This case was submitted as part of the Call for Innovations, an annual partnership initiative between OPSI and the UAE Mohammed Bin Rashid Center for Government Innovation (MBRCGI)
SmartStart was the first cross-agency online life event service in New Zealand. SmartStart makes it easier for New Zealanders to access information and services around the birth of a child.
New Zealanders can:
1) learn about having a child;
2) navigate government services;
3) access and engage with services; and
4) consent to reuse information provided to one agency with another agency.
SmartStart makes it easier for New Zealanders to access information and services around the birth of a child. SmartStart is the first of a number of integrated digital services based around critical life events, and is underpinned by the twin concepts of digitally integrating information and services to the customer and federating data. It enables New Zealanders to:
1) learn about having a child;
2) navigate government services around the birth of a child;
3) access and engage with government services in the simplest possible manner; and
4) consent to reuse information provided to one agency when seeking assistance from another agency.
Four government agencies – the Department of Internal Affairs, the Ministry of Social Development, Inland Revenue, and the Ministry of Health have worked collaboratively with two Non-Government Organisations (NGOs), The New Zealand College of Midwives and Plunket NZ (delivering advice and support to new mothers). This partnership has been integral to success. A Stewardship Group, in which all four agencies and the two NGOs are represented, oversaw the development. The agencies shared information (in collaboration with govt.nz), shared skills (through secondments to the development team) and shared expertise (in regular meetings of reference groups focused on communication, customer design, policy and architecture). Content was developed by a dedicated internal team in partnership with participating agencies.
SmartStart product development relied heavily on co-design principles (i.e. customers involved in design and testing), cross-agency governance, iterative agile development, and benefits driven decision-making throughout the process. By integrating information and access to services into a new digital channel that worked on any device (smartphone, tablet or computer), parents and health practitioners, now and in future, save time and effort.
Three key outcomes were envisaged in the proposal for funding: reducing customer pain points, improving the effectiveness of government services, and building a dynamic ecosystem. SmartStart achieved its first intended outcome: to reduce customer pain points. SmartStart facilitates navigation across all relevant government services, integrating 55 services and shares data between departments with minimal effort by the customer. It reduces the need for the customer to provide the same information over and over again. SmartStart provides New Zealanders with neutral trustworthy information on their journey from conception, to the birth of a child, and into parenthood.
Along this journey, parents are encouraged to select a Lead Maternity Caregiver (e.g. a midwife), apply for paid parental leave, seek immunisation for the mother, register the child’s birth, access additional financial assistance, engage with child health services, and be assisted by a Plunket nurse or WellChild service provider. Information and services can be accessed from any digital device.
SmartStart achieved its second outcome: to improve the effectiveness of government services. The Ministry of Social Development provides a proactive service to their existing clients by removing the need for many clients to be interviewed and the need to purchase a birth certificate. Unnecessary client interactions between the Ministry of Social Development and Internal Affairs have also been reduced. The uptake of parents consenting to share their birth registration information is 33% higher than anticipated. The service has been well received by the Ministry of Social Development clients. In addition parents can request an Inland Revenue number for their child while registering the birth of their child, and by supplying their own Inland Revenue identification number, updating the tax department on their situation with respect to Working for Family tax credits. 91% of customers consent to share their information with at least two services, 25% with three services and nearly 5% with four services.
SmartStart has helped to show what is possible towards achieving its third outcome: to build a dynamic ecosystem. The ecosystem has already been reused in other digital products. Reuse of the team, the software vendor and the technology allowed a second life event to be developed with around half the budget and in half the time: Te Hokinga ā Wairua End of Life Service (http://endoflife.services.govt.nz), which focuses on integrating death and bereavement public services, was released 30 June 2017.
What Makes Your Project Innovative?
SmartStart innovated along a number of dimensions:
• providing a web service to work on any internet device including mobile devices
• integrating web content for all government services (over 100 webpages) that revolve around the birth of a child, to provide succinct, authoritative and easily accessible information
• integrating service access for selected services around birth registration, meaning that customers no longer have to fill in multiple forms and provide the same information over and over again
• working collaboratively across four government agencies (including staff secondments) and NGO advisory support
• drawing on a stewardship model of governance
• involving agency staff in reference and advisory groups
• speeding up the procurement process and quickly developing a Minimum Viable Product
• producing a Lessons Learnt document within six working weeks of the product going live
What is the current status of your innovation?
The team has also led the development of a second life event (Te Hokinga ā Wairua End of Life Service).
Following two major release cycles in December 2016 and August-September 2017, the product has a growing feature set. However, we plan on doing much more to improve the customer experience, including further integrations with new sectors (health and education) and further features to reduce the time and effort that parents need to put in to identify relevant services and engage with those services. SmartStart covers one life event in a continuum of life events, so we are also working to link life events in future.
Collaborations & Partnerships
Partnering between four agencies and two non-government service providers has been central to SmartStart’s approach. Partners have strongly supported this approach. For example, the NZ College of Midwives says about the lead agency that they “have been impressed by the ability to work in partnership with a range of stakeholders. Their genuine desire to understand our views and experiences in order to inform their work was apparent in all our interactions with them."
Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries
Right from the start, New Zealanders were involved in the development. We listened to parents from different backgrounds describe their experiences in dealing with government. This information helped identify the pain points New Zealanders experience in navigating government services. New and expecting parents then tested out online service and options for web content and services. Parents continued to be involved throughout the delivery phase in product improvement.
Results, Outcomes & Impacts
SmartStart has obtained these results:
• 365,000 visitors since December 2016 (drawn from a maximum population of 120,000 parents (60,000 live births a year, 95,000 births registered).
• 90,000 tax numbers requested
• 6,000 less visits to MSD to have a child included in a benefit (now child included and birth record shared from their couch)
• 4,500 BestStart applications (new government initiative as part of the Families Package)
• Six partner agencies
• Referrals of New Zealanders by midwives and friends via social media
• Referrals to partner websites are steadily growing.
SmartStart achieved its intended outcomes of:
• reducing pain points for customers who faced difficulty in navigating services across agencies.
• allowing customers to navigate all relevant government services (55 different services).
• supporting integration of services between three government agencies. 91.3% of customers integrate at least two services, 25% integrate three services
Challenges and Failures
In developing SmartStart, we encountered the following challenges:
• a false start – with a waterfall style business case, lacking management support
• differing maturity levels of agencies needing to work collaboratively
• challenges with procurement timeframes
• misunderstandings about agile development - particularly variable scope
• complexity in relation to accountability
• failure to get a technology integration approach to work.
The SmartStart development team responded by:
• a market engagement phase to re-scale and re-focus on a Minimum Viable Product
• shifting the development focus to an outsourced software vendor and agile approach
• cross-agency governance focused on product stewardship and customer-led design
• encouraging monitoring agencies/staff to accept fortnightly dashboard reports
• developing reflective practice with learning documented (including failure)
• identifying an alternative approach to delivery when one technology integration option failed
Conditions for Success
From experience, achieving a successful life event innovation requires:
• high level research and thinking on the problem
• committed funding
• partners that are committed to achieving the goal
• determined leadership and a skilled delivery team
• cross-agency collaboration (not just consultation)
• shared governance
• customer-led design
• focus on fast delivery to deliver a minimum viable product on time
• good risk and roadblock management with clear exit ramps
• maintaining flexibility in responding to external accountability requirements
• agile development with fixed timeframe and budget and flexibility around scope reflecting on what you learn
• regular demonstrations of work in progress
Research in 2014 showed there were common pain points experienced by New Zealanders when dealing with government services, and that two pain points were frequently found: the need to repeat personal details, and the lack of authoritative and integrated information. SmartStart has already been replicated within New Zealand. The launch of Te Hokinga ā Wairua End of Life Service (http://endoflife.services.govt.nz), aimed at New Zealanders preparing for and managing bereavement, reused much of the development just seven months of the release of SmartStart. A third life event is at the prototype stage of development (with a different agency lead).
Replicability was, however, the result of a strong similarity in the pain points experienced by the different population segments. This included the lack of credible and authoritative integrated content knowledge, and difficulties with having to provide similar information to difference services around the same life event.
The SmartStart team engaged a company to assist us in producing a case study report to document learnings and achievements. These findings have been shared widely to assist other cross-agency initiatives (see
This report highlighted:
• Customer insight was transformational and critical in addressing pain points
• Being agile, not just doing agile was important
• Getting started with a minimum viable product can result in benefits that are strongly supported by New Zealanders, agencies and NGOs
• New ways of governing the project were essential
• Bringing on-board agencies and nongovernment stakeholders was important in building support and commitment
• Developing strong relationships was critical to doing things on a low budget
• Meeting the governance requirements across partner agencies and central agencies requires time and effort.