Late last year City of Greater Dandenong in Victoria’s greater Melbourne region took the decision to move to a new, custom-built resident portal that brings numerous public facing council systems together.
The project was achieved using off-the shelf products but was built by several partners who were able to provide a bespoke solution at a manageable cost, senior IT coordinator James Hickmott tells Government News.
While it’s still early days the decision has already resulted in ‘obvious improvements’, including better service provision for ratepayers and a lighter workload for staff, Mr Hickmott says.
The portal only requires a single sign-in, but it is also capable of translating information into more than 130 languages – something Mr Hickmott says was important for Australia’s most culturally diverse LGA, which has more than 160,000 residents from over 150 different birthplaces, nearly two-thirds of whom were born overseas.
Improving service delivery
The project came in response to a need to improve how services were delivered and information was accessed.
Allowing residents to access information whenever and wherever they wanted to, without having to send an email or call Council, was a key part of this.
“In order to better deliver services to residents, Council were looking for a way to give residents to get access to the information they need at their own leisure,” Mr Hickmott says.
Most staff within organisations can log into corporate applications with one username and password, so why couldn’t we offer the same to our residents?James Hickmott
“Part of the discovery process we quickly realised that the customer experience was something that had been neglected.
“There were up to six public facing council systems that all had their own login facility, meaning residents could have up to six usernames and passwords to interact with council.
“Most staff within organisations can log into corporate applications with one username and password, so why couldn’t we offer the same to our residents?”
When council initially went to tender for off the shelf solutions it received responses ranging from $400,000 to as much as $2 million.
“This was seen as being too expensive for the solution we were looking for,” Mr Hickmott says.
“We had to go back to the drawing board and look for a better way to implement a suitable solution.”
So the project management team instead looked to building a solution with a number of different partners, providing a custom-built product.
“As much as the final solution was custom-built, it used off-the-shelf products and partnership with companies who were willing to work together to build exactly what was required,” he says.
The final outlay came to $150,000, with the project taking around 12 months from start to finish.
The components in the final product included existed of Single Sign On (Okta), Frontend website developed ( Demonz Media), Integration platform (Boomi), API’s developed by Atturra and Master Data Management by Experian.
The Single Sign On system enables residents to log onto various public facing systems with the same username and password and in some cases move from one public facing system to another without having to re-enter login details.
“This is of course a huge improvement as it was quite common previously for a resident to change a password for one system and not knowing there was another system with different credentials,” Mr Hickmott says.
As well as eliminating the need for multiple customer logins, the portal is also able to provide customers with some information that was previously only accessible by calling customer service or sending and email, Mr Hickmott says.
“Staff who have been part of the initial trials and prototypes are seeing how the portal will reduce the need for residents to directly contact council via phone or email and get access to information quicker and simpler any time they need,” he says.
Mr Hickmott says the portal will to continue to receive ongoing updates and provide more information to the residents, with possible future enhancements including leisure membership information, library membership information, newsletter management, payment reminders, and mobile app.
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