To become a high-performing organisation, we need to improve our systems, processes and culture to deliver the outcomes we aspire to and to respond to the challenges and opportunities posed by new technologies. We also need to recruit and retain great people, because they are critical to what we do.
It has been a challenge to improve our capability this year while responding to changing government priorities and significant performance concerns in our regulatory and transport technology functions.
The latest Government Policy Statement on land transport, released in June 2018, places more emphasis on social, economic, cultural and environmental outcomes than previous versions. This significant shift in direction required major changes to the way we operate and develop the National Land Transport Programme with our co-investment partners.
This year, we refreshed our strategy to respond to the new strategic priorities for land transport and published the 2018–21 National Land Transport Programme using revised assessment criteria for deciding which transport projects will be funded.
We are working with the Ministry of Transport to jointly review the Investment Decision Making Framework that guides investment in New Zealand’s land transport system to ensure investment in the land transport system will deliver on the government’s social, economic and environmental priorities.
We aim to invest in transport technology that can make our transport system safer and more sustainable and provide people with easy access to journey information and transport choices.
Surveys undertaken this year found 73 percent of our customers report increased ease of access to transport data and journey choices information and 66 percent report they can get the journey information they want through their preferred channel.
However, we need to strengthen how our transport technology function operates and we need to reduce critical technology risks by improving technology platforms and organisational capabilities. A critical risk rating means that it is possible the Transport Agency’s technology systems may stop performing, in part or whole, and may not be recoverable for extended periods (weeks or months), with extreme consequences.
In March 2019, we commissioned an external review of our transport technology function because of leadership, capability and governance issues identified in our Connected Journey Solutions group. These issues and the review of the group’s activities affected our progress building the priority components necessary to deliver an enduring and flexible digital transport system. All of the review’s recommendations have or are being implemented. The group has been disestablished and its functions have been incorporated into the Workplace and Technology group.
As well as responding quickly to serious issues uncovered in our regulatory and transport technology functions, we focused on stabilising the Transport Agency after a period of unrest and change.
Our leaders focused on doing the basics of people management well (such as making sure workloads were balanced and staff had adequate time for rest and recovery) while still delivering on our priorities and supporting people through ongoing change. We will continue to focus on leadership and a workforce strategy developed this year will be finalised in the first quarter of 2019/20 to ensure we can deliver our core functions.
We use staff surveys to gauge how we are tracking. Fifty-nine percent of staff surveyed during the year considered the Transport Agency a great place to work (against a baseline of 57 percent in March 2018). We recognise we have more work to do to increase this result and regular feedback will help us identify how we can improve.
We continued to strengthen internal systems and processes so they can respond faster to change. We put in place a programme of work to respond to recommendations from the State Services Commission’s Performance Improvement Framework review and the Treasury’s Investor Confidence Rating assessment in 2018. While we made good progress, we have more to do to improve our capability in areas such as portfolio, programme and project management.
During the year, we conducted surveys to understand what our co-investors, partners and customers think of us. On average, 39 percent of our partners and co-investors provided positive answers about our responsiveness, engagement and delivery of transport solutions compared with 52 percent of customers (giving an average of 45.3%). Just over a third of our partners and co-investors think the Transport Agency is known for agile thinking and fast-tracking solutions.
We need to rebuild our relationships with our co-investors and partners through regular engagement and by working closely with them to deliver national, regional and local projects that progress the priorities in the Government Policy Statement on land.
When approved organisations, such as local and regional councils and parts of the Transport Agency, develop proposals for funding from the National Land Transport Programme, they must follow a business case approach. Our co-investors and partners found our business case approach difficult, requiring significant time, cost and effort. In June 2019, we launched a clearer and more consistent approach to make business case development simpler and faster. We now also train our co-investors and partners in using the approach to achieve the best results.
Value for money is a priority of the Government Policy Statement on land transport. We assess all the investments we make in the land transport system through an investment assessment framework aligned to the Government Policy Statement and we conduct post-implementation reviews to assess how well a project (or package) has delivered its expected benefits.
During the year, we put in place a set of measures to help us improve how we assess the benefits of our investments across all modes of land transport. These measures have been thoroughly tested to ensure they reflect past and present government priorities and align with the Ministry of Transport’s Transport Outcomes Framework.
We are also increasing the maturity our internal value-for-money framework, with a system in place to identify and track ongoing improvement actions across the output classes the Transport Agency is funded to deliver.