NSW councils turn to TechnologyOne to prepare for new planning and reporting laws

NSW local councils are working with Australian software company, TechnologyOne, to cope with two of their most pressing issues; the cost of maintaining vital infrastructure, and proposed legislative changes to their planning and financial reporting framework.

A survey released on 25 May found more than a third of NSW's 100 largest councils were unable to meet their maintenance costs, prompting calls for more State and Federal funding.

Two weeks earlier the NSW State Government announced draft legislation changing councils' planning and reporting structures, requiring them to develop a 10-year Community Strategic Plan, a Resourcing Strategy, and a four-year Delivery Program.

A media release issued by the office of Local Government Minister Barbara Perry stated, 'the new framework is designed to help councils avoid over-committing to projects they simply cannot afford... all councils will be required to examine the life-time costs of their assets - not just the upfront costs'.

Penrith City Council has won awards for sustainability and strategic planning and is preparing for the new legislation over the next twelve months. It is currently working on a ten-year plan using TechnologyOne software among its key tools and already has an inventory of its assets and a plan and budget for their maintenance, which will also be required under the proposed laws.

TechnologyOne Senior Business Consultant, Ross Kingsley, was formerly the Corporate Development Manager at Penrith City Council, where he helped pioneer the award-winning four-year delivery program proposed in the draft framework.

Mr Kingsley has been involved in the development of both the draft legislation as part of the Department of Local Government's reference group, and the design and implementation of TechnologyOne's Performance Planning product - a tool to help local councils build long-term strategies.

He said although the total package of proposed reforms will help NSW councils adopt a more holistic approach, the issue facing them at present was how to define, meet and measure the key performance indicators (KPIs) they have to set for themselves.

"The objectives for the 10-year Community Strategic Plan could be as broad as improving safety on the streets or the health of waterways, while specific KPIs will be required for annual operations" Mr Kingsley explained.

"So councils are now asking themselves what success will look like, how to allocate resources to achieve it, and how to measure it at the one, four and ten-year stages.  They will have up to three years to phase in their new systems once the legislation passes, but some councils will be able to take a lead on this."

Mr Kingsley also advised that councils need to work together in the absence of an official State Government measurement framework, and ensure their systems are integrated, robust and flexible.

"It is vital that councils continue to work together to develop best practice - most have welcomed the principles of the proposed changes but there isn't a model for reporting like there is in other Australian states," Mr Kingsley said.

"The other key to success is having integrated financial, asset management and strategic planning systems so councils can easily access key data to help them build strategies based on fact, and then, once the new plans are in place, they can track and effectively report on their KPIs," he said.

"Even if they cannot afford to replace certain legacy systems, they need to find a way to make them talk to each other so the data is accurate and comprehensive."

TechnologyOne has been working closely with a number of councils, including Penrith, the City of Sydney and Wagga Wagga to integrate and upgrade their existing systems.  In addition to its Performance Planning product, the software company's Financials, Enterprise Budgeting and Works & Assets products are used by many NSW Councils.

TechnologyOne local government solutions include: 

TechnologyOne Performance Planning delivers integrated strategic and operational planning processes, while aligning the philosophies of quadruple bottom line reporting of environmental, social, economic and governance performance. It can be customised to each user's desktop and prompt them to complete tasks, track against their KPIs, and enable them to run ad-hoc and standard reports.

TechnologyOne Works & Assets enables councils to calculate which of their assets' costs outweigh their lifecycle value, where to optimise performance, how to minimise maintenance costs, and which assets may not be meeting the required service levels.

TechnologyOne Financials delivers enterprise wide control and integration of financial information essential to strategic decision making and improving the bottom line. Through its unique financial architecture, rich functionality, powerful online enquiries, and versatile reporting ability, the solution provides the ability to interpret accounting and financial information more efficiently.

Founded 22 years ago in Brisbane, TechnologyOne employs more than 700 staff throughout Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and the United Kingdom.