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Investing for New Zealand: Insights from 2015/16

Case Study: Vision 2015 Programme Immigration New Zealand, Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment

The changing immigration context

Immigration is a critical enabler of New Zealand's economic growth, and New Zealand has one of the highest per-capita inflows of migrants in the OECD. Migrants create jobs and build diverse communities - they bring skills and talents that help make local firms more productive and globally competitive.

New Zealand competes internationally for skilled migrants, students and visitors. Immigration New Zealand (INZ) is a global operation that facilitates travel while managing immigration-related risk.

Immigration volumes have increased by 51% since 2011/12, and are expected to rise further, which means growing demand for INZ's services as visa applications increase. INZ also needs to manage changing risk profiles caused by challenges like new and emerging markets, and the rapid changes in people movement globally, which has increased the threat of global terrorism and criminal

Immigration New Zealand needed to transform to respond to changes

The immigration ICT system was designed and built in the early 1990s. It was paper-based, inflexible, and expensive to maintain or change.

This meant INZ could not readily respond to market changes, leading to competitive disadvantages for employers, education providers and tourism operators. Investment was needed in a new system that supported economic growth, while enabling good management of immigration-related risk.

Vision 2015 Programme

INZ established the Vision 2015 Programme, a $119 million technology-enabled business transformation of people, process and systems. Completed in June 2016, it has enabled INZ to improve value by delivering a more flexible, risk-based, customer-focused, consistent and cost-effective service.

Visa processing has been transformed through establishing an end-to-end process that combines standardised business processes, including a new risk triage and verification model, with better technology.

1 in 4 workers is a migrant

One in four of all workers in New Zealand are migrants; in Auckland the figure is 44%

3.3m visitors

3.3m visitors arrived in New Zealand in the year to June 2016, the highest-ever annual total

$10.3b of visitor spending

International visitors spent more than $10.3b in the last financial year

105,000 student visas

More than 105,000 student visas were approved in 2015/16

$3.1b, 30,000 jobs

International education is worth $3.1b to the economy each year and supports 30,000 jobs


Business investor migrants have invested over $4.8b since 2009

The deployment of Immigration ONLINE means customers can apply online for student, work and visitor visas. More than 100,000 online applications have already been received. The introduction of eVisas removes the requirements for a physical passport to be provided for an online visa application, and the need for a visa label to be attached to a passport. The replacement of paper-based medical certificates with eMedical, a new online-based processing system.

The financial benefits target for the programme of $12.3 million per annum by July 2018 is likely to be exceeded. This is made up of savings through the transfer of services to third party providers, as well as direct efficiency savings. As at June 2016, $9.0 million per annum has been realised, and more than $16.8 million per annum is expected to be realised by July 2018.

Ensuring benefits realisation

One of the most challenging aspects of delivering successful investments is ensuring that after a project is delivered, the business continues to focus on managing the realisation of benefits. INZ has developed a range of tools and processes to ensure the new system is working effectively and delivers its expected benefits including:

  • applying and adapting business rules to manage risk
  • feedback loops to continually enhance underlying business rules and processes
  • customer insights to measure the customer experience consistently to help improve products and services
  • a channel uptake strategy to continue to increase the use of online services
  • performance management and reporting to maintain quality and continuously improve the new operating model.

Lessons learned

Like any major programme, the Vision 2015 Programme had to deal with unexpected obstacles and challenges that affected delivery. INZ has captured the learnings from Vision 2015 in two reports, which are available at:

Lessons learned

Key points

Active, engaged and visible senior leadership Strong and stable leadership is essential to driving a business transformation project while maintaining business as usual. Leaders must be able to act and deliver beyond their day-to-day roles. This might include new communication channels and additional support and training for leaders, such as governance training.
Transformational change needs to be business led and incorporate people, process and systems A business transformation programme cannot be completed successfully without strong business ownership and leadership, and broad buy-in from agency staff directly involved. It needs to look beyond technology and automation and consider how people work with new tools.
A targeted operating model must be defined at the outset to provide clarity on the strategic direction and areas for benefit realisation focus A significant business transformation programme requires a multifaceted approach. People and process considerations are at least as important as technology. This will guide design and also help understand the impact of change.
Strong governance and management structures supported by the right capability and expertise, and a clear and consistent methodology Success depends on the right governance and management structures. Taking the time up-front to identify and appoint people with the right skills ensures effectiveness and action from the outset. The level and nature of resources needed must also be adjusted to reflect the phases of activity.
Regularly review governance structures to ensure they remain fit-for-purpose and to develop a culture of learning Governance arrangements were reviewed and fine-tuned throughout the life of the programme. Ensure there is a willingness to seek and take advice and adopt learnings from outside and within the programme.
Partnership with central agencies and actively maintaining confidence of Ministers, staff and key customer groups is essential Honest and open engagement with Ministers and the Corporate Centre creates the foundation for ongoing support and advice. This is particularly of value when risk management is required.
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