Reporting revamp for Vic council

Reporting revamp for Vic council

A Victorian local council is staying on the financial ball with a business process overhaul.

By Alicia Camphuisen

During its reign, Victoria's Kennett Government left its mark on a number of sectors, one of the largest and more experimental being on local council.

This effect began in 1995, when the Government amalgamated local jurisdictions to form 'super councils' that could service larger numbers of residents from one point.

Hot on the heels of this move came the introduction of Compulsory Competitive Tendering (CCT). Under this system, councils had to go to market and call for tenders to complete any service it intended to deliver, from roads to parks maintenance.

CCT also required councils to be more flexible with their financial management, as they had to be able to report to their business units on each contract at its conclusion, and not just at the end of each financial year.

Last year's change of State Government has changed the requirements of CCT, and prepared it as a framework of principles rather than legislation, but not before the information management behind CCT changed how many local councils operated.

"We needed to ensure there was a better support fabric"

It was this need to streamline its information collection and sharing that drove Darebin City Council (DCC) to overhaul its business systems, beginning again with a 'best of breed' approach in a new operating environment.

"We needed multiple reporting capabilities to improve our flexibility," said DCC director of finance and administration, Michael Ulbrick. "A contract could begin on a certain date in one year, and finish on a different date in a different year."

The DCC, which sits on Melbourne's northern fringe, provides more than 100 different services to its 130,000 residents. Due to its size, the council has an operational and capital works budget of $95 million.

Amalgamation made the DCC one of Victoria's largest local jurisdictions, and caused a series of changes to the council's process of delivering services. The main change was to the council's existing system, called Genesis, which managed human relations, payroll, property, financial and other applications on proprietary Oracle and KSAN flat files that restricted user access and information sharing.

"We had to rethink our computer capacity, and we were caught up in part by Y2K concerns," said Mr Ulbrick. "We realised our existing computer system was not good enough in two important respects - service delivery and Y2K. We needed to ensure there was a better support fabric in place for our 75 staff."


The project began in 1998, when the DCC committed $2.5 million in resources over three years to the implementation.

The DCC approached its new strategic development at the core, integrating a number of systems designed to manage individual business processes. It introduced the property and rating system GEAC, the organisational development, human relations and payroll system CHRIS, and updated its SHARIKATKHOO community services system.

This was complemented by a host of specialised applications to manage smaller elements of the council's business processes.

The DCC also needed a financial management solution to assimilate and break down information collected from these other sources, and then use this information to compile reports as the final step in the CCT process.

"We wanted seamless information movement, such as with creditor information obtained at one entry port and communicated to other groups," said Mr Ulbrick. "We wanted to move employee payment information from CHRIS, for instance, into a financial management tool with limited manual intervention.

"We survived Y2K intact, and were determined to move forward with further improvements to the council's IT structure, especially with reporting," he said.

The council selected the COOL iMergence financial reporting and management solution from Computron for this need.

Melbourne-based business systems consultancy Votar Partners assisted the DCC's project management team, which Mr Ulbrick chaired and which was composed of both management and technical staff.

Votar assisted with data conversion from Genesis files to the separate systems in which the DCC wanted its information to operate. The council initially moved to NT SQL Server 6.5, however as some of its new systems' databases were not compliant with this they have remained in an interim proprietary format.

The DCC has recently upgraded to SQL Server 7 and is now upgrading these databases so all of its new solution exist on one platform.

Information from other systems is collected by iMergence and can be broken down according to time period, and the cost of element within a contract job. This report is submitted to the council's business unit for reports to the State Government.

The DCC began using iMergence on July 1 last year. Although the implementation is complete, Mr Ulbrick said that the council is continuing to direct some in-house resources to its improving business processes with the new systems.

"We have extensive access to information, and can be flexible and timely in our reporting," he said. "We are still forming a style of reporting, but already there is greater accuracy and relevance with our information sharing."

This is planned to continue online, when the council prepares in July to provide an intranet over which staff can manage information.