Delivering Justice for Innovation
Senior Applications Consultant Wong Hong Chew (Top Photo, middle) is one of the many GovTechies contributing to other public agencies.
The Business Analyst (Domain) in the Justice, Law and Foreign Affairs Cluster (JFAC) in the State Courts said: “My aim is to help the State Courts to leverage on technology to achieve its shared vision of inspiring public trust and confidence through an effective and accessible justice system.”
Tech News spoke to Hong Chew about winning the Gold Innovation Champion Award at the recent PS21 ExCEL Awards, and for his role in the Integrated Criminal Case Filing and Management System (ICMS).
Q: How do you feel about getting the Award?
I am humbled and honoured to win this prestigious award. I am pleasantly surprised as I did not even know that I was being nominated to begin with!
Q: This is your Academy Awards moment. Who would you like to credit for your win?
I am very grateful to my boss, Deputy Chief Information Officer Teh Ah Seok, for her encouragement and guidance in the course of my work.
She can be tough at times, but she has created an environment that we thrive together as a good team to attempt a difference. She has also provided opportunities for us to try new ideas, no matter how big or small.
I would also like to thank State Courts’ Senior Management, including our CIO and Project Sponsors, for appreciating the work that the GovTech team has done at State Courts.
In addition, I am very thankful to the ICMS project team for their hard work and ‘never-say-die’ attitude in ensuring that the project was delivered successfully and on time.
The beginning was tough but we have seen the fruits of our hard labour. The awards are a testament to our achievements. In the course of the journey, colleagues from other projects have given the ICMS team a lot of encouragement and ideas.
We would not have made it this far without each and every one of you!
(Editor: The Orchestra starts playing…..)
Last but not least, I would like to thank our GovTech management team for their encouragement and guidance in the course of our ICMS journey.
Q: How did the ICMS project come about?
‘This project was initiated by then-Chief District Judge Tan Siong Thye in 2010.
The three main objectives were, firstly, to transform the existing paper-based processes into an efficient electronic workflow; to break through the silos of internal and external systems of stakeholders to enable instant transmission of court orders and the sharing of selected information; and to improve the tracking of tasks, cases and outcomes.
With the above in mind and a rigorous schedule mapped out since its conceptualisation, the team involved had to charge forward to successfully complete the project.
Q: What were some challenges of working on the ICMS?
The ICMS is an ambitious multi-agency project driven by the State Courts, and it is a major, complex project. It connects all stakeholders in the entire national criminal justice landscape into one integrated criminal justice eco-system as our criminal courts collectively deal with 99% of the country’s criminal cases.
Apart from members of the criminal Bar, these stakeholders include the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC), the Singapore Police Force (SPF), the Singapore Prisons Service (PRIS), and other agencies.
So one of the major challenges is managing the conflicting demands from the vendors, the project’s system owner, as well as users from various State Courts divisions and other stakeholders.
In addition, different LEAs have different preferred timeline and priorities for the implementation of the system interfaces between their systems and ICMS.
These requirements or preferences from the different agencies may understandably change from time to time too.
Q: How did you overcome these challenges?
By engaging our stakeholders at every level.
At the working level, the ICMS project team involved business users from other agencies to participate in user requirement gatherings, user acceptance testing and training.
At the management level, State Courts invited the management from other agencies to attend the project steering committee meetings which are chaired and attended by State Courts’ senior management.
The strong project stewardship and management support from all participating agencies are critical success factors.
In my view, it is important to maintain an open communication with stakeholders at all levels so that we can plan and negotiate together with the same objectives in mind.
This has allowed us to identify potential issues early, and to share the key learning points with all other agencies who had yet to come on board.
Q: How would you describe the overall experience of the ICMS project?
It was a very challenging project in terms of the project scope and the timeline. The sheer number of partners involved in the project is staggering. Besides relying on my technical competency to ensure that the vendors delivered what the users wanted, I had to depend very much on my social skills to manage the people involved in this project, and to maintain warm and friendly working relations with each and every stakeholder.
In the course of working on this project, my team and I have built more in-depth domain knowledge of the Criminal Justice and have also gained the trust and confidence from State Courts’ management and end users.
I admit, I was initially unsure about how ICMS would turn out when I was tasked to take over the Project Lead in early 2013.
But now, I must say it was an awesome experience….challenging but fulfilling!
Q: What have you learnt from the project?
I have learnt that the one of the key factors of a successful project is the strong leadership and commitment from the Senior Management of all agencies involved, especially that of the lead agency.
Other key factors include having a dedicated system owner, effective risk and change management and regular engagement with all key stakeholders.
On a personal level, I have learnt to be more resilient and self-motivated in order to bring the project team through the ups and downs of the project.
Being Agile, Bold and Collaborative are all key values that we must inject to complete our projects successfully.
With ICMS being one that has many stakeholders, good collaborative teamwork with the same end objectives in mind does play a very important role.
Q: What’s your personal definition of innovation, and what inspires you to be innovative?
I get great satisfaction when I see that the users have greatly benefited from the services or systems that I have implemented for them.
For example, the State Coroner uses the iPad to access Coroners cases when on duty at the Mortuary to give directions on the conduct of post mortems and Investigation Officers may use iPads to register Coroners cases whilst at the scene of investigations, without having to return to their desk to do so.
This has helped to bring about mobility, convenience and flexibility to users.
To me, every small little step that we take to enhance the experience of the users is an innovation.
We do not need to invent new products or services all the time to be innovative. Adapting proven solutions from one domain, and applying them to a new domain, is innovation too!