by CIO New Zealand

CIO100 2018 #30: Alan Adcock, Whangarei District Council

Mar 28, 2018
Cloud Computing Collaboration Software Digital Transformation

“Last year the first phase of the ‘Trilogy’ programme of work began the transformation of the council into a ‘digital council’; supporting our vision for future service delivery,” says Alan Adcock, GM Corporate at the Whangarei District Council.

“Trilogy is the ‘foundation’ for an ongoing body of work to deliver services to our customers in an increasingly digital world,” he says.

There are three “ultimate visions” for the project, he says:

  • Access to council services and decision making tools that bring together information from both internal and external sources.

  • Workflow and information processes that are smart, intelligent and integrate across our many different platforms and systems to reduce complexity.

  • Our people to be technology savvy, with a high technology capability to provide a superior experience for our consumer base.

“A strategic review and organisational restructure had revealed major gaps between our service delivery and customer expectations; particularly in digital channels,” says Adcock.

Adcock says the combination of the things they have done to deliver the programme has significantly changed work practices at the council.

“It is an innovative and groundbreaking approach for the local government sector,” says Adcock.

He says the programme achieved the following:

  • Moving entire infrastructure to IaaS – including servers, storage, replication and disaster recovery.

  • Changing from Citrix to fat client architecture – 579 new devices deployed and 269 applications moved to new platform.

  • Migrating existing Alchemy and TRIM records (2,188,260 documents and files) to a new enterprise content management (ECM) system (SharePoint) provided as a SaaS system.

  • Migrating all mailboxes (including all archived emails) to Exchange in the Cloud and integrating with the ECM

  • Upgrading the core enterprise system (TechnologyOne), including migrating all data to latest Cloud SaaS system (One Council/CiAnywhere)

This initial stage has created a platform for us to bring all core corporate systems into a single enterprise system, he says.

This also significantly improved our data quality, with the ultimate aim of becoming a true ‘digital council’ that can provide smart solutions for our customers via the medium they choose, open data and enable the development of a ‘smart district’.

“It has also mobilised our workforce, as all systems are now genuinely ‘any device, any time, anywhere’ as they are served up through a web browser,” says Adcock.

“We successfully completed all the deliveries noted above, through a $4.1 million project that spanned 11 months,” he says. “It was delivered on time, on budget, with full functionality and without disrupting BAU activity during development.”

He says the council is now benefiting – both financially and operationally – from Trilogy.

The total cost of ownership for the ICT functions has been reduced by 38 percent, while direct ICT operating costs have also been reduced by $428,000 annually.

He says there have been numerous operational and service improvements achieved as a result of Trilogy.

These include significant increases in record capture in the ECM, easier property searches providing better customer service, faster sourcing of information for resource consents and marked improved in document management across the organisation.

“Changes were being introduced across hardware, applications, document management, personal record keeping and mobility – meaning every single user would be affected in multiple ways,” he says.

Blue sky thinking, ongoing delivery

So what insights can he share with other organisations undertaking a similar transformation programme?

“We made a conscious effort to ‘take the organisation with us’, rather than simply implementing new systems and providing training at the end,” says Adcock.

He says the tagline for the project was “Transforming the way we work”.

“We focused on how we would use information to deliver better service, rather than talking about IT changes,” says Adcock.

“Persistent championing of the change process by the CEO and me as the executive sponsor was key.”

“Given the scope and integrated nature of the planned changes, we took a ‘big bang’, rather than a staged approach,” he says. This helped avoid organisational change fatigue and the need to create repeated integration processes.

Another success factor was strong governance, he says. A Transition Committee comprising the executive team, together with program and change managers, was formed and met at predetermined milestones, he adds.

Across the organisation, Adcock is actively involved in championing the use of technology to transform business practices, chairing the ICT Strategic Governance committee (ISGC), which is made up of the executive team members and the CEO.

Rob Forlong, chief executive at the Whangarei District Council, says Adcock’s strength lies in his ability to meld organisational strategy with IT delivery.

“He is consistently forward scanning, looking at future technology trends / disruptions and assessing their impact on us,” says Forlong.

“Alan and his team understand the need to get the organisation and users ready in parallel with IT projects. That has involved gaining commitment from stakeholders – governance, peers, and opinion leaders and then delivering tangible results.”

“He is able to combine blue sky thinking with execution and ongoing delivery,” says Forlong. “It’s a great combination.”

For Adcock, employing great people and trusting them to deliver what they are good at, is key to his leadership style.

“By getting out of their way and making sure that when they do deliver the goods, the organisation is ready,” he says.

“I see my role as doing this by making sure there is a clearly understood business strategy that IT delivery is aligned to, and gaining, and then retaining, genuine buy-in from the other key stakeholders such as the executive team and directors.”

“I have made the mistake of introducing a good system successfully, but without having any commitment from my peers that they would change business processes to take advantage of it – meaning a wasted investment of time, money and expertise,” he adds.

“As a result, I have learnt to ‘sell the problem’ long before I talk about the solution. If I do that well enough, my team will be asked to deliver the IT change, rather than them having to convince reluctant users to change their ways.”