Episode 4: Paul Deb
CEO, City of Burnside
One of the biggest challenges facing executives is the pressure to match the demand for improved services, while reducing costs. Delivering more for less is a simple problem, but in local government it can be hard to deliver, given the vast array of services the sector provides. City of Burnside CEO Paul Deb discusses why digital innovation is key to unlocking long-term benefits and delivering better services to the community.
The costs for providing services and maintaining infrastructure are increasing, as are resident and business expectations around service provision. The overall effect is that councils are expected to provide a wide range of services, whilst ensuring these are relevant to the community and delivered in the most efficient and effective manner possible.
To meet these expectations, councils need to explore new models of service delivery. Technology plays a significant role in how citizens interact with councils, so it has become increasingly important for councils to look at how they can integrate digital services and social media throughout their organisation. This is critical, given community engagement and participatory decision making is at the forefront of everything they do.
I find that the best way to drive digital transformation is to create a culture where staff are empowered to innovate. Fostering an atmosphere where different business units can collaboratively work together has been critical to our success, and has enabled us to transform our business operations and customer experience over the past couple of years.
Alongside a culture of innovation, implementing solid and robust enterprise software has been a key enabler in our digital transformation journey. Up until June 2017, we still operated using largely paper-based processes and had to pay admin staff to double handle information and key data into our CRM. Not only was this a frustrating and time-consuming experience for our customers, it was impacting our operational efficiency.
At the end of last year, we pioneered the latest TechnologyOne Asset Lifecycle Management software, Work Orders, which has digitised and streamlined this process. Every work order is integrated into our TechnologyOne Asset Management system, allowing us to track the time and resource used in maintaining our assets. Digitising manual processes has transformed our organisation. We now have data that is a hundred times better than we’ve ever had, meaning we have very powerful business intelligence and can leverage this for evidence-based decision-making in the future.
We have also launched an ‘Action Burnside’ portal, where customers can see the status of their requests, as well as a map of other requests in their neighbourhood. It’s super intuitive and easy to use, seamlessly integrates with our CRM Work Orders software, and makes for a much better customer experience.
Looking further ahead, optimising our software to further streamline operations will remain a key focus. We are currently working on upgrading our software to TechnologyOne’s Ci Anywhere platform, which will essentially offer greater flexibility to our workforce by enabling them to work on any device, anywhere in the world at any time.
It’s sometimes challenging to convince some elected members and members of the community that an investment in technology is key to longer-term efficiencies and improved asset management. Anything that does not provide a visible service improvement such as footpaths, roads or playgrounds can be a lot more difficult to gain support for. There is always a dilemma where people find councils to be a bit antiquated, yet any substantial investment in modernising digital services or costs related to creating more efficient shared service models with other councils is often criticised.
We have found that when a transformation project provides a visible benefit for the community and receives positive feedback, such as the Urban Forest interactive website we recently implemented, it reassures us that we are headed in the right direction and creates an appetite for further innovation.
We rely heavily on technology to deliver some of our core services, so having a healthy and positive relationship with our technology vendor has been key to ensuring these services are delivered effectively. Burnside has used TechnologyOne for a very long time because it understands the needs of our council and has developed cost-effective solutions that support our tightly-funded projects.
My advice to other executives looking for a technology partner is to select a vendor whose product roadmap aligns with your vision and digital strategy; one that can meet the current and future requirements of your business. Alongside this, choosing a vendor that provides a high level of support is crucial in order to maintain business continuity during periods of change, and ensure the technology you implement is flexible enough to customise your user experience.
Smart City outcomes are on our horizon and a key theme in our Corporate Plan. We are currently working with the University of Adelaide, The City of Prospect, The City of Campbelltown, The City of Port Adelaide-Enfield and the City of Playford to deliver a ‘Connected Places’ program, which is a linked series of sensors that will provide useful data from a major swathe of Adelaide’s metropolitan area. This will provide de-identified pedestrian data that is reliable, timely and provides usage data for Council assets and business areas.