identified the following benefits:

  • A new website with new design and content, including improved mobile responsiveness and accessibility;
  • A fully supported ‘software as a service’ website platform;
  • Improved processes for content strategy and development including writing, and content publishing;
  • Creation of dedicated digital content roles to ensure the website content remains current and aligns with relevant standards.

Were the benefits realised?

AUSTRAC has a modern website that aligns with government expectations around digital content publishing that is actively managed and maintained.

SAFE UPGRADE

This project worked on upgrading AUSTRAC’s internal records management system, known as SAFE.

Benefits identified

AUSTRAC identified the following benefits:

  • Providing an improved interface to support better user engagement and access to information;
  • Support a more sophisticated level of integration with other key systems and databases;
  • Ensure software remains current and fully supported by the vendor;
  • Improve systems maintenance, security and auditing capabilities.

Were the benefits realised?

The SAFE upgrade provided enhanced user capability and access to information through an improved interface and usability and information access. The software upgrades have provided demonstrated improvements with the speed of system maintenance, auditing, security and end user functionality.

The software upgrade will remain supported by the vendor for the foreseeable future.

PERFORMANCE MEASURE

5.2. Deliver improvements that generate long-term efficiencies and uplift capability.

Result

Methodology:

5.2.1. The percentage of instances a streamlining opportunity from an enabling function results in a realised efficiency, annually.1

5.2.2. The percentage of AUSTRAC staff who agree their workgroup has the appropriate skills, capabilities and knowledge to perform well, annually.2

Target:

AUSTRAC optimises the effectiveness of its operations.

Achieved

Source:

AUSTRAC Corporate Plan 2020-24 p29; Portfolio Budget Statements 2020-21, Program 1.1. p197

  1. During the reporting period, AUSTRAC slightly amended the wording for this measure from that published in the Corporate Plan 2020-24. The original wording was “Examples of initiatives delivered that reduce internal red tape and generate savings to the agency.” This amendment was made to meet performance measure better practice while clarifying the purpose and intention of the original wording.
  2. During the reporting period, AUSTRAC slightly amended the wording for this measure from that published in the Corporate Plan 2020-24. The original wording was “Change in proportion of AUSTRAC staff reporting their workgroup has the appropriate skills, capabilities and knowledge to perform well, as reported through the annual APSC Census.” This amendment was made to meet performance measure better practice, while clarifying the intention and purpose of the measure.

5.2.1. Reducing Red Tape

During the reporting period, 100 per cent of streamlining opportunity instances from an enabling function resulted in a realised efficiency.

AUSTRAC is committed to identifying opportunities to reduce internal red tape and implementing efficiencies, improving work flows and generating time and cost savings for the agency. These opportunities demonstrate ways AUSTRAC has optimised business processes–both to generate efficiencies and to improve effectiveness. The internal red tape register documents these initiatives in an agency-wide accessible format creating accountability for the item submissions.

AUSTRAC’s Finance and Resourcing Sub-Committee (FRSC), in its role of providing advice and assurance in relation to resource allocation, has responsibility for monitoring the identification and implementation of relevant streamlining opportunities and determining which of these have successfully delivered their planned efficiencies.

In order to ensure that our achievements in the red tape register are properly measured, we have developed a standard operating procedure (SOP). The SOP provides definitions and criteria for success, which will assist FRSC to ensure AUSTRAC meets its performance related record keeping obligations for the relevant measures.

For the purposes of this measure, the following definitions apply:

  • A streamlining opportunity is an internal administrative activity seeking to improve a current business process performed or managed by an enabling function.
  • An enabling function refers to corporate support function sitting within AUSTRAC’s Capability and Strategy Division.
  • The realised efficiency is the identified benefits of the streamlining opportunity come to fruition, with no or limited previously unidentified costs.

For a red tape reduction initiative to be determined by the FRSC a success, it must find:

  • the identified benefits were achieved;
  • the issues of concern were addressed; and,
  • no, or limited, previously unidentified costs were incurred.

​It is important to note that AUSTRAC’s red tape register does not focus on large scale transformational projects. The red tape register exists to exemplify our commitment to identify and deliver daily cost and process efficiencies. These streamlining initiatives are small changes made to show enabling services are provided in AUSTRAC to generate efficiencies, without significant investment or resourcing commitments.

Moving forward, AUSTRAC would like to expand the red tape register beyond enabling functions, to find – and record - efficiencies within the operational divisions within the agency.

EARLY ENGAGEMENT POLICY

An example of a successful undertaking in the Red Tape Register is the improvement of AUSTRAC’s Early Engagement (EE) policy. The revision of the EE policy enables AUSTRAC to on-board new staff with greater speed via a twofold process; waiver of clearance requirements to on-board; and on-boarding all staff at a baseline level.

Part of this initiative is the agreement to allow staff on-boarding to occur prior to the receipt of a formal security clearance from AGSVA. This involves AUSTRAC accepting the completion of an AUSTRAC suitability assessment as the barrier for entry (subject to certain access restrictions on commencement), with a formal security clearance granted afterwards.

By making the initial requirement of staff a Baseline clearance, AUSTRAC reduces the wait time to on-board new staff who would otherwise find new positions elsewhere or potentially fail a clearance, wasting time for all involved. This entry reduction allows for upgrades as required, and after the staff member has already on-boarded and become a productive member of the agency.

This change in policy has drastically reduced unnecessary red tape by ensuring personnel are on- boarded as soon as possible, ensuring productivity from new staff as quickly as possible.

ELECTRONIC ACCESS CONTROL SYSTEM

Another example of effective red tape reduction within AUSTRAC is the use of AUSTRAC’s Electronic Access Control System (EACS) to manage staffing numbers which allows for enhanced compliance with COVID-19 social distancing requirements.

Prior to the configuration of the EACS to manage this, property staff had to manually count staff numbers to ensure compliance with capacity restrictions and create a buffer in staffing numbers that would enable the entry of non-planned-for staff in the instance of a work emergency that necessitated their entry into the office

After the implementation of the new configuration, the maximum number of staff per area was programmed into the system, with alarms being raised with the security team for any breaches of the social distancing rules. This allowed for the creation of safe and compliant workspaces within AUSTRAC across various state and territory jurisdictions

The efficiency gained here is that staff from property no longer need to conduct manual counts to ensure staff remain safe and compliant, freeing them up to complete other tasks.

5.2.2. Views on staffing skills, capabilities and knowledge

Eighty-six percent of AUSTRAC employees who completed the Australian Public Service (APS) census indicated their workgroup has the appropriate skills, capability and knowledge to perform their role.

AUSTRAC is dedicated to the ongoing development of a highly capable and diverse workforce. Throughout the year AUSTRAC has demonstrated agility, foresight and sound decision making in navigating the tumultuous pandemic period. Our response to the COVID-19 pandemic, changes in the digital operating environment, and the need to reduce regulatory burden, have allowed AUSTRAC to undertake positive changes for and with our staff.

The primary mechanism for assessing this measure is through the annual employee census. The 2020 Census was provided to all AUSTRAC employees, with questions focussing on the level of contentedness at AUSTRAC, confidence in leadership, strategic direction and clarity of AUSTRAC’s strategic plans and goals. The 2020 Census differed from previous years, being smaller in scope due to the impact of the fires that plagued much of Australia in early 2020 and COVID-19 during the rest of the year. As such, the impact these changes will have on our ability to compare data across years is important to note.

The 2020 Census was completed by 91 per cent of APS employees in the agency with 86 per cent indicating their workgroup has the appropriate skills, capability and knowledge to perform their role. This is an increase of 8 points compared to results from 2019 indicating improvement in this area.

In comparison to the wider APS, AUSTRAC has a substantially higher completion rate, suggesting greater work satisfaction and development. In 2020 AUSTRAC was also recognised as employer of choice by the Australian Business Awards. This award is a testament to AUSTRAC’s ongoing commitment to the public, its staff and achieving excellence. Our submission to the Australian Business Awards stressed the importance AUSTRAC places on improvement of employee skills through internal and external training courses, mentorship programs, international training and personal study leave. Specifically:

  • AUSTRAC offered 89 external training opportunities;
  • 77 per cent of senior leadership attended training;
  • 1,622 hours of study leave were utilised; and
  • 74 per cent of staff attended at least one training course.

To build on its strong commitment to staff development, an agency wide review of programs and support is being undertaken to support a broad capability uplift for AUSTRAC. This will include the re-writing of existing programs and the acquisition of new programs of interest and necessity. AUSTRAC has also launched its Learning and Development Framework which identifies core, common and community skills development, together with a calendar to allow for planning and forecasting of future development opportunities for the agency. Finally, AUSTRAC has developed Individual Development Plans for staff that will allow them to realistically attain the skillsets they require to optimise their workplace functionality or seek promotion. Collectively these initiatives will serve to develop improvements to workplace planning, talent management and promote leadership and coaching in the future.

Footnotes

  1. ICT projects means technological projects as defined by the AUSTRAC Capability Sub-Committee.
  2. Approved benefits means those benefits identified and agreed to within Project Initiation documentation at the outset of the project.