Working with Government - Myth Busting

On October 27th, Digital Transformation Agency (DTA, formerly known as DTO) hosted Market Ready panel, in conjunction with the Spark Festival, a festival held throughout startup hubs across Sydney.

The intent of the Market Ready panel was to increase awareness of how startups can engage with government, at a federal, state and local level.

As a startup who has been working with the DTA over the last year, Pragmateam was invited to be a panel member, alongside Catherine Thompson (Head of Digital Marketplace) and Dawn Routledge (NSW Department of Finance).

The session was 90 minutes and attended by approximately 100 people from a variety of industries. The format saw Catherine, myself and Dawn each present for 20 minutes, followed by an open Q&A session.

Captured below are the slides I presented and some supporting commentary.

Pulse Check

An initial pulse check of the attendees within the audience. Not surprisingly, a large portion of attendees were small startups, majority < 10 people companies, with limited experience working with the government.


To get started, a bit of context setting; Pragmateam, who are we? A recent photo of some of the team, captured last month at Centennial Park for our 2nd birthday party.

Pragmateam Tshirts

Pragmateam formed in 2014, and is now 14 people, with broad diversity across 5 nationalities. Inherently, the culture at Pragmateam is one of curiosity and passion, collectively we are always looking for ways to do better. This culture is reflected in our values, and the personal characteristics of the talent we have recruited into the team.

Pragmateam Services

As a relatively small team our service offering is broad, reflecting our collective experience across Financial Services, Telcos, Media, Travel, Consultancy and Digital Agencies. We strongly believe that transformation is achieved through delivery, supported through our coaching and capability uplift approach.

Pragmateam 2015

Rewind a year, prior to engaging with the DTO, we were 4 people working with one main corporate client. Collectively we had plenty of experience working within the private sector, however had never had an opportunity to work within the public sector.

October 2015 the DTO established offices in both Canberra and Sydney. Juliano and I commenced conversations regarding their upcoming Wave 1 transformation projects and required Agile Coaching needs. These initial conversations forced us to challenge our existing perception of what working with government would entail. Below are myths we busted throughout the following year.

Myth Busting - The Work
Solving Real Problems

As Agile Coaches we were actively involved in the facilitation of kicking off the Wave 1 transformation projects. These were less about project teams; instead people were organised around life events (somewhat similar to value stream teams) and improving citizens interactions with government around these life events.

Working with the teams we quickly realised that we were working to solve real problems for real people. The reach of these problems statements was broad and personal; our families and friends would benefit from the outcomes. As a result, teams had a sense of purpose and urgency around their problem statements. This was incredibly refreshing.

Myth Busting - The People
Pragmateam - Jeff Patton

We soon came to realise that the team’s passion and empathy for their problem statement was immense. Broadly, public servants are connected to the end user i.e. the "public" and foster a strong appetite for finding a way to improve their experiences in dealing with the government.

Typically as Agile Coaches we have to “push” ourselves into teams in order to open people’s minds to improving their ways of working. This was contrary to our experience on the transformation projects; people would actively “pull” us into conversations and had a high level of curiosity.

Captured in the photo above is a learning lunch; we were fortunate to have Jeff Patton visit (recognised guru of all things Product Management, User Centered Design, and general nice guy with lots of great stories to share). While the session was held over lunch and not mandatory, we had a packed room (plus a number of people remotely dialled in) of intrigued and eager to learn individuals.

Myth Busting - Procurement
Pragmateam - Marketplace

A previous myth we were able to overcome was the barrier to entry when working with government departments; a perception of the need to be on mythical panels we had no visibility of and the laborious RFQ process and paperwork, typically with a high cost associated. As a startup we strive for minimal overheads, with limited legal, engagement costs.

Through the introduction of Digital Services Panel, and more recently the Digital Marketplace, Pragmateam is now a recognised seller for our broad services offering. We have visibility of opportunities as they arise and with minimum effort we are in a position to apply.

Pragmateam - Networking
Pragmateam - Growth

As a startup we don’t have dedicated business development team members. Instead we lean on the great work we are doing within the client to demonstrate our capability and naturally generate new business. When working within one corporate client there is limited opportunities, we can only reach so far out. This setup is also risky, with low diversity and all eggs in the one basket.

Initiated by the work we were doing with the DTO, we quickly realised we were in a position to naturally network and create new opportunities. Over the course of the year we were able to fork into 7 different departments and as a result increased our team size from 1 to 4.5 FTE, now making up 40% of our company size.


In summary, startups who haven’t previously considered working with the government, I encourage you to take the opportunity, partner with fantastic government teams and start working on meaningful problems statements. Get in contact to chat in more detail about our experience and learnings.