Port Stephens Council moves from Excel to automation

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Port Stephens Council moves from Excel to automation

Benchmark Awards 2020 finalist.

Very few people like having to deal with their local council, and it turns out Port Stephens Council wasn’t too happy with its inefficiencies either.

Business excellence coordinator Faye Johnstone told iTnews that as part of the council’s regular efficiency review process, the chance to move off manual work processes based on Excel spreadsheets was seen as a prime opportunity to save time and effort.

The decision was made to ‘start small’ with service areas that relied heavily on Excel and the broader Office suite for manual reporting, with legal services the first to undergo automation.

“What they would do previously is take data in Excel, then copy it over to Word for reporting,” Johnstone said.

“That would take them two to three days every month to sort out. Now the reports are generated at the click of a button.”

She said that building the automated processes was fairly smooth sailing because the council took the time to thoroughly map out each workflow using Nintex Promapp to really understand customers’ needs, supplier’s requirements and to identify efficiencies in the processes.

Once all of this was understood, Nintex forms were created to capture customers’ data in formats usable by council and its suppliers, with data stored in a central and secure records management system.

Of the 10 service packages automated so far, Johnstone said that the only issue in migrating staff onto the new system has been from the legal services team, who raised concerns about the privacy of the new system given the sensitivity of its work.

However, the council has been able to lock down sensitive documents to certain trusted parties, ensuring it meets its legal obligations.

The public have also adopted the new platforms easily, interacting with the forms through the Sharepoint interface which allows greater transparency and automated notifications - a huge improvement over the previous web of red tape that could, at times, feel impenetrable.

It means council staff can deliver services to customers faster with less cost and waste - both of which can be reinvested in further improvements to services.

This project was a finalist in the iTnews Benchmark Awards 2020 local government category.

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