Manly is one of the nationally and internationally best known holiday destinations in Australia. Famously 'seven miles from Sydney and a thousand miles from care', Manly is described by its council as 'a thriving community where residents and visitors enjoy a clean, safe and unique natural environment enhanced by heritage and lifestyle'. An interesting historical sidelight is that Captain Arthur Philip named the area Manly in honour of the aborigines he found living there. As he observed in a letter to a friend: "…their confidence and manly behaviour made me give the name of Manly Cove to this place".
In February 2003 Manly Council became one of the earliest adopters of Infocouncil for the management of its agendas and minutes process. Relative to other councils of similar size, Manly's internal processes involve a large number of council officers in various aspects of the business papers process, and hence the prospect of automation appealed strongly.
Ariel Ellis, former Manager eBusiness & Information Systems, arranged for four key Infocouncil users to meet to discuss Infocouncil. This case study is based on information provided by these officers: the Administration Manager, the Manager Community Relations, the Office Manager Corporate Services and an Administration Officer closely involved in the Agenda and Minutes process. Quotations are directly from their joint feedback.
Although reports were typed into a template, they "always required re- formatting". Getting reports approved was a manual process and very time consuming. Dealing with attachments also took more time than this activity should need.
Because reports needed so much re-formatting, the manual process of agenda compilation was "very time consuming". It was not possible to incorporate late reports, so these were added under separate cover. As to changing the queue order of reports, this "was not possible". Confidential items could not be incorporated in the normal agenda, but had to be "created in a separate agenda as it was not possible any other way".
Minutes were kept in real time, but the process was time consuming.
Publishing to web
This was also a slow process.
These officers gave the original procedure for processing reports, agendas and minutes an overall rating of 3 out of 10.
Some early misgivings
When change was being contemplated, quite a few council officers had difficulty even contemplating that their present system could be improved. They were strongly wedded to the status quo, and resisted the introduction of Infocouncil on the traditional grounds, 'Where's the need? If it ain't broke don't fix it'. The software soon proved its worth.
Reports, agendas, minutes and action sheets
The appearance and quality of agendas and minutes are now rated as being "very good". The overall procedure is more efficient, and access to information, present and past, is "a lot easier". Using Infocouncil's action sheets to advise people of council's resolutions is particularly useful. "In an item with multiple resolutions, we can now enter information to let the action officer know which ones are applicable to them."
Efficiency of time usage
Those who compile and handle agendas and minutes now rate the process as "a lot quicker and easier".
Responses to the change
Although most Councillors did not notice any transition from the old to the new system, senior managers, including the relevant director, are "very happy" with the improvements. More junior staff are also "very happy – it’s user friendly and makes the process of minute taking easy."
Infocouncil received a rating of 8 out of 10, as compared with the rating of 3 for the original system.