Interview: Damien Hobbin, Assistant Commissioner - Enterprise Solutions and Technology, ATO

11 March 2020 Neboneid Hamoo Author avatar

Tell us about your background and journey through the Public Sector?

I started my career as an electronic and telecommunications engineer working for Telstra.  In 2003 I joined the ATO as an IT project Manager, where I spent my early years in the public service working on our client facing portals.  As I moved into higher leadership positions within IT in the ATO, I have been fortunate to lead the delivery of some of the most iconic, contemporary and transformative client experience digital projects in the ATO.

These have included: A new digital platform and software services for Australia’s 60,000+ Tax and BAS Agents; A major client experience transformation of (including click-2-chat), as well as a search experience refresh in partnership with Google; ATO Online, myTax and the ATO’s Mobile App.  More recently I have been leading one of the largest data conversion and migration projects in ATO history – Activity Statement Financial Processing.

What are you responsible for in your current role and what do you find most engaging about it?

In my current role as Assistant Commissioner, EST Indirect Tax, I am the IT Senior Responsible Officer for the Activity Statement Financial Processing program where I lead a large team of IT professionals who are busy re-shaping and building how all Australians engage with the tax and super systems; in particular the systems which underpin the Indirect Tax products (such as GST, Excise) within the ATO.

I find delivery rewarding, making meaning change which enables all Australians to build trust and confidence in the integrity of our Tax and Super systems is a highlight. But what I love most is the people I work with, people who are passionate about the experience of our clients and always looking for ways to deliver the best service, through world class technology.

How are you going about the operational roll-out of your digital initiatives and executing the plan to ensure proper adoption & minimal disruption?

We adopt and leverage many of the DTA principles and service standards.  A good example of this is the work the ATO has done in the development and roll out of the new online Tax and BAS Agent experience.  Extensive co-design was undertaken across the ATO, industry and software providers using iterative, agile techniques to understand the experience and develop a minimum viable product (MVP).  Business SME’s and industry reps were embedded in the delivery of the MVP as delivery progressed through a private and then public beta release of these new digital services.  These services were deployed in parallel to existing legacy services, with extensive consultation, training and webinars to manage the awareness and take-up of the new service, whilst minimising disruption to existing services. This was an AMY award-winning program for its campaign with the tax and bas agent community.

What challenges are you coming up against in your existing role and how are you working through these?

Transitioning away from legacy systems whilst upskilling and building capability across new platforms. Continuing to move towards enterprise agility and breaking down organisational silos.

How do you define great transformation leadership and what, regarding this, are you seeing have the most positive effect within your department?

Adaptive leadership that leads with and not via top down. Leadership that is transparent, collaborative and that works in the open is making big impacts in building trust across our business, industry and IT. I’m seeing great impacts from leaders who walk with their team and not direct but coach and inspire people into action through trust and a clear vision.

What drives you in working for the Public Sector and where do you feel the focus needs to be on most to improve innovation in Australia?

I enjoy working in the public sector – a focus on client service over profit is something that I think really differentiates working in the public sector. The ability to positively impact every Australian on a national and international stage is so rewarding.

We need to shift the focus away from delivery of outcomes at all cost and get back to basics.  Our people deliver, so a renewed focus on people, and the value of core soft skills over technical ability alone.

Where do you look to for further education? E.g. articles, podcasts, news sources, online courses, university etc.?

I enjoy industry forums, articles and various news sources online.  I’m also currently undertaking a short course online through MIT’s Sloan School of Management

Who inspires you and why?

I’m inspired by my children, the way they adapt, learn and are so resilient to rapid change.  I’m also inspired by the fledgling astronauts under the Gemini and Apollo programs, those who took a leap of faith into the unknown and found a way to make seemed impossible, possible.

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