Effective communication lies at the heart of a successful programme and is one of the most important drivers of business change. It helps to reduce resistance and increase acceptance of new process, structures, ways of working and technology, which allows for a smoother transition to transformation.
Our business transformation communications team covered all customer and stakeholder groups.
The communications lead was responsible for effective communications to:
- internal customers
- external customers
- external stakeholders
- partners, that include software developers
They were not responsible for the delivery of the communications to every audience.
Within Inland Revenue
Communications about the transformation, both within the programme and across Inland Revenue, included:
- building awareness and understanding of all phases of the programme through storytelling
- creative videos
- master classes
- deep dives
- intranet site
- large-scale events
- open homes and workshops
- monthly programme updates through a leaders’ teleconference, newsletters and presentations.
With our external customers and stakeholders
We communicated with customers and external stakeholders by using:
- web content
- cross-agency open homes and other supporting resources.
The team also worked closely with our Marketing team to support campaigns linked to each release. These campaigns targeted individuals, tax intermediaries and businesses.
Supporting our leaders and change
The Business Transformation communications team provided content and essential support for many parts of Inland Revenue.
They supported the Transformation policy team with resources for public consultation on policy change, and they supported the Commissioner’s office, Minister’s office, and Inland Revenue’s financial reporting team with:
- content for speeches
- external presentations
- industry events
- annual reports
- frequently asked questions
- other supporting resources.
They also supported the media team with media queries, press releases and other resources as needed.
Driving the best outcomes
Our decision to build a dedicated communication team for the duration of the Business Transformation programme enabled a successful outcome.
It was very important that the Communications and Stakeholder Lead was part of programme leadership meetings – you cannot lead communications by hearing things second-hand.
Having the right team
All members above the Communications Advisor role had proven experience in programme and change communications, which meant most of the communications team were external contractors. This is necessary for 2 reasons:
- It’s fundamental to have a team that can understand complex programme information and turn it into content each stakeholder group can relate to
- Communication change specialists do not wait to be told what information to share. They are embedded in the programme team and identify important points for communication to the wider organisation and stakeholders. This saved time and made our messaging more accurate.
Key advice for success
Have a well-written business case to reference when explaining the programme purpose and vision. We used this approach throughout the programme and made the monthly report to our Minister our ‘1 source of the truth’, to ensure our messages were consistent.
Develop a simple story or visual showing the ‘what’ and ‘why’ so people and customers can understand its meaning.
Be customer-centric – it’s not how much you communicate which counts, it’s how it’s received. Here are some examples.
- External stakeholder engagement is vital - setting up and providing the Business Transformation Account Management team with the right communications was fundamental to the positive way transformational change was received by our stakeholders.
- Recognise the different communications needs of a wide range of audiences such as Māori and Pacific people and businesses, non-digital users and harder to reach stakeholders.
- Be transparent - share every report once the Minister or Cabinet has approved it, so you’re prepared for media enquiries and Official Information Act requests.
- Look at the change and communications from the customer’s view and communicate regularly with both your people and customers. Ours preferred small updates on what we knew about the change as our understanding grew, rather than waiting for the complete picture just ahead of go-live.
- Use feedback from your people and customers to improve your communication approach and the design too, if possible.
Develop a robust communications and stakeholder strategy, but it does not need to be highly detailed. It will be a programme deliverable, but you will not use it once you have other tools in place.
You do not need complex Word communications documents to support every new activity or stage. It’s better and more practical to prepare short tactical plans which reflect the overarching strategy.
Be creative in your programme communications. Transformations take time, and in our case, took several years across multiple releases. You need to be able to deal with change fatigue and capture people’s attention, ready for the next big change.
Sharing some key resources
Here are examples of tactical plans we used during our transformation programme.
- Customer Stakeholder Communications and Marketing Plan
- A plan on a page, aligned to the programme lifecycle so your programme manager can see what is happening at a glance.
- A communications schedule showing the timing of messages, by audience and channel.
- A go-live communications plan and schedule covering the critical activities and messaging in the lead-up to cutover.
- A communications matrix to support Early Life Support to ensure absolute clarity around who and what is required to respond quickly to issues after go-live.