Mildura Rural City Council
Mildura Rural City Council is forward thinking in its approach to managing business papers. Its officers realised early on that MS Word templates can be used to record agendas and minutes, but that this was no help in the management of the process. Employing approximately 500 people and managing ten percent of the area of Victoria, this large Council purchased a software package designed to manage agendas and minutes. Trina Keyte, the Governance officer responsible for the business papers process, says Council continued to use the software "… until the errors became so bad we started using Word again." This state of affairs persisted until Council purchased Infocouncil.
Trina Keyte describes the formatting of reports as being "… a nightmare, because when you copied them into an agenda all the formatting would go crazy. We had many complaints from management and Councillors about problems with numbering and formatting and in general."
Ms Keyte reports that "… it used to take a day just to format [the agenda] in Word." Trying to add late reports to an agenda at the last minute was also a "nightmare". As to recompiling agendas: "We couldn't recompile an agenda, we didn't have the time available." There was no system for getting reports approved, "… so it was hard to determine whether we actually had the final version of the report in the agenda." The problems relating to agendas were not restricted to the staff compiling them. Ms Keyte says: "I had many complaints from management about the quality of the agenda and the amount of mistakes that were occurring."
Minutes could not be taken in real time: "It used to take a week to do the minutes and they could not be done at the meeting."
Filing and publication
Filing and publication were even more tedious than compiling agendas and minutes. With filing, "… we had to PDF every single report and Trim every item separately." Web publishing "… was difficult too. Because the agenda was so large we had to PDF each report as a single item and upload them all separately. This was extremely time consuming."
Ms Keyte's account of the ways in which problems have been resolved, since the introduction of Infocouncil in mid 2008, can be summarised as follows:
Reports, agendas and minutes
"The appearance is fantastic and I no longer have to worry about formatting issues."
Ease of access to information
"This is great because Infocouncil automatically puts everything into Trim."
Efficiency of time usage
"I have saved at least two days out of my month by implementing Infocouncil and by changing our agendas to electronic instead of hard copy."
Action sheets for following up decisions
"Yes we use this module, it's fantastic."
Responses to the change
"The Councillors now get their agendas a lot earlier so they are happy. Senior staff are extremely happy with the quality and timeliness of the new process. All my authors including junior staff are happy with using Infocouncil and its ease of use."
Rating the past and present processes
Ms Keyte gave a rating of 1 out of 10 for the earlier system, and says "… so far [the system was installed in mid 2008] I would give Infocouncil 9 out of 10".
Ms Keyte's enthusiasm for Infocouncil is based on satisfaction of a long standing need. The experience of Mildura Rural City Council exemplifies the primary benefits of Infocouncil:
- problem-free collection and automatic formatting of reports;
- instant re-compiling of agendas to cope with changes and late reports as these occur;
- minute-taking in real time, so minimal work needs to be done with minutes prior to approval and publication;
- action sheets to create and monitor tasks arising from minutes; and
- administrator-controlled two-click publication to web in any format desired.