Marlborough District Council moves to digital services

The Marlborough District Council is a unitary authority as provided for by the Local Government Act 2002, servicing a population of 45,900 in the Marlborough region, and contributing one percent of national GDP.

The council undertakes both regional and territorial functions for the district of Marlborough. The functions and responsibilities of council are diverse and are included in the Local Government Act 2002.

The Challenge

Marlborough District Council’s process for handling building consent and approvals for more than 3000 inspections annually was a manual process, and the timeliness of the service and data quality was compromised as a result.

The time spent by inspectors on admin meant there was often a waiting time of three to 3.5 days when booking an inspection. Additionally, there was often a waiting period from inspection completion until inspection field sheets were available to the public.

Marlborough District Council needed an inspection and booking solution, as well as a mobile field capture application, to increase efficiency, transparency and flexibility for council inspectors.

The Solution

Managing building consents and the inspection process is one of the many services offered by Marlborough District Council to its community.

Datacom was chosen to deliver because of its pre-existing relationship with Marlborough District Council; Datacom had a demonstrable, proven track record of enabling local government to more sustainably manage their operations and engage with local communities. Datacom had already proved its promise to Marlborough District Council in early 2013 when it implemented the Sphere platform for online services, including LIM and employment applications. This new Software as a Service (SaaS) platform was also capable of delivering smart forms to mobile devices. A decision was made to use this to replace the existing building inspection process.

Datacom’s Sphere Mobile Capture enables building inspectors to work offline and synchronise captured data to automate back office tasks. This device agnostic application is available on iPad, Android and Windows 8 smartphone or tablet devices.

Inspectors can now leave an inspection site knowing their work on the inspection is complete. With 3G coverage, they can immediately update Marlborough District Council’s records with inspection results and details by synchronizing their device; this also enables the property owner or builder immediate online access to the inspection details via Marlborough District Council’s website.

Administrators can assign jobs to inspectors by seeing availability and routes on the same screen, via Google Maps. Email and SMS inspection reminders have quickly become invaluable to customers.

Datacom’s tool has automated the way Marlborough District Council manages its building inspection process. It has streamlined the entire end-to-end process, ensuring all required information is captured, documented and fully auditable.

The Mobile Capture project was implemented in parallel with a similar rollout for Palmerston North City Council, which recently went live. The collaborative engagement between both councils to share forms, business processes and web services has ensured consistent outcomes.

The Technology

A mobile application delivering offline inspections for iOS, Android and Windows 8. The application is provided as a SaaS and hosted in Datacom’s Orbit and Kapua Data Centres with active disaster recovery. The Datacom SMS gateway is used to deliver inspection reminders by text message.

The Partnership

The Marlborough District Council IM department worked closely with Datacom to develop a clear understanding of what needed to be achieved early on. In addition to this the Council had a mature understanding of the product and were able to work with Datacom in an agile way. Throughout the project both Datacom and Marlborough District Council maintained open and clear communication, working through issues together to ensure the best outcome for everyone.

“We were impressed with Datacom’s project and development team throughout this project. The way they worked in partnership towards the end goal was particularly impressive."

Stacey Young - CIO, Marlborough District Council

The Results

  • Booking time for inspection went from up to 3.5 days to an average of one to two days.
  • Administration time for the inspection officer has been greatly reduced.
  • Significant improvements in the quality of data obtained during the inspection and process.
  • During the Building Consents Authority (BCA) accreditation audit, the technical experts were extremely impressed with the resulting inspection notes.
  • Marlborough District Council was recently awarded the 2014 Web and Digital Project of the Year by the Association of Local Government Information Management (ALGIM) for this project.