TechnologyOne iCouncil empowers Sutherland tree inspections

Sutherland Shire Council is located at the southern coastal border of the Sydney metropolitan area, and is the second largest local government body in New South Wales, covering a total area of 370km2 and overseeing a population of 220,000. The council employs around 1000 staff, which are divided among  five divisions : Community & Recreation Services, Corporate Services, Engineering, Environmental Services and Property.

The challenge

The Council was using an in-house mobile solution for conducting tree assessments, which had reached its use by date due to advances in mobile systems, network coverage and smart devices. Staff began their day in the office by downloading inspections from the system into Toughbooks and following onsite assessments had to travel back to the office to upload job information back into the system. Staff became frustrated as Toughbooks were difficult to transport and network and security restrictions meant only one staff member could upload information at a time.

The solution

Sutherland Shire Council implemented TechnologyOne Property & Rating and Financials in November 2011.  Around that time, the decision was also made to implement TechnologyOne's Mobile solution and six weeks later the Council's Environmental Services division went live with its iCouncil app to help facilitate mobile tree assessments.

The outcome

As the Council already had an in-house mobile solution, it was in a strong position to implement iCouncil. Five tree assessment staff are now using the app's Inspection module on iPads. As a result, the Council has been able to increase the rate of assessments by 20 per cent, eliminate data duplication and onerous administration processes, and utilise 3G technologies for an integrated, completely mobile solution.

Sutherland Shire Council has always looked to innovate its services and envisages mobile will bring many benefits to its other departments. The Council is also working closely with TechnologyOne to help improve iCouncil for other local government bodies.

The council's Environmental Health and Regulation unit is the next division to roll out the app, while business and efficiency opportunities are also being reviewed by engineering staff.  

Instantaneous information

TechnologyOne's iCouncil app has allowed Sutherland Shire Council staff to complete tree inspections electronically and in real time.

Sutherland Shire Council Operations Manager Environmental Services, Simone Plummer, said the iCouncil Inspections module offered the flexibility the department's field staff required.

"No one likes going out with a form and clipboard, then coming back to the office to re-enter all the information into a computer - our department loves working outdoors and iCouncil allows staff to complete their work in the field," said Ms Plummer.

Implementation of the app is straightforward as all iCouncil modules integrate with maps, phone, internet and email to optimise the quality of information and enable maximum efficiency.

The app is available to any local government body using TechnologyOne Property & Rating.

"We have never flown through an implementation like we have with TechnologyOne. It took less than six weeks for us to go live," Ms Plummer said

"Most of the time, organisations are tied up with colossal technology concerns such as server set up, but TechnologyOne systems and their high level of integration allowed for a completely streamlined process.

"Now that technical staff understand the iCouncil product, further roll out of the tool can be completed within a few hours or days at the most."

Key benefits

Configured using fast and simple application features such as event checklists, application conditions and events workflow, iCouncil functions make inspections easier by granting staff the ability to start and end work in the field rather than the office.

With tree inspectors able to receive work directly and report assessment results immediately, Sutherland Shire Council has already realised several benefits.

Significant time savings have been made, along with greater accuracy as a result of automatic updates and data security with iOS data protection features.
Under the old mobile system, tree inspectors were getting through an average of 75 applications a week, but with iCouncil they are now able to complete around 90 applications a week.

"Our staff are able to respond to jobs quicker with access to real time information and we are subsequently providing customers with more efficient service," said Ms Plummer.

"By using a completely mobile solution, our small tree inspections team is no longer tied up in travel and administration."

Furthermore, the Council has eliminated significant Occupational Health & Safety concerns by getting rid of Toughbooks, which were very heavy and extremely difficult to haul around on the job.

Working together to deliver results

Since going live with iCouncil, Sutherland Shire Council has provided TechnologyOne with valuable feedback to ensure the app is optimised for other local government bodies.

"TechnologyOne has been very receptive to our feedback and we are still working with its staff to guarantee the most effective results with iCouncil," said Ms Plummer.

"For example, risk is a big factor in the tree assessment business and we have a thorough checklist that consists of about 160 items, which need to be uploaded, reviewed and processed quickly.

"From our work with iCouncil, TechnologyOne has gained a strong understanding of how councils want to use checklists and how complicated they are likely to get."

Moving residents online

With tree inspectors assessing more than 5,000 trees annually, Sutherland Shire Council has mounting pressure on its resources to deliver efficient services.

"Tree applications are free and as a result our inspection team is swamped all year round," said Ms Plummer.

"iCouncil is a significant investment for a free service, but it has certainly proved worthwhile."

The next stage for the Environmental Services division is to get residents to embrace online applications.

"A lot of administration is involved with paper applications, especially when customers must provide detailed documentation of where the tree in question is located on the site.

"We will be able to fully utilise iCouncil when residents can lodge applications online - which we are working on - and although it may result in a small fee, it would grant residents service at the click of a button, making the whole procedure that much simpler."