by Tim Lohman

Greater Dandenong City Council breaks down data silos with new ECM system

May 22, 20094 mins
GovernmentGovernment IT

Greater Dandenong City Council is moving to break down its information silos and foster a more collaborative work environment with the roll out of a new electronic content management (ECM) system.

The ECM system, from Australian provider Objective, has been under trial for the last three months and is expected to go live in September for the Council’s 400 staff.

It is expected to underpin improved information management and service delivery to the local community and help the Council maintain compliance with standards such as the Freedom of Information Act and the Victorian Electronic Records Standard (VERS), which deals with the disposal of records.

Herb Meier, manager information technology services at Dandenong City Council, says the move to Objective was prompted by a the adoption of a new knowledge management strategy at the Council, aimed at obtaining the benefits of a fully-paperless, electronic-only records system

With the Council’s 400 staff often unwilling to use the existing ECM due to its perceived user unfriendliness, the Council was also being challenged by the creation of isolated silos of data inaccessible to many of the workers at the Council.

“Under the current system, people keep repositories of records and data for a variety of reasons,” Meier says. “There is also a huge reliance on shared network drives where people store a lot of information, so as a result, a relatively large number of documents don’t find their way into the official record system and don’t get registered.

“Our goal is to eliminate that and scale back the network drives so all corporate information is stored in the common repository, which will be the Objective system.”

This common repository will serve as the source of information and documents for the Council’s many enterprise applications, including its Merit CRM system and property and rating system in particular, Meier says.

“We also use the workflow capability of Objective to manage processes such as processing planning applications, budgeting, client referrals in community service and Work Cover incidents,” he says. “There are a number of document-intensive processes governed by workflow rules. This will lead to a significant improvement on the current system.”

Meier says that by integrating the ECM with its CRM system, any written requests from rate-payers received by the Council will now be scanned, classified and then used to automatically initiate a request for information or action from the correct person in Council.

“Under the old system a letter would be received, registered, and a copy of it manually sent to someone — who may not be the right person,” he says. “This person would then enter it into the Customer Request system. Using the integration between the EDRMS and the Customer Request System we will be able to trigger the processing of the request when we receive the letter and provide a better service to our customers.”

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Dandenong City Council also expects to see greater collaboration through a new document versioning capability, as well as an improvement in processing times for applications and approvals thanks to the revision of its document classification process under the new ECM system, Meier says.

“We revised our classification scheme and based it on functions and activities rather than organisational structure,” he says. “Accordingly, people will have improved access to documents across organisational units. At the moment access is largely based on the organisational unit people belong to and that makes information sharing and collaboration more difficult.”

Despite current media hype surrounding the Cloud Computing and Software-as-Service (SAAS) application delivery models, Meier says security concerns about cloud applications prompted the Council to go with Objective and its onsite-only hosting option.

“[Cloud Computing] technology isn’t quite there yet; particularly for a system that will become one of our most important information systems,” he says. “At this point in time, the risk of Cloud Computing is too high.”

Meier says the infrastructure cost for hosting the solution internally only amounted to about 15 percent of the total project budget, with only one extra server and one additional SAN tray required for extra storage.

He also stressed that the Council’s successful piloting of the new ECM to date was the result of collaboration with other Councils, which had also begun implementing similar ECM projects.

Managing cultural change within the Council was also key. “We started with an awareness session to reinforce with staff what their obligations were for managing corporate records to get away from the approach where people kept their own records,” Meier says. “We also involved a number of our key users early and had a selection process where the end-users had a say.”