East Gippsland Shire Council VIC
East Gippsland Shire Council in eastern Victoria has tackled changing service paradigms head-on, commencing a 3-year ICT and business transformation project extending across finance, procurement, human resource management, budgeting, operations, and reporting.
With the assistance of CouncilFirst and utilising the power of the Microsoft cloud platform, the Shire is already seeing increased productivity, more efficient use of resources, and improved employee morale.
About East Gippsland
The Shire of East Gippsland is the second-largest Local Government Area in Victoria, covering over 21,000 square kilometres.
Located in the east of the state and bordered to the south and east by the ocean, East Gippsland encompasses elevated high country, lakes and rivers, farmland, and rugged coastline.
The traditional home of the Gunaikurnai people, the East Gippsland region was first settled by European colonists in the 1830s. The Shire was formed in 1994 by the amalgamation of 6 local government areas and today provides over 100 services to over 40 distinct communities across a geographic area which covers 10% of the state of Victoria.
As well as natural resources and primary produce the Shire also is geographically situated between the commercial hubs of Sydney and Melbourne, making it of strategic importance to the logistics industry.
East Gippsland Shire Council (EGSC) found itself dealing with a finance system at the end of its life and with no upgrade path – one that required manual workarounds and overnight batch processes to accomplish business-critical business goals.
Even more concerning was the fact the legacy system was becoming unreliable, key features not performing as they needed to.
EGSC wished to move to a modern financial system – one which could bring increases in efficiencies through reporting, employee self-service, and seamless real-time integration with third party software. The transition represented an opportunity for EGSC to ask, “how can we do this better?” across a range of council ICT functions, including procurement, budgeting, payroll, operations, and reporting.
Under an innovative agreement between East Gippsland Shire Council and its neighbour Wellington Shire Council, the two were able to cooperate in a shared ICT services arrangement to seek new business efficiencies. Led by WSC and operating under Victoria’s first Memorandum of Understanding for local-government shared services, the ICT transformation and implementation of new business systems--including the new business system at EGSC—represented a powerful new model for collaboration between councils.
This new model enabled EGSC to collaboratively utilise WSC’s ICT capabilities and experience and commence a journey to the cloud. EGSC was able to begin detaching itself from aging on-premises server hardware and demonstrated to stakeholders and customers that it was a forward-looking Internet-enabled organisation.
However, the move wasn’t driven by dogma. “In the end it wasn’t a cloud choice for the sake of it,” said EGSC Acting Manager, Information Systems, Sharon Jankowiak. “It was a question of finding the best match to our requirements. That happened to be a SaaS solution from CouncilFirst.”
A solution by local government experts
Driven internally by the Finance department with significant input from Human Resources, EGSC’s move to the cloud was a complex change management process affecting all teams. It soon became evident that no traditional product could meet all EGSC’s strict requirements. Areas in which EGSC requested the most attention included accounts payable, with very specific procurement and audit requirements and fine-detailed purchase-order and receipt-attachment handling; reporting; and cloud-based Employee Self-Service functionality allowing council staff to manage their own payroll, leave, and HR information.
“We had exceptionally high expectations,” said EGSC Manager of People, Performance, and Culture Rebecca Aston.
CouncilFirst’s local government experience made the difference. That knowledge enabled the delivery of a solution that leveraged the power of the Microsoft cloud platform to facilitate a true digital transformation.
East Gippsland Shire Council employs over 500 staff who deliver over 100 different services to East Gippsland residents, including recreation centres, waste management, parks and gardens maintenance, caravan parks, a livestock exchange, and arts facilities. From an administrative point of view the EGSC employee base encompasses 9 different award classifications – and the new system had to work for every one of them. Working closely with the Council human resources team, CouncilFirst managed the implementation of a system designed to accomplish that goal.
EGSC saw immediate improvements the moment the new system went live. Not only were services more accessible and information more visible; staff were happier. Employees felt empowered.
Previously a simple employee question of "how much leave will I be entitled to by the Christmas holidays?" initiated a cascade of time-consuming location-specific administrative processes. With CouncilFirst’s SaaS solution that question could be answered quickly and easily from anywhere - and if a leave request followed, that too could be approved on the spot, on any device.
Elements such as a cloud-based employee leave calendar have made a huge difference, with CouncilFirst delivering the Payroll team a greater level of transparency than they have ever had before. The transparency has extended beyond administrative processes, with all employees able to access their own payslips and previous leave requests via the ESS portal. Before the transition employees seeking such information had needed to make individual requests to the Payroll team, which then had to physically print and file reports.
The improvements have had tangible impacts on Council resources, providing measurable savings in time and improvements in productivity. "We estimate that we're now saving, conservatively, ten minutes per leave application," said Aston. "Across an organisation our size it adds up."
East Gippsland Shire Council now enjoys the advantages of a system that meets all its financial requirements and more.
EGSC now knows where all its information is, and management overhead is massively decreased. Huge improvements in efficiency have come from the greater process flexibility, information capture, and transparency that EGSC now enjoys – and those efficiencies represent savings that can be reinvested in staff and passed back to the community.
More than just systems
Human Resources has seen benefits in areas beyond productivity. Rather than spending time and effort on paper-based administration, the HR team has been able to focus on strategies for employee engagement and retention. They have been able to implement programs such as a new Learning Management System for staff, a task that would not have been possible were resources being consumed by a very manual paper-based payroll- and leave-application process.
HR has been able to spend more time developing staff and focusing on other key people projects, such as preventative injury management, and health and wellbeing. Lost time injuries have dropped to an all-time low.
“With our old systems there was a such a huge load on the payroll team,” commented EGSC Payroll Officer Lynn Ryan. “Once we started using CouncilFirst I was actually able to take a breath for the first time in a long time.”
EGSC’s move to the cloud has had many impacts on Council operations, but this may prove to be one of the most important outcomes of the digital transformation project: an improved sense of employee well-being.
Inspiration to others
For the digital transformation project and their collaboration under the ICT Shared Services MOU the East Gippsland and Wellington Shire Councils were joint recipients of the Highly Commended Award for Excellence from the Municipal Association of Victoria in 2017. This achievement resulted in other councils following this powerful model as the basis for commencing their own transformation journeys.
As a result of the power and flexibility of CouncilFirst’s SaaS solution and its appropriateness for use in a local government setting, CouncilFirst remains a trusted business and technology advisor to East Gippsland Shire Council and is proud to assist the EGSC management team on a regular basis.