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Streamlining regulation for Victorian small businesses

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Streamlining regulation for Victorian small businesses

Working with Nous Group was absolutely inspiring. They had a wonderful group of professionals that came and really inspired our team around why this project was so important. And it really made it a tremendous partnership working together.
Jonathan Guttmann general manager, planning and development, City of Kingston

The Victorian Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions is responsible for growing industries and regions to create jobs. Victorian local governments are responsible for regulatory permits for the state’s 556,000 small businesses, helping them to make their communities vibrant.

Small businesses face a major regulatory burden

Victorian small retail businesses face a regulatory burden estimated at $131 million per year for permits such as planning permission and food safety registration. Councils have been taking an average of 200 days to assess and approve some permits, with some businesses waiting up to 18 months. A lack of integration has meant users have had to deal with multiple departments, prompting frustration. The Victorian Government invited participation from councils who wanted to find ways to make it quick and easy to open a small business without compromising public safety.

Nous used human-centred design to improve processes

Nous developed an approach that helped councils research, design and put changes into practice in just eight weeks; drawing on our expertise in regulatory best practice, design, digital, implementation, change management and evaluation. We:

  1. worked as a team with council staff and state government using human-centred design to understand how the needs of small business users and council staff could be best met
  2. put council staff in the shoes of small business users, helping them co-design a solution that fitted customer needs
  3. gathered feedback from small business customers to further refine the design.

We went beyond merely describing the changes needed to help councils implement them, including through simple business process changes that put the customer front-and-centre using existing technology platforms.

Changes delivered faster small business approvals

Nous reduced the time to approve permits by an average 77 per cent for the first four councils with which we worked, relieving small business users and empowering council staff to take a customer-centred approach to other improvement initiatives. So far more than a dozen Victorian councils have used Nous to help them introduce better approvals and regulators in other states have shown interest. The project was shortlisted for an Institute of Public Administration Australia award for human-centred design service delivery.

What you can learn from the Victorian Government and councils

  • Customer-centricity helps council staff see and feel their customers’ entire experience rather than just individual interactions.
  • Sharing high-level ideas with customers to gain further feedback is important to address pain points.
  • Applied value can be created quickly with the right tools, methodology and mindset.

Key people in this project

All people

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