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Tasmanian Council Pins Hopes on Document Management

Tasmanian Council Pins Hopes on Document Management

Tasmanian council pins hopes on document management

As the skills shortage deepens its bite local government finds itself particularly hard hit. But Circular Head Council, based in the isolated region of far northwest Tasmania, is hoping a new document management system will provide at least part of the answer to its prayers for better retention of staff.

Council manager, corporate services John van Gaalen says he hopes and expects improved productivity and better workflow will make the council a more attractive place to work, and thus prove decisive in avoiding the tendency of staff to "drift along the coast to the bigger towns".

Document management is expected to help Circular Head Council manage compliance issues and to ultimately become the central port for all information into the organization

Like other authorities in remote locations, Circular Head normally finds attracting and retaining staff extremely challenging. For instance, in a single week recently it was advertising Australia-wide for a planning officer, a tech solutions coordinator (basically an asset management role), and an engineer. Considering the total internal staff numbers just 27 people, the staff shortfall inevitably means bigger workloads for existing employees, who already have one of the state's lowest number of staff per head of population rates.

"When you need an engineer, when your only option is to get a major commercial engineering firm to do your work for you on a consultancy basis you're up for some pretty high costs," van Gaalen says.

"And I think filling vacancies and keeping staff is only going to get harder to be perfectly honest. Everyone tends to be going to the major cities, because there are more options and more of a social life. I know we're trying to get towards a kind of electronic age, but the reality is the Circular Head population hasn't really changed in the last twenty years. It's very difficult to retain [staff] and there's been a push by council to leading a lifelong learning initiative to get increased training right across the whole community."

Now van Gaalen is hoping the council's Avand's DataWorks implementation will help. He says improving productivity was of paramount importance when considering a document management system.

"If staff can access information more quickly, their productivity improves and their stress levels decrease," he says. "With DataWorks, we will have far better control over information, allowing staff to obtain the necessary files efficiently and without having to chase anything or anyone down."

Document management is also expected to help Circular Head manage compliance issues and to ultimately become the central port for all information into the organization.

"As councils deal a lot with land title issues, including development and planning applications and the like, it's extremely important information is easily accessible and also complete," van Gaalen says. "Right now, our staff cannot be quite sure they've got all the necessary documents, which leaves us wide open to compliance risks. An uncoordinated approach to file management makes those sorts of issues stand out pretty clearly and, in fact, one legal issue not properly addressed due to lack of correct information may cost more than the new system."

"Staff retention and training go hand-in-hand because we are trying to train staff up, and we're certainly spending a lot more money than we used to, say three years ago, on professional development and training."

van Gaalen says when he joined the council three years ago no one examining an issue could say with any degree of confidence that they had all the information in front of them. Document management should make a huge difference.

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