“Our department is leading the NewCore project that brings together IT systems from the previous eight councils, resulting in a single, customer-focused system,” says Auckland Council’s Director of ICT, Mark Denvir.
“This system will combine customer and property records, giving us efficient regional oversight and delivery of services direct to the ratepayer. NewCore is a foundation for a transformation of council’s core services, which will lead to better online services and smarter ways of working,” he says.
Lodging and tracking consent applications from start to finish, having easy access to property files and being able to book community facilities from across the region online are some of the services NewCore provides. It is also a one-stop-shop for paying for council services and licences online.
The first phase saw more than one million pieces of data transferred onto NewCore, followed by the second phase at Labour Weekend in 2016 and 2.5 million pieces of data were transferred.
“The other main hurdle our team faced was ensuring the data transferred was aligned accurately with our business services, for example dog registration renewals.
“We took a step back, and looked at the information required of us to fulfill the job. By rollout, our teamwork and the change programme we had undertaken, ensured our success,” says Denvir.
“Customer interactions have seen a significant drop – from 20 minutes to two minutes – as well as improved accuracy of rating calculations and delivery of rates notices within government-mandated timeframes.”
He says the great success of these phases is that the project is being delivered by internal staff, who continue to train other council departments and will oversee the wider transformation within council due to NewCore.
Denvir says NewCore is a game-changer for Auckland.
“Through the NewCore program, we’ve delivered a new way of compiling licensing and compliance customer codes, which will allow us to have a single-view of each customer we work with, once the full rollout is complete.
“As earlier mentioned, whether Aucklanders want to book a community hall, register their dog or lodge resource consents with us, this will all be possible under one system.
“We’ve changed our department’s structure where we now have a significant presence of business architects sitting with different council units. They look at each unit’s change programmes and provide them with the right support to bring their greatest initiatives forward.
“As part of our desire to support innovation, we’re also constantly looking at cloud-based opportunities and what value they may bring to council. We have combined the eight legacy council networks into a telco-grade solution, which allows us to make use of UFB (ultra-fast broadband).
“One major positive of this is we now have a fully redundant central core network that is highly resilient, which enables UFB at each site,” he says.
“Benefits of this include robust reviews by the marketplace and we’re now seen by the market as an almost-telco provider ourselves.
“We have aligned the council parent and council-controlled organisations to allow us to introduce smart city technologies, particularly within Auckland Transport and the council. This new technology means, in future, it may be possible to have machine-to-machine interaction to enable more efficient management of traffic lights, for example.”
His department has continued to support the legacy council systems, while at the same time utilising resources from the marketplace to supplement that work. Key staff were taken into the NewCore rollout to ensure the change process ran efficiently.
“We’ve got an amazing team who are focused on keeping the lights on. They have gone above and beyond the call of duty to do this, while maintaining focus on the future delivery of the new NewCore system.
“We’ve had a robust look at service opportunities and leaned heavily on the marketplace for efficiencies and value for ratepayer dollars. We’ve evaluated the areas where we could remove significant costs, such as the network.”
He says the merging of eight legacy councils meant data was spread over 12 separate data centre locations. While the important job of council working together in terms of servicing the ratepayers was underway, the IT function was focused very much on keeping everything working to support the business.
“This was a challenge due to variation in ownership of datacentres, different equipment and software due to legacy council systems. The decision was made in 2013 to consolidate services safely and cleverly into the IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) offering from Revera, an All of Government provider. We turned off around 800 servers as part of that initiative.”
Denvir says the first key change made when starting with NewCore, was to talk to and engage with all council business units via strategy sessions.
“This helped us see each council unit’s key strategies and provided an opportunity for us to provide feedback to them. We could capture what capabilities those objectives included and what supporting technology they would need.
“I have regular catch ups with members of Auckland Council’s executive leadership team and continue to work with our leaders to find IT solutions that suit them.
“We have established an investment group where we relinquish control of the ICT capital spend to a business group, which I sit on, to enable cross-business prioritisation.
Denvir regularly present to his teams and key parts of the business about ICT strategy and what that means to them.
“It is a key part of the business, it is not just about the technology we use. Kotahi, the council’s intranet page, is a key resource for our people and we also send regular newsletters about updates and milestones.
“Our chief executive, Stephen Town, holds bi-annual internal speaking events, where we always have a senior ICT spokesperson on standby to answer questions from staff.”
There is a regular internal newsletter called iServe and his department works regularly with the internal communications team.
“We email all council staff twice-weekly about maintenance needed, so staff are aware when work is being undertaken and why.
“We are one of the most diverse units within council, in both age and cultural heritage – we’re a great reflection of the wider Auckland population. We run a successful graduates programme here at council.
“I personally mentor four internal staff, and I work with a handful of external mentees. We’re supportive of mentoring staff, so senior leaders are encouraged to get involved. Culture is quite a strong focus within the council, so we provide training and regularly review ‘what does leadership mean to us,’ ” says Denvir.