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When Chris Rathborne arrived at Moreland City Council in early 2019 he found - among other things - major payroll and HR system projects that had been underway “a fairly long time”.

His approach to turning around this situation? Digital thinking.

“Since coming on board here, we've broken them down to MVPs [minimum viable products] and then started iterating on that,” the chief information officer says.

“Within about four months, we've turned the projects around to having them just about finished implementation.”

Rathborne credits open source and the embrace of new ways of working - such as iterative development - for the change.

“It’s about getting in and doing things, choosing smaller iterations and accepting that might not be the perfect fit but that you'll learn something, iterate on it and keep getting better each time,” he says, adding that for council, “it’s a new approach”.

“There's controlled risks around what we've done, but it's really taken the whole council in a positive direction because they're really getting behind it.”

Rathborne anticipates further change to result from a recent wave of new hires.

“We're looking at hiring people that come from other industries, because we're looking for innovatio and experience to bring back to council.

“The right fit is around the type of person that lives and breathes digital but wants to share and help people grow in that direction.

“We're finding that's having an extremely positive experience on a lot of the staff internally. They're seeing this stuff get done, and they want to be a part of that.”

He’s also asking staff about future directions they want council to adopt. They’re then participating in hackathons to come up with solutions.

The future directions were gathered through a series of what Rathborne calls “ignition workshops”.

“Out of the ignition workshops, we came up with the ideas,” he says. “The ideas had to mean something to council.

“The first one is to focus on waste and resource recovery and how we might reduce waste generation in the communities. The second one is financial sustainability, and how we might use data collaboratively to create efficiencies and opportunities for the community.”

This month [September 2019], Moreland will host a hackathon with the Municipal Association of Victoria; Rathborne sits on the association’s executive committee for technology.

“That's looking for digital to solve a number of council and community problems, which is something we haven't normally done,” he says. “It'll involve community members as well. In addition, Moreland, Glen Iris, City of Yarra, Boroondara and Port Phillip [councils] are all coming here to participate.”

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