Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Implementing tech in local government

The risk of failure in digital transformation is eye-wateringly high, sitting somewhere between 70% and 95% according to major consultancies McKinsey, BCG and KPMG.

Reasons for failure range from lack of alignment to mismanagement of teams, poor training, clumsy prioritisation and slow decision-making processes. 

In other words, the odds are firmly against success in technology implementation. While these numbers can be discouraging, the case for digital investment and technological change has never been more urgent. The need to reduce costs, increase efficiency and deliver better service is ever-present, while the Covid pandemic highlighted the need for adaptive and resilient platforms. 

Delegates at the 2nd annual DigiTech.Local.Gov Summit 2022 will come together to learn from those who have achieved success in implementing technology.

Quest Events spoke with Naren Gangavarapu (CIO at Northern Beaches Council), David Farmer (CEO at Central Coast Council) and Greg Curcio (Chief Customer and Transformation Officer at Stonnington City Council) to gain tips and insights into getting technological implementation right.  

Implementing new technology platforms following council amalgamation

When three councils amalgamated into the current-day Northern Beaches Council, the team faced challenges including the harmonisation of several legacy enterprise bargaining agreements, 200+ complex pay rules, over 50 unintegrated rostering systems, over 600 manual timesheets, legacy payroll systems, over 60 paper forms, and manual processes around human capital management ranging from recruitment to retirement. 

“The opportunity,” said CIO Naren Gangavarapu, “was to go beyond mere digital optimisation and productivity improvements to deliver a full digital business transformation through a new model, new systems and new ways of working.”

Council came up with the following objectives aligned with its community strategic plan:

  • Improving employee experience by providing a one stop [digital] shop
  • Reducing administrative overhead
  • Ensuring rostering and payroll compliance
  • Providing accurate reporting and business insights for improved decision-making
  • Improving customer experience.

A market search was conducted based on high level requirements and business capability models which led to the down selection of SAP Success Factors (for recruitment, onboarding, performance management, learning and development and payroll) and UKG Dimensions (for rostering, time and attendance).

“The two major platforms we introduced were integrated with our core ERP systems and our bespoke portfolio of applications to ensure information flow and value capture,” said Gangavarapu.

“This not only provided a one-stop shop for employees but integrated with our customer experience platforms and provided insights into complex cases in one place, allowing our employees to better serve our customers.”

Digital adoption and implementation were complicated by COVID lockdowns and the fact that the majority of staff were frontline or outdoor workers, but the project was a success. Gangavarapu reports that customer satisfaction scores rose from 71% (2019) to 88% (2022), employee engagement increased by over 9%, wellbeing by 13% and progress by 18%. The council achieved 99.9% payroll accuracy and a 30% recovery of lost time due to inefficient processes. 

Central Coast Council CEO, David Farmer.

Gaining timely access to information during emergency events

For Central Coast Council CEO David Farmer, several emergency events over the past three years highlighted the importance of data in crisis management. 

“Across a number of emergencies including bushfire, flood and coastal erosion, both Council and the multi-agency Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) have relied on maps and associated spatial data to assist with the emergency response. However, while printed maps are useful, they go out of date and typically do not provide accurate details including the identification of individual properties and assets; particularly critical infrastructure.” 

This challenge came to the fore in the recent 2022 flood events, where predictive flood level impact information was required to enable forward planning for emergency preparedness and response actions. 

“Visual information was essential, therefore the solution had to be useable, versatile, up-to-date and accessible,” said Farmer. 

But printed maps were not fit-to-purpose. Geospatial technology (GIS) was the obvious solution because of its flexibility, accuracy and accessibility in real time across multiple locations, devices and personnel. Importantly, flood level impact analysis was based on up-to-date and accurate foundational datasets, captured via a planned and considered approach.

Implementation was made easier by the fact that the geospatial technology and support team were already established within Council. “We reached out to the I&T Geospatial Team and discussed operational needs and capability, and they advised they could meet all the required flooding analysis needs with their system. The results were cleaned, simplified and published to an interactive spatial Flood Response Viewer and Council’s public mapping site. Access was granted to appropriate users and the spatial viewer containing the flood impact analysis was shared with multiple agencies.

The flood impact analysis was only possible due to the significant planning and building of foundational Central Coast spatial datasets. Digital spatial data acquisition was planned and executed through a tender process to obtain best value. The purpose of the contract was to acquire accurate harmonized datasets for the Central Coast LGA – this included high resolution imagery, LiDAR, building footprints, 3D building models and contours. As a result, Council gained access to new foundational datasets which could be used for varying geospatial analysis such as flooding, slope risk, canopy analysis and more.

The viewer performed to the needs of the operation with incredible forecasting accuracy, and is critical for future planning, preparedness and operational response.

Acquiring evidence-based data for improved insights maturity

Stonnington City Council, Greg Curcio.

As Chief Customer and Transformation Officer at Stonnington City Council, Greg Curcio became aware that decision-makers in the organisation could be better equipped to do their jobs. 

“Decisions were being made with little evidence-based data due to much of our data being locked away within our business applications. Decision makers had to make do with what they could get, and even that data was hard to put together into meaningful insights,” he said. 

“We went through a diagnostic, discovery and design process with critical input from our Enterprise Architecture team. We needed to ensure the design principles were endorsed so that an appropriate solution was found.” Importantly, Curcio’s team engaged early with the business, data owners and stakeholders to ensure they understood and solved the problem. 

“Given the state of our infrastructure and applications, our only option was to federate out the data and provide insights capability. This also gave us the capability to de-couple ourselves from expensive in-system reporting.”

The solution was to invest in and build a federated data hub with PowerBI that can serve business owners with insightful reporting. “Prior to delivery, we assigned a delivery partner (Datametrix) alongside our internal data enablement team. Together, we managed the project under defined sprints, delivered interim reporting to build credibility and (after implementation) [integrated] it with our Customer Experience team program,” said Curcio. 

The Customer Experience team, in collaboration with the business, were able to provide capability to act on those insights and improve processes for Stonnington’s customers.

Curcio believes the project still has 12 months of work ahead, but by and large the problem is being solved.

“It can never be fully resolved, as these initiatives are continuous in their value. Instead, our aim was to provide enduring capability for the organisation to tap into data easily, gain insights and use these to act on improvements. We have seen Stonnington data and insight maturity steadily increase, leading to better-considered decisions for the community.”

Join us at DigitTech.Local.Gov Summit 2022

The 2nd annual DigiTech.Local.Gov Summit 2022 will provide a platform for engaging conversations & peer networking while showcasing what local governments across Australia are doing to successfully drive change for their communities.

If you are responsible for transformation, enabling change and designing or implementing digital technology in local government, then this is your opportunity to keep up to date with the trends, tools and people you need to future-proof your role.

Inside Local Government readers receive 15% off the registration fee, use VIP code ‘ILG15’ at registration.

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