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Integrating the Auckland Council’s Computer Systems

Integrating the Auckland Council’s Computer Systems

Developing a robust computer system for the new Auckland Council is something in which I am vitally interested. Whilst the Mayor of North Shore City we progressively changed our business practices and introduced computer systems following a carefully managed programme. So being part of this new Council I want to know that we are pitching the introduction of new computer systems at the right level. Computers can be the making of an organisation; get it wrong and it will be a disaster.

Auckland Council is a “tier one” New Zealand enterprise in the same league as Fonterra and Telecom as far as size and complexity of the operation. The ranges of services provided are very broad and diverse. All the Council’s operations depend fully on computers, with many running on a 24-hour basis every day of the year.

Now with the Council well into its seventh month of operation, there has been no let up in the pace of change. Bringing together a billion dollar organisation certainly hasn’t been without its headaches. Integrating the delivery of service starts with trying to get the computer systems of the legacy Councils operating as one, which isn’t at all easy when you are trying to integrate over ninety individual systems.

Yes the seven territorial Councils of Rodney, North Shore, Auckland City, Waitakere, Manukau, Papakura and Franklin along with the Auckland Regional Council all had their own individual computer systems doing everything from payroll, rates collection, budgeting and accounts through to managing a whole host of Council assets.

Councils used to talk about better alignment of the computer systems, but it is clear now that over the years those ideas didn’t get far. The legacy Councils have invested more than $1 billion in IT systems over the years so its apparent there should have been greater efforts to achieve economies of scale.

Having been in the New Zealand Police when the INCIS system was introduced, any talk of new computer systems does make me somewhat nervous. It was therefore good to hear how the Chief Executive Mr Doug McKay and Chief Financial Officer Mr Andrew McKenzie plan to rationalize and stage the development of a new Information Technology (IS) plan over a period of years.

In the 2011/2012 year it is planned to spend $70 million on IS improvements. This spend will be made up of $20 million on achieving improved organisational stability, $42 million consolidating our rating, asset management and records systems and $8 million rationalizing our business and service delivery systems.

In making the changes, the Council is testing against six criteria asking the key questions: Will the investment improve customer service, mitigate a risk, and increase the capacity or capability of our people? These are our key focus areas right now. As we move on, we will place more emphasis on meeting legislative and regulatory requirements, search for cost savings and look how the new systems will help deliver the Council’s strategic plan.

I believe that producing first class business systems coupled with efficient information technology is the key to the future for Auckland Council. We also need to ensure that more and more residents can deal with their Council through the Internet website.

by George Wood