Customer perspective: The practical steps to digitally transform in local government

What are the practical steps councils are taking to transform how they deliver value for employees, customers, and the community—driven by technology?

To find out, we spoke with Sarelle Sinclair, Senior Business Services Officer at Tablelands Regional Council in Far North Queensland, and Adele Taylor, Manager of Business Information Solutions at Shellharbour City Council in New South Wales.


Both councils partnered with TechnologyOne to digitally transform their organisations, shifting from an on-premise to a Software as a Service (SaaS) ERP solution. By adopting the Ci Anywhere platform, they were able to use their existing OneCouncil product in an integrated, cloud-based environment.

Why do you think having a clear vision is key to digital transformation success?

Adele Taylor, Manager of Business Information Solutions, Shellharbour City Council:

Having a clear vision allows us to optimise business processes with our customers’ needs at the forefront, all while ensuring the organisation is on the same path.

For example, we initially met with the Director of Community and Customers about what we wanted to achieve out of our transition to SaaS. The biggest concern, which was picked up in the New South Wales audit report, was the fact that we didn't have a business continuity environment.

Other than spinning up another site somewhere else at a huge expense to council, we had no other way to provide that business continuity offering. We knew that SaaS would make the transition smoother for us, and easier for staff in general.

Sarelle Sinclair, Senior Business Services Officer, Tablelands Regional Council:

We wanted to modernise our systems and overcome limitations such as an ageing infrastructure and the risks of operating in a remote, cyclone-prone area. Our strategy was fundamentally to go to the cloud utilising TechnologyOne’s SaaS solution, undertake a software upgrade to Ci Anywhere, and then continue to modernise our business processes using the system to facilitate them. The core principle driving this change was to provide improved stability, mobility, speed and service.

Often with changes like this end users can be resistant which may take you off your path or go of scope, so having a clear strategy helps you get back on track. Effective regular communications and clear concise objectives granted us to the ability to bring all of our end users on the journey — that ultimately is the core objective of “System modernisation”.

Manager Business Information Solutions
Shellharbour City Council

Having a vision allowed us to optimise business processes with our customers’ needs at the forefront, all while ensuring the organisation is on the same path.

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Why is it important to have a business plan before embarking on digital transformation?

Sarelle Sinclair (Tablelands)

The biggest drive from our corporate plan is “System Improvement”. Reviewing the move to SaaS to meet this area our “Future Plan” meant we had to consider the size of the investment and make a bigger decision about putting further dependencies on the core TechnologyOne system. Could it hold up to that? Our review showed it could.

Deciding that the TechnologyOne platform was our future opened up so many other possibilities. For a council our size, eliminating disparate systems and having one centralised platform was an opportunity to reduce our infrastructure costs, reduce maintenance costs, improve end user experience which ultimately improved community service delivery. These improvements were beyond what I could even describe really. It all made sense. And when you have that plan all lined out, you understand what your part is in the bigger picture.

Adele Taylor (Shellharbour)

Our business plan is our roadmap for digital transformation, because one key element is the strategies to be implemented in order to achieve a successful transformation. The plan sets clear outcomes, resourcing, and timelines to implement our vision and goals. It also provides us with an understanding of what the transformation will mean for us personally.

SaaS is a strategic enabler in our roadmap to digital transformation. SaaS facilitates a more rapid digital transformation with a lower risk, thereby redirecting resources to improve the customer experience and streamline internal business processes. The transition to Ci Anywhere will also be made simpler through SaaS and allow Council to seamlessly move across to Ci Anywhere, focusing on the customer rather than the backend infrastructure.

What are some tips for securing executive sponsorship?

Sarelle Sinclair (Tablelands):

Executive support was vital in helping us understand and communicate: Why are we doing this? So, once the corporate plan for the organisation was signed off, we had a discussion with the CEO about how we could deliver the digitisation journey.

We presented to our Senior Executive Team ‘Based on your requirements, this is what we recommend, and this is what you need to do to get there’. In all of our interactions with TechnologyOne, we presented regular updates to the Executive team to keep them informed. When the final contract was presented which we then delivered to the Senior Executive team there was little resistance with signing it off.

Adele Taylor (Shellharbour):

Be clear with expectations, celebrate successes and lessons learnt, and involve executives in getting the message out there to staff.

Initially, to get buy-in we wrote a fairly detailed report that was provided to all the Councillors and General manager. Then we did significant briefings with them to ensure they had the chance to ask questions and discuss the risks and benefits associated with the SaaS platform. It went to a council meeting and there were no questions raised; they were happy just to adopt it.

Senior Business Services Officer
Tablelands Regional Council

Executive support was vital in helping us understand and communicate: Why are we doing this? So, once the corporate plan for the organisation was signed off, we had a discussion with the CEO about how we could deliver the digitisation journey.

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What were the first steps you took in your digital transformation journey?

Sarelle Sinclair (Tablelands):

We interviewed people in council and what kept coming up was speed and mobility. Then we turned around and said, ‘Well guess what? Our future is your wish list, but we can only get there if you play a part in this’.

We did a project launch and got everybody excited about where we’re going. We created fun, interactive information guides and flyers. I didn't want to make this a daunting journey; I wanted to make it a fun journey.

We identified the critical key stakeholders that were needed to support the initial journey, and gave these ‘business area champions' a demonstration. Then we kicked-off user acceptance testing, and had all stakeholders involved in every aspect including go-live sign off. An added complexity was the unexpected arrival of COVID-19 adding a layer of challenges we has not factored in however, proved again how much we needed SaaS bringing forward our go live date.

Adele Taylor (Shellharbour):

We established clearly defined transformation objectives—for Council these focused on putting the customer at the forefront of each and every action. From there, the enablers were examined and business processes scrutinised to ensure customer-focused outcomes were delivered.

There were a lot of changes around our business processes and consolidating different systems over time. We’d started that whole transition earlier on in the piece, and then SaaS was the last step to get us across the line.

From here on in, we’re looking at the improved functionality that we can achieve through Ci Anywhere. The ability to access information any time and anywhere is quite significant for us—we can have staff work from home without special devices, and give work crews access to the work order system in the field.

Sinclair & Taylor signed off with their advice for other councils undergoing a digital transformation journey.

Taylor recommended: “Define a clear digital transformation strategy, engage early with executives for buy-in to support the strategic change, and communicate the “what’s in it for me” message to staff.”

Sinclair added: “Besides the executive support, have a really strong project team with extensive product knowledge. Our aim was to have an error-free environment before we handed it over to our end user, so they were more focused on learning the new environments than trying to iron out bugs. Also, talk to other councils and build a relationship with your provider.”

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