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Gwydir Shire Council

Introduction

The Gwydir region is in North Eastern New South Wales and represents two per cent of the total area of the Murray-Darling Basin. The region has a population of around 26 500 people and it’s largest town is Moree. The Gwydir valley is well known for its irrigated and dry land cropping as well as livestock production. In addition to the traditional crops of wheat, barley, oats and sorghum, there are olive groves, pecan nut plantations and freshwater fish farms in the Gravesend district.

Heading Northwest from the timbered surrounds of the town of Warialda and the close-knit community of Coolatai, the countryside opens into an undulating vista of basalt farmland. This part of the Shire which include the villages of Crooble, Croppa Creek and North Star, is known as the 'Golden Triangle'. Farmers using advanced farming techniques, such as minimum tillage and satellite guidance systems, produce a variety of high yielding crops such as wheat, barley sorghum, maize, chick peas, canola and cotton to name just a few. This area also has several cattle feed lots which supply grain fed beef to the Australian domestic market and export markets throughout the world

Prior to the introduction of Infocouncil, Council used Word templates for reports, agendas and minutes, and they distributed and recorded these manually. Gwydir Shire Council decided to make the transition to Infocouncil in May 2005. We conducted a before and after satisfaction survey with this council in December 2008. Max Eastcott, Gwydir Shire Council’s General Manager, kindly provided us with feedback.

We have reproduced the questions that we asked Max. Max’s answers are set out alongside each question.

Before Infocouncil

Q : Originally, were you just using Word for your agendas and minutes, or were you using other proprietary software?
A : Word

Q : Did reports not being in a standard format, or not using a required style, lead to much re-formatting, cutting and pasting, etc?
A : There was some use of templates for reports but the entire process was time consuming

Q : Did this lead to any difficulties or inefficiencies in collating agendas?
A : Page numbering was difficult and could not occur until the very end or if you numbered early you couldn’t put the reports into a final priority order based upon importance

Q : How about late reports possibly making a mess of sequencing or pagination?
A : These were just added to the end of the agenda – not really a problem

Q : Were there any filing irritations?
A : No there was a defined naming regime

Q : How about ease of getting reports approved?
A : All reports were read by GM and approved by him

Q : Any difficulties with electronic or hard copy attachments?
A : Page numbering was the only problem

Q : And recompiling agendas: was there any irritation and waste of time there?
A : Yes you needed all documents before you could commence the process

Q : Were minutes kept in real time?
A : No

Q : Were there any problems with minutes capture?
A : Hand written notes and then typed

Q : How did you publish agendas and minutes to the web?
A : PDF’d and then uploaded

Q : Overall, taking everything into account, how would you rate the old system, out of 10?
A : 5

After Infocouncil

Q : So turning now to Infocouncil, what changes have occurred since its introduction, specifically the appearance and quality of agendas and minutes? Any change?
A : Quality of product has improved

Q : Are there any hold-ups or other inefficiencies with the new system?
A : No real hold-ups other than writers not meeting deadlines

Q : How easy is it to access information, present and past?
A : Very easy

Q : Compare the efficiency of use of time by those who compile and handle the agendas and minutes?
A : Improved

Q : How happy are senior management with the process overall?
A : Very happy

Q : Describe the happiness of IT with the process
A : No problems

Q : You gave the old system a rating of 5 out of ten. Taking everything into account, how would you rate Infocouncil, out of 10?
A : 8

Previous system: 5
Infocouncil: 8