With new families to welcome every day, Cardinia Shire is further improving its use of data to power smarter decisions
More than one thousand six hundred babies. Over seven hundred thousand visits to local swimming pools. Almost two thousand new homes built.
These are just some of the statistics illustrating the annual growth of Cardinia Shire, one of Australia’s fastest growing municipalities – and one of its most forward-thinking when it comes to using technology to enhance local government operations.
A municipal Council that serves 90,000 residents in the southeast side of Melbourne, Cardinia Shire’s population is forecast to double by 2036. Property turnover was the second highest in Victoria last year.
“With as many as seven new families calling Cardinia Shire home each day, it’s imperative that the Council makes smart decisions about resourcing to ensure residents get access to the services they need. This means fast access to key information that improves planning,” says Stephen Whitehead, IT Business Systems Leader for Cardinia Shire’s Corporate Services division.
Shining the light on data
Responsibility lies with the Corporate Services division to support the Council’s efforts to provide residents with services ranging from pet registrations and fire inspections to rubbish collection and planning permits.
Corporate Services were doing a great job providing access to data that was necessary for these operations, however, they had an idea that they could do things even better. They had a vision of providing decision makers with near real time access to important data, in formats that were even more user friendly than the reports that the organisation had become accustomed to. They also believed that greater interaction with data, across the organisation, would naturally lead to easier and quicker identification of any data quality issues.
The Corporate Services team also had their own interests in mind. “While we are proud of the work that goes into our traditional reporting, it does take some time to prepare a 100-page quarterly report,” Porshia Sidhu, Senior Business Planning and Performance Analyst, Corporate Services, Cardinia Shire Council, says. “Through our new approach, we have managed to cut our report development time by up to 90%.”
With a significant reduction in the time required to prepare reports and provide internal access to data, the Corporate Services team were very interested in providing the community with even greater insights into the operation of their Council.
Transparency for the Community
Cardinia Shire Council has always been acutely aware of the need to provide the community with information on its operations.
“Sometimes people don’t get a clear sense of what they’re paying rates for. A lot of our work gets taken for granted,” Peter Philp, Manager of Service Planning and Improvement, Cardinia Shire Council, says. “We are always looking for more transparency in telling people what we’re doing and how it affects them.”
The Corporate Services team wanted to automate more of its work, increasing the speed and accuracy of data sharing while improving public trust with greater transparency. They started trialling various options but still needed workarounds because none solved the issue entirely.
Adopting Microsoft’s Power BI has been key to allowing the Corporate Services team achieve their goals. Reporting has been further automated and visual dashboards have been developed in-house, to display key data clearly for internal and external stakeholders. The amount of time staff must wait for data has been significantly reduced.
Staff productivity has further increased, with work focused on analysis and collaboration rather than pulling report findings together. The results have been exactly what the Corporate Services team were looking for, given their role of supporting such a lean organisation.
A virtuous cycle
The expected benefits regarding data quality have also materialised, through using Power BI to bring data to the foreground. Accountability for data quality has also increased.
“While our data accuracy has historically been good, if data is put on a public dashboard and it’s wrong, it’s more likely to be questioned and cleaned up than if it’s buried in a 100-page document,” Jo Battin, Senior Planning and Performance Analyst, Corporate Services, Cardinia Shire Council, says. “Same if there’s a big gap where that data is supposed to be. With the level of data visibility that we are designing, we are finding that the organisation is being very responsive in the effort to ensure there are no gaps in our data.”
Awareness of the importance of data and its ability to contribute to improvements within the organisation has grown.
“We have people asking why their data isn’t in certain reports. This sort of interaction with the data is a real positive. It is the type of interaction that we have always aspired to, and Power BI has played a key role in our efforts to achieve this.” Battin says.