Improving efficiency and service delivery with information and communications technology - Part I

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Improving efficiency and service delivery with information and communications technology - Part I

The first article in this 3 part series outlines how information and communication technologies are being utilised by Australian councils to improve organisational efficiency and service delivery. View Part 2.

The Yarra Ranges Council improved its procurement process in efficiency terms by implementing a digital signature PKI electronic system from Secured Signing, which reduced the timeframe for signatures of Evaluation Reports and Contracts 'from one to two weeks into a matter of an afternoon'. By removing the need to produce multiple hardcopies of the Conflict of Interest Declarations, Evaluation Reports, Contracts, and various letters of correspondence with suppliers, Secured Signing eliminates the paper trail and allows the quick online signing of hundreds of pages by numerous parties with no additional software to purchase or download. Features for the user-based PKI digital signature technology includes: a unique signing key that is accessible only to that user; the signed document being sealed and any changes made being detectable; and the system instantly producing a report tracking the movement of the document as signed by each individual. 

Tweed Shire Council launched an eTender facility (eTendering) to streamline its tender process in line with other benchmark councils. Developed in-house and added to the council's website, the eTender facility consists of a secured locked box process, to support the council's two tender boxes at the civic centre and the depot. A separate authorised access group with unique logins and passwords manages each electronic box. Dual authentication ensures that staff from Council's contracts and governance units are present at the tender opening. The system provides facilities for registration of tenderers, upload of tender documents, automated notification of tender submission, secure tender box opening, preparation of tender submission lists and notification and access to uploaded tenders to the evaluation panel.

The Northern Grampians Shire Council rolled out a new iPad app (Docs On Tap) for use by Councillors and Senior Officers for the distribution of Council documents. This replaced the existing practice of emailing documents to Councillors who would then have to convert them into iBooks and store them within their library. While the Council had been using iPads for some time, Docs On Tap (provided by Casalar Software) allows councillors simply to sync the documents from within the app to get access from all of the latest information on a wide range of documents, from Civic Diary through to policies and procedures. 

The City of Port Lincoln Council utilised ITVision Synergysoft for its financial, rating, personnel and compliance systems. The implementation of the records management module in 2010 enabled Council information to become fully integrated, including the lodgement of emails. As converting the existing electronic records to a compatible format was deemed cost prohibitive, 'past records' were to be converted on an as needed basis. 

The Shire of Murray (80km south of Perth), which expects to double its population over the next decade, installed performance management software Interplan that is usually utilised by larger Councils. Interplan from CAM Management Solutions (CAMMS) is intended to create a performance culture across organisations to drive strategic, corporate, business and service level planning with budgets and performance (including staff) measures. The CAMMeS software includes a mechanism to undertake environmental analysis across departments, along with trend analysis on key performance indicator data over time. 

Maranoa Regional Council implemented a number of key software packages to ensure business practices, legislative requirements and system efficiencies are achieved. Intended to be user friendly while offering flexibility given the complex business requirements of Council, the software included the implementation of Council's LG Tender Box, an e-tendering solution created by Local Buy to streamline the tendering processes between business and local government in Queensland. This e-tendering service provides free access to local government tenders, fast downloading of council tender documents, easy uploading of responses to council tenders and the receiving of new tender email notifications by creating one or more advanced searches. 

The Shire of Dandaragan (about 250km north of Perth) covering five small towns and their surrounds adopted a new records management system known as InfoXpert. The new system meant that the traditional practice of photocopying documents and storing the original was no longer required, albeit that staff to take responsibility for their own records. All email traffic, faxes and letters are now captured and recorded by the member of staff who generates them. InfoXpert provided the Shire with a means to reduce workloads and provide consistent and transparent information flows between Council, the community and stakeholders. 

The City of Boroondara (Melbourne's inner east) provides a Contact Centre with staff handling public inquiries quickly and efficiently, This is assisted by the Council's online knowledge system of standard operating procedures (SOPs), which contains everything that customer service staff need to answer almost any enquiry. Previously staff referred to folders of council information or PDFs stored on council's intranet to assist customers, which was problematic because information was often not up to date and staff often did not know exactly what they were looking for and where to find it. Subsequently staff could then do a keyword search, which included common misspellings, covers hundreds of topics, and clearly explains how staff should answer almost any customer enquiry. Other council staff could use it included general community information, beyond council services. 

Chris Lewis is Visiting Fellow at ANZSOG Institute for Governance.

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