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Service NSW Creates a Single View of Citizen Customers with Stream Processing

Supporting citizen customers is the basic function of government, but the ways in which agencies do so has changed a lot over the years. Where once paperwork and long queues were default customer experiences for customers, digitization has made possible a much more streamlined (and frankly more pleasant) way for customers to access services and products from their local, regional, and national governments.

Service New South Wales (NSW) is an Australian NSW government agency that delivers the best possible customer experience for people who want to apply for a bushfire support grant, get an energy rebate, manage their driver license, or access any of the many other government services and transactions available within the state of New South Wales. The agency is part of the NSW government’s greater push to become ”the world's most customer-centric government by 2030." It’s a goal that most state and federal governments aspire to, but NSW is already one of the most advanced agencies using technology to connect with customer needs. 

The scope for Service NSW is vast: they partner with 70-plus teams and /agencies and offer 200 products, delivering about 1,300 different services and transactions. It’s a huge effort and creates a complex integration problem from a technology point of view. At a Sydney tour stop on Confluent’s Data in Motion Tour 2023, Diego Bayona, Principal Software Engineer, Service NSW, shared how the executive agency leverages streaming data in real time to build a single view of the customer—what they refer to as an SVOC.

The business driver behind the SVOC: Tell your story once

In order to deliver myriad services seamlessly and improve how citizen customers and small businesses interact with government services, the engineering team at Service NSW launched a program called “Single View of Customer” built on event-driven architecture. SVOC means knowing that a customer is, for instance, a parent and business owner who has applied for a particular voucher at a certain time. Perhaps this customer was impacted by a flood in January, and in June, went to a Service NSW Service Centre on another matter entirely. With the SVOC program, all of this information is consolidated, collected, organized, and presented to agency users in one centralized location.

“When you’re a customer, you should only have to tell your story once,” said Bayona. If a customer applies for a grant, for example, they take a series of steps to complete the application. This might involve digital experiences like email or a web form, along with an analog call to a Service NSW Contact Centre, or other forms of contact. The traditional customer experience with most government organizations—and this goes far beyond NSW — is to have to repeat the story each time they speak with a new person. With SVOC, they tell their story once.

Event-driven architecture doesn’t just solve this problem of customer experience, it opens up opportunities for targeted personalization. Now, for each customer, the government can suggest the right services and products to each customer. It also makes possible personal ongoing support using enriched customer data for future products and services that don’t yet exist.

The technology that makes SVOC possible

There are three components to the streaming architecture that makes the SVOC possible. The first is onboarding partners. In order to build that single view of the customer, Service NSW has to first collect information from 70+ product teams—all kinds of data sources, some with public networks, some with private.

Those data events are ingested into the SVOC data pipeline, then fed through a series of processes. “The data pipeline is basically a bunch of microservices that transform the data, clean the data, and finally, expose that data to integration partners,” Bayona said.

Those integration partners include end-user-facing platforms like Salesforce and the interfaces of the apps customers see, such as the Service NSW Mobile App or MyServiceNSW web app.

Note the two arrows in the illustration above. These are the two places Service NSW uses event architecture. One is before the data reaches the pipeline, and one is within the pipeline.

Creating a constant flow of real-time data on Confluent

There is a constant flow of data through those systems. If a customer transacts with a service from an app, that information has to flow in real time to other integration partners. If a customer calls tech support and says “I’m stuck in a form,” a rep can look and see exactly where they are in order to troubleshoot.

To enable this SVOC, Bayona said, “We’ve moved from an approach of data on demand to an architecture that allows services to talk to other services about things that are happening within their systems.” 

Data moves from the data source through the streaming infrastructure into a cloud-based data sink. Now, in real time, data can trigger actions, transform (be enriched), and be shared. Inherently, this model enables service decoupling and means that producers of data (onboarding partners) don’t need to have direct insight into the systems processing information. They simply deliver the information, without being forced to wait for a response.

Service NSW uses Confluent to pull and push data from systems, using different connectors for different types of data. There are a bunch of clusters and topics, and Confluent handles all this information, “in addition to allowing us to deal with a constant real-time flow of data and enable service decoupling,” Bayona said. 

Key when handling customer information, Confluent also enables a secure mechanism to tap into all those data sources. Data is encrypted both in transit and at rest, along with other security mechanisms that ensure Service NSW is compliant and holds customer data safely and securely.

The future of customer data in New South Wales

“We are able to deal with any type of infrastructure and any type of data source, and at the same time we can push that data to any type of network—secure, private, non-public, any type of resource,” Bayona said.

With a constant flow of real-time data on Confluent, Service NSW holds the potential to create countless new citizen experiences—all with a single view of the customer that makes transacting with the state government an excellent experience for everyone.

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