Driving ahead modernised systems at Bathurst Regional Council

Bathurst Regional Council (BRC) in 2018 was a Local Government Authority (LGA) facing a pressing need for technology modernisation.

Located in the Central West region of New South Wales and servicing a population of around 43,000, the council’s financials property and ratings platform needed a major upgrade. In addition, the EDRMs was out of support, desktop hardware, operating systems and software were outdated and there was a keen desire to move nearly 400 networked users to the Office365 cloud.

Newly-installed Manager Information Systems  Michael O’Neill was faced with a choice, tackle all these tasks individually or go for the big bang approach. He chose the latter which made for a challenging 2019.

“It was a big year for us, probably too big. Maybe I was a bit too ambitious, but we got through it,” said O’Neill.

“A lot of change happened, it was like literally pulling the Band-Aid off, you get stuck in quickly and tolerate some pain to get the right changes in place.”

These changes included planning for the upgrade Civica Authority 6.11 to 7.1, migrating from HP TRIM 7 (released in 2010) to Content Manager 9.3, and replacing Lotus Domino with Office 365/Exchange Online. There was also a complete desktop hardware and software upgrade and replacement of mobile PCs.

Integration drive

One of the key objectives was to streamline integration architecture and configuration with Council’s Line of business systems and the EDRMS.

Solution provider Informotion was engaged to manage the EDRMS and Office365 migration projects as well as middleware integration to allow workflows between the EDRMS and Council’s Web site.

BRC needed to locate expertise for Lotus Notes/Domino groupware migration to Exchange Online, upgrading HP TRIM to Content Manager 9.3, and integration with the Civica Financials Platform. All three platforms have integration aspects and locating business partners across these requirements was proving difficult.

The email and EDRMS updates needed to be complete as prerequisites for a scheduled upgrade to Civica’s Authority version 7 later this year. In addition, there were several integrations with the HP TRIM application which were not going to function after upgrading to Content Manager.

BRC was faced with uncertainty over the cost and availability of updating these separate vendor solutions. Informotion’s Fusion integration engine was identified as the solution to consolidate and simplify these separately licensed and supported integrations.

Working closely with the team at BRC, Informotion first migrated all Lotus Notes/Domino user mailboxes to Exchange Online/Office 365. The deployment occurred over a pilot and 4 live stages allowing the BRC IT to support the business as it transitioned.

Devices that route mail messaging via the organisation’s email platform were identified, monitored, and updated to point to the new mail platform.

EDRMS upgrade

The second phase was the upgrade from TRIM 7 to Content Manager 9.3.3. This was delivered as a migration to new infrastructure, allowing the pilot and UAT to occur in parallel with ongoing daily use of the TRIM 7 environment. The cutover to Content Manager occurred smoothly with BRC delivering their own custom upgrade training to all personnel just prior to going live. All third-party integrations were transitioned cleanly with assistance from Canberra’s Preemptive Consulting to manage BRC’s custom email connection to Content Manager.

Once these two phases were complete, Informotion deployed Fusion its integration engine for Content Manager, with the first task to replace the legacy TRIM integration which exports appropriate file content out of the EDRMS to the cloud-based CMS used for the council’s public Web site.

BRC also took advantage of the powerful Content Manager Web application to replace a custom link generation middleware webservice which was previously providing document-specific links from the intranet. A simple find-and-replace across the intranet content to update the link syntax is all that was required.

Fusion has also replaced the Civica Authority “push” integration function into Content Manager. This will introduce a more robust integration, as well as delivering better and more complete support for the organisation’s Content Manager registration forms. The legacy integration requires the use of forms which do not enforce required data capture. This has historically resulted in poor data capture into the system and an increased retrospective workload for the Records team in monitoring and manually correcting metadata.

“We are about halfway through the process of moving people away from using local file server storage to SharePoint Online in OneDrive,” said O’Neill.

“Our Big Bang migration took about 15 months all up and was completed at the start of 2020. We trained everyone on Teams and then of course nobody used it. Then COVID came along and I’ve had more than one person say wasn’t it lucky you took us to Office365 and teams!”

“We also took the decision to supply all staff in 2019 with a headset and camera for their screens so we weren’t scrambling to find these things which became scarce as soon as COVID hit. Another bit of good fortune was holding off on selling about 60 HP laptops that were replaced by Lenovos last year, so we had them to distribute to staff working from home via Microsoft Direct Access Server.

“It was fortuitous that we had put in the collaborative suite of software that really helped us adapt to COVID.”

BRC now has staff split across four major sites in Bathurst including the Mount Panorama complex, normally buzzing every October with crew teams for the famous race.

The platform modernisation has delivered BRC the opportunity to leverage technology to streamline current processes in both the planning department and records, with flow on effects across the organisation.