Full digital refresh for Marlborough District Council

Marlborough District Council supports more than 43,000 people spread over a 17,000-square-kilometre region in the north-east of the South Island. The Council undertakes both regional and territorial functions for the district of Marlborough, an area that attracts large numbers of tourists who, in the year ending March 2015, spent $296 million in the district alone.


The Challenge

Marlborough District Council’s existing intranet was no longer supporting the Council’s increasingly digital way of working. It was hierarchical rather than staff-centric, with many out-of-date pages comprising disengaged content ‘owners’. Council staff found the intranet difficult to navigate and subsequently were not actively engaged in using it as a tool to assist them in their roles.

The Intranet’s corporate and formalised layout also looked dated and its inflexible design prevented a complete redesign.  

To enact the necessary changes, the Council required the right advice on best practice in order to boost staff engagement, while empowering its staff and encouraging collaboration across the Council. They needed a solution that would be easy to use and accessible to all, regardless of technical ability.

The Datacom Difference

Marlborough District Council was familiar with the Sphere Intranet and its shared services model. Datacom’s investment into this model provides benefits to all council users, including access to Datacom’s experienced specialists and software developers. Sphere Intranet offers a complete content-managed Intranet solution, designed for modern organisations which need fast and accurate access to information through clear navigation and comprehensive search capabilities. This can be configured personally so that views of content can be shared easily, encouraging collaboration with colleagues through a modern social networking experience.

The Council understood that this tool would save time and resources, particularly as it had been previously tested with other councils. This meant it knew it could undertake a significant change in information architecture with confidence, knowing the model had been used successfully elsewhere. As a shared service, it also stood to benefit from the ongoing development undertaken by fellow users, which in effect future-proofs its network.      

Wanting its solution to be friendly to give the implicit impression of an extra, helpful staff member, the Council decided to create a character, and held a staff competition for naming ideas. The winner was Sid (Staff Information Database), which resulted in the creation of Sid the robot, a character who reflects the organisation’s increasing focus on digital technologies and provides a support mechanism for people having trouble navigating the site. Sid’s design, and that of the whole intranet, was a collaborative effort between the Council and Datacom.


As a result, people can find the information relevant to them and announcements have been made available to all users. This means that Marlborough District Council now has one place to pull together its shared, collective knowledge with easier access to information. Staff are already comfortable using the intranet and are able to access key information and updates as and when required.  

Marlborough District Council offers many of its services online, including Datacom’s Mobile Capture, Online Dog Services, online forms, and online credit card payments, which also utilise Datacom’s payment gateway. Currently Datacom is working with the Council on its new Sphere Multi-channel 2 website, and two other projects leveraging Datacom’s Sphere Online Services platform are under way. The Council is also trialling Antenno, Datacom’s new mobile app, designed to assist councils distribute information quickly to people in its community. Datacom continues to work closely with the Council to build its online services.

“The future-proofing, shared services and having a vendor that is actively engaged in helping us and allowing us to leverage its skills and knowledge was very important.”

Stacey Young, Chief Information Officer, Marlborough District Council