Lake Macquarie City Council has rebuilt its online presence as it established a new digital service platform to streamline the way it engages with residents.
The new community portal was designed to offer council a single view of its customers and a personalised online portal through which forms could be accessed or submitted around-the-clock.
Applications and development coordinator Tom Eather told iTnews It was initially envisaged as a plug-in to the council’s existing website, however, a review of the website led to a significant widening of the projects scope.
“The website was built by the old communications manager mainly as a way of sharing council news,” Eather said.
“So there were about 5000 pages that were mostly content and full of council jargon, rather than services customers could use.”
Working with CMS provider OpenCities, the council designed a new site that could manage all of its current digital interactions and had the scope to incorporate any future functionality with minimal work or disruption.
Strong buy-in from the council’s chief executive helped ensure the expanded scope of the project was fully supported by the council and all of the divisions which suddenly had to come onboard.
Eather said that while the early stages had proved difficult due to the unexpected expansion, developing the new site and community portal using agile methodologies and a beta website on which customers could give feedback helped deliver a robust result.
“This was actually OpenCities’ first time doing a beta launch in Australia, I think because local government is typically quite risk averse by nature.
“But we’d definitely do it again. Our IT team is used to working that way, and the positive feedback helped keep the project on track.”
The only major complaint, Eather said, was that the old site and its search function were so broken users had just rote learned where to find the documents and services they needed, all of which was moved about in the rebuild.
Thankfully, the new site’s search function works fine those complaints are reducing as users figure out how to find the information and services they need.
Using data from Deloitte, the council estimates the switch to greater online service delivery will save almost $450,000 dollars in the coming year through reduced calls to its data centre and quicker processing times.
This project has been named a finalist in the Local Government category of the iTnews Benchmark Awards for 2020.