Plain sailing for process management
Port Stephens Council has mapped 1300 business processes, leading to cost savings, more staff collaboration and improved accountability.
The Port Stephens region in New South Wales has very diverse social, environmental and economic characteristics and is known for its natural beauty, making it an ideal recreational, tourist and retirement destination, as well as a great place to live and work.
Population growth (the number of locals has grown from 56,677 in 2001 to 68,935 in 2013), combined with increasing development and tourism, continues to place pressure on the environmental integrity, character and attributes of the local government area.
In recent years, Port Stephens Council has adopted the Australian Business Excellence Framework (ABEF), an integrated leadership and management system that guides organisations to sustain high levels of performance. It also helps to assess and improve different aspects of the business from leadership, strategy and planning, to people, information and knowledge, safety, service delivery and bottom-line results.
“We had previously adopted the ABEF, and one of the core categories of this is an understanding of process management, improvement and innovation,” said Craig Robinson, the council’s business excellence officer.
“We wanted all functions and activities within council to have their processes mapped, managed, reviewed and continuously improved in order to deliver an agreed level of output to both internal teams as well as external residents in terms of customer service.”
However, the council’s existing Visio software was increasingly unable to support the scale required for ABEF, nor could it provide a systematic approach to process management so that teams could map, capture and record both existing and new processes.
Following a comprehensive market review of available solutions, the council opted to deploy Promapp’s cloud-based business process management software to document processes and support business sustainability.
Promapp was selected based on several critical criteria, including its robust integration with council IT systems and its ability to map individual processes end to end across the organisation. Promapp integrates with the council’s SharePoint platform and has automated links to its TRIM records information management, making processes accessible, usable and rapidly changeable.
“At the same time, we were attracted by Promapp’s Local Government Shared Process Library which enables us to both share knowledge and learn from the experience of more than 265 councils throughout Australia and New Zealand,” said Robinson.
“It also complements our Lean, Six Sigma approach, which enables us to work smarter and improve efficiency by streamlining workflows.”
A phased approach
During the first phase of the Promapp implementation, the council focused its efforts on securing senior executive support.
“Buy-in from senior management was vital, and their commitment needed to be clearly communicated to all staff,” said Robinson.
Effective ownership needed to exist everywhere from the very top of the council through to front-desk staff. Extensive training was put in place to clearly explain why the shift to being process centric was required and the benefits this would deliver. The council staged a four-day planning workshop that focused on the critical aspects of strategy, governance and communication.
“We also felt that the ownership of processes needed to be decentralised and communicated. Each group needed to understand that it owns its own processes and is responsible for constantly improving them,” said Robinson.
In the second stage of deployment, all processes were transferred from Visio into Promapp, and this included attaching supporting documentation to relevant processes. During this time, the council also continued to focus heavily on training and communication as well as garnering the continued support of senior management.
“For the initiative to succeed, staff needed to believe in what they were doing and the methods they were using to do it. Process management needs to become more than just the documents, but a new way of operating,” said Robinson.
Today, Port Stephens Council has more than 260 active users on Promapp and process improvement is a mandatory topic for discussion at all official council meetings.
More than 1300 processes are mapped in Promapp, covering everything from development application approvals to customer service requests and corporate annual reporting, supporting the council’s key strategies for customer service and business improvement. These are key leadership processes that all employees must follow.
Since going live, Promapp has also fuelled increased collaboration and communication between different departments. Staff now have clear accountability and a better understanding of where their process starts and ends.
In addition, processes are reviewed every 12 months. Out-of-date reviews continue to improve with 93% of process reviews completed each year. Group reporting is boosting accountability while staff can now easily identify and follow the correct process.
“The bottom line is that with Promapp we have realised clear savings to the council,” said Robinson. “Time efficiencies have resulted in savings of $6500 per year for the creation of new processes while $28,600 is being saved each year in reviewing and modifying processes.
“People now understand what we do, who is responsible for it and when it needs to be completed.
“The key to a good business process management deployment is to have a really good training framework and a clear reporting mechanism to senior management,” added Robinson. “You need to get people to believe in and value the processes they own.”
The new approach seems to be working. Earlier this year, Port Stephens Council was recognised as Employer of Choice at the annual Career Development Association of Australia awards.
Phone: 02 8188 2718
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