The five councils engaged in the $105-million Councils Online project - already enjoying significant efficiencies and cost savings - will shortly begin piloting online tracking of development applications.
Ron Posselt, group manager of operations at Lake Macquarie City Council and the council's ERP project manager, says development applications are the most problematic area for any council - highly political, and with processing made more difficult by a nationwide shortage of planners.
"By putting our applications online, in terms of tracking where they're at, potentially we can reduce a very large number of phone calls which actually disrupt our workflow, so we see some major benefits in that process," Posselt says.
Councils Online is a business transformation program featuring redesigned business processes across a spectrum of core council business functions and a shared technology platform, with a consortium headed by Capgemini as designer, builder and managed service provider. The syndicate of five participating councils - Lake Macquarie, Parramatta and Randwick city Councils, and Hornsby and Wyong shire Councils - eventually expects to on-sell the IT system developed to other councils.
Tailored to the needs of the councils, the applications implemented so far are already delivering significant efficiencies and long term cost savings for the five participating local governments.
In March Lake Macquarie became the first council to go live with the first phase of development, rolling out Geac Pathway Property, Rates, Licensing, Applications, Accounts Receivable and Cash Receipting modules; Oracle Financials, Purchasing, Projects, CRM, Recruitment and Payroll; Matman Asset Management, Kronos Time and Attendance and TRIM Document Management. The other councils followed during April and May.
Phase two, implemented as a series of six releases between June and November, involved a host of human resources, training, administration and contact management applications.
Posselt says the council implemented Pathway while maintaining processing to performance standards and the benefits are clearly being seen in workflow. The TRIM implementation, while requiring a significant cultural shift for many staff, is delivering major benefits by way of ease of access to documents.
Oracle Finance, Purchasing and Projects were all clean implementations and staff are now familiar with all these applications, while the introduction of reporting in phase two is expected to enhance usage. Meanwhile Oracle CRM, while requiring a major cultural change, is already providing highly valuable management information.
"We're really starting to uncover where the work flows around the organization, and that's something we haven't been able to do in the past, because we're very driven by customer demand," Posselt says.
"With 1000 people on Council it is a huge job to do workflow and we're only now starting to see some of the more advanced interrogation and reporting tools being rolled out across the suite, and that's where we're going to get significant advantage in terms of our management information, which we were severely lacking in the past."
And he said while there had been significant data collection issues with asset management, these had now been addressed, and users were comfortable with the software, with work now underway optimize business processes.
"Generally speaking all of those systems have served us well, although the payroll system has been a bit problematic because it has been much more difficult to create one solution for the five councils, because we all have different agency agreements and we all work under different conditions. We've solved that by just configuring five different instances of the application, which wouldn't have been our preference in the first case but that's where we got to in the end. Now we're starting to work towards getting a lot more commonality between our working conditions as each council goes through the enterprise agreement negotiation process, and we're also looking at best practice, which we're looking at across the board as well."
Posselt says the Council is also looking at providing putting 149 certificates (issued by Council whenever someone sells their house) and rates certificates online within the next few months to allow much faster completion of conveyancing.
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