Queensland’s Department of State Development drives project efficiency with Microsoft Planner

Department of State Development team members Melvin Lo and Sonya Booth”
Department of State Development team members Melvin Lo and Sonya Booth

The Queensland Department of State Development leads the delivery of economic outcomes for Queensland by driving business and industry opportunities for the state to create jobs and economic growth.  Its vision is to ensure that Queensland’s economy is Australia’s strongest and most diverse. The Department of State Development’s Business Solutions and Partnerships (BSP) team provides key business and corporate support functions across the department, including to 10 regional offices located throughout Queensland.  The 180-strong team operates in a high-volume, dynamic environment where accountability is crucial. Tracking project progress is critical in order to respond quickly to status enquiries or urgent requests. While BSP traditionally used spreadsheets and email to track and communicate project status new tools were sought to improve efficiency and accountability.

The solution came via the group’s IT team, which already had a solid working relationship with Microsoft, and its suggestion of using the cloud-based Microsoft Planner tool, which is part of Microsoft Office 365.

BSP Principal Executive officer, Maria Gates, who works closely with and provides crucial support to BSP Deputy-Director General, Michael McKee, was the first to recognise the program’s potential for meeting BSP’s project tracking requirements, and in fact made major adaptions to the tool to tailor it directly to the team’s needs.  Maria says this was a stand-out feature of the tool.

Maria and the BSP team were drawn to the possibilities for information sharing and project tracking, as Planner provides a centrally-managed hub that can be accessed by anyone with appropriate permissions.

Maria implemented a change management and training program to promote Planner’s benefits to BSP staff. Maria says planner is such a user-friendly tool that the roll-out was straight forward and universally embraced once staff fully understood the platform.

“Planner is so user-friendly that it didn’t need to fall into the category of comprehensive change management – it has been easy to implement just taking people through the bones of it and showing them how it will work for BSP.

“A key activity included re-inventing new language and communication points.  For example, we no longer use ASAP we just allocate as same day start (that is ASAP)”.

Maria says the training sessions were approximately 40 minutes and by the end new users were really comfortable with the program.

“I think for me the stand-out of the platform is its adaptability.  I was able to completely tailor it to BSP’s unique requirements”.

The results were immediately evident with Microsoft Planner widely embraced across BSP and Maria commencing the rollout-out across the department.

With Planner, users can now quickly see how far a project is from completion and identify projects which might report delays and require resourcing support. As a result, the BSP team can quickly get a handle on individual workloads and skill set gaps, helping BSP to share workloads evenly and up-skill existing staff to help fill gaps where workloads are heavy.

Planner allows for plans to be public or private.  This has been helpful in ensuring confidentiality is maintained.

Maria has taken this feature one step further.  Using her own initiative and detailed understanding of the tool’s capabilities Maria has been able to create individual plans for each of BSP’s six business units, controlling membership for each of the six plans and thus ensuring privacy across individual group plans where required.

Traditionally each Planner customer creates only one plan per organisation, but BSP has found the capacity for segmentation by business unit, has ensured the tools success across the organisation.  It has also enabled staff to identify pressure points in team work loads and to objectively view work flows and priorities.

Maria also estimates the tool has saved her and the Deputy Director General, BSP, Michael McKee up to a combined 15 hours a week in administrative and data entry tasks.

Most importantly Planner enables staff to provide project updates immediately – further improving relationships and communication throughout the group.

Extending the positive impact of Planner, it is now being considered for deployment across the department to streamline and simplify processes benefitting the Queensland economy. Additionally, Maria and her team are investigating how additional Microsoft solutions might further improve transparency and communication within BSP.

Considering many departments across all levels of government in Australia are looking at ways to boost productivity, collaboration, and respond to changing conditions Planner is central to supporting internal efficiencies and making for a more accountable workforce.

The steps taken by the Queensland Department of State Development should act as inspiration for others embarking upon similar journeys, because in the digital world having your finger across everything is the foundation of successful transformation.

To find out more about how the Department of State Development leads economic outcomes for Queensland visit: www.statedevelopment.qld.gov.au