Hornsby Shire Council
Viewed from the main roads passing through it, the Shire of Hornsby can appear to be mainly urban, but only 10 per cent of the Shire is zoned urban, and a further 20 per cent is zoned rural or open space, with the remainder being National Park and Nature Reserve. At 510 square kilometres, Hornsby is the second largest local government area in the Sydney region, and is proud to call itself the Bushland Shire.
In many ways, Hornsby was satisfied with the performance of the proprietary software they had used for years to prepare and publish their business papers. In response to the question: ‘Overall, taking everything into account, how would you rate [that system] out of 10?’, Pauline Adams, Team Leader Business Systems, gave Council’s original software an overall rating of 7.5.
Standard formats were part of the original software templates and presented no problems, but any required format or layout changes could be done only by the software developer. Additionally, basic formatting within the body of the report, eg tables, bullet points etc was very difficult to achieve and/or amend. Also, Ms Adams reports: “The size of attachments was an issue and was restricted to 20 pages electronically.” This was frequently an irritating constraint.
There were no difficulties in collating agendas, although problems were experienced when late reports interfered with sequencing or pagination. Pagination of the compiled Agenda was not an automated process, and could only be achieved through the printing of the document via a commercial docutech type system.
Minutes were easily kept in real time.
Filing and publication
This was perhaps the least satisfactory aspect of the original system. According to Ms Adams, “… you needed to export the reports/ minutes/actions from [the system] and catalogue them in Trim [Council’s EDRMS], which was very time consuming.” Also, standard un-itemised sections of the Minutes, e.g. Apologies, Declarations of Interest, were not able to be replicated on the web site.
Notwithstanding the overall level of satisfaction with the earlier process for managing business papers, several improvements have been noticed since Council decided to adopt Infocouncil for the purpose.
Reports, agendas and minutes
The appearance and quality of the agendas and minutes has “greatly improved”, both in presentation of hard copy and on the web. The large amount of time required to transfer papers into Trim has also disappeared. This is because Infocouncil files the papers directly and automatically in Trim, in the correct folder, eliminating all manual work. Ms Adams reports that staff are “extremely pleased” with the system as compared to the previous process. Automatic page numbering and ‘attachment stamping’ has greatly reduced the time to create an agenda.”
Efficiency of time usage
Ms Adams says Infocouncil is “… so much quicker, which means the agendas and minutes are available to staff, councillors and customers in a more timely manner.”
Action sheets for following up decisions
Action sheets are now able to carry more information than previously, and can be designed to suit Council by simply changing a template.
Responses to the change
Ms Adams says senior staff have commented that, “… it is simpler and so much quicker.” She adds: “Very minimal training was required, and even if you don’t have training you can still complete a report.”
Rating the past and present processes
Ms Adams gives a rating of 9 out of 10 for Infocouncil, as compared with her rating of 7.5 for the original system.
The main benefits Hornsby Shire Council has experienced since changing over from the original business papers management system to Infocouncil include:
- Much greater ease of formatting within a document and the use of templates has resulted in greatly improved presentation of documents.
- Instantaneous transmission of Reports and Action Sheets into the EDRMS.
− Very much quicker preparation and presentation of agendas and minutes, a change appreciated by senior staff.
− Greatly increased efficiency in publishing documents to the web site.
− Much more efficient use of time by all relevant staff.
− Reduced stress and tension in the management of the entire process.