Automating manual document processing and HR administration has helped NSW Parliament foster a culture of innovation, without committing to large IT projects.
Under the theme of “collective intelligence”, Parliament’s IT services staff is in the early stages of changing the culture of the organisation to one that embraces change and fosters innovation.
Manager of business systems for information technology services at NSW Parliament, Simon Chalmers, says organisations can introduce all the IT collaboration tools they like, but until people are ready to adopt them, there is little benefit.
“Before we could expect staff to do more in terms of collaboration and innovation, management realised we had to free up their time. We targeted some of the day-to-day transaction processing work they were doing,” Chalmers said.
“It was about unlocking the time of our skilled people so they could focus on new initiatives. Ultimately it is all about empowering staff to add value. The approach we took was to lead some small IT projects where we could demonstrate ‘quick wins’. Those projects needed to introduce process changes that would not only save time, but really challenge the way the organisation worked.”
Chalmers said it was not so much about the technical complexity of the projects — most of these projects lasted less than three months and cost under $30,000 — but rather that IT targeted projects with high visibility across the organisation, ones that would show people a different way of working.
Business Process Automation
Two of the business processes that were ripe for automation were staff leave administration and the management of news clippings.
“Leave processing was taking up a lot of time across the organisation,” Chalmers said. “We use SAP for HR and payroll and not many staff have access to it. There were issues around staff not knowing what leave entitlements they had without calling HR before filling in forms. And there were other issues around the paper-based nature of the approval process. At the end of it all, HR staff were stuck doing data entry into SAP.”
To overcome this, a project to bring leave processing online was started which involved interfacing SAP with the Parliament’s Lotus Domino intranet.
Now staff can view their leave entitlements. When managers get leave approval requests, they know the system has already confirmed that leave is available. Most of the requests they approve bypass HR and are fed directly into SAP.
The application has been running for 10 months and has processed some 1600 requests, 1300 of which have bypassed HR resulting in 1300 fewer manual transactions.
Another quick win was with news clipping automation, which was completed with the assistance of the Parliamentary Library.
As part of its library database collection, Parliament maintains a newspaper clipping service relating to government and politics in NSW.
“It’s a great service for members of Parliament,” Chalmers said. “Commercial media monitoring services can’t match it for its depth of historical coverage, or in terms of the way we index it by electorate and MP. But it was hugely labour intensive and there were three full-time staff needed to keeping it running.”
Parliament entered into an agreement with AAP to get access to its electronic news clippings. Chalmers’ team then built another Lotus Domino application to streamline the process of importing, filtering and classifying those clips.
Library staff can now set automated rules to exclude or include clips, and to associate them with particular electorates or members.
“Previously, it was common for MPs not to have access to clips until later in the day, now most are there by 9am,” Chalmers said. “We used to clip only the eight main metropolitan papers, but now we process more than 250, including regional papers, which is a great value-add to members from those electorates.”
As a result of this work Parliament freed up two full time equivalent staff in the library, as well as others in HR, who are now involved in other projects.
“Beyond the immediate service improvements that the projects delivered, the big win was seeing the time savings translate into other benefits across the organisation,” Chalmers said. “For example, the HR staff who used to process leave, are now working on improvements to our staff induction and recruitment processes. With the acceptance of our online leave request system, we also made significant inroads into the paper culture at the organisation.”
Usage of other online request systems at Parliament has also increased now that people better understand the benefits.
Chalmers said now that the organisation has seen what can be done by “teaming up with IT and other parts of the business”, it is ready to look at introducing collaboration software.
IT staff Parliament are currently looking to add tools like wikis and team rooms, as well as other ways for people to create places on the intranet where they can share documents.
IBM’s business unit executive for Lotus Software in Australia and New Zealand, James Gorry, said the company is seeing a fresh interest in the app development environment of Lotus Domino and it will soon release a new branding campaign for Lotus Software.