Melbourne Water speeds workflow with automated system

Information technology has delivered for Melbourne Water, cutting 20 days off a task that was previously manual.

Tony Cox, IT projects manager for the Victorian Government agency, said automating the assessment of land development applications brought "consistency" to a "cumbersome and manual" task.

Some aspects of the assessment of land development applications varied because of the way people go about their work, he said.

"We have a statutory obligation to respond [to applications] within 28 days, but due to the increased activity in the building sector there has been an increased pressure to turn applications around [quickly]."

Cox said the agency had received about 400 applications a month for the past five months.

Before the implementation of the Automated Referrals Process (ARP) System, he said land development applications against issues such as the risk of flooding, were submitted in writing from 32 local councils, input into a computer and tracked. "There are several manual steps which have to be taken to check the conditions on the land. Now we can enter the information into the computer and have an assessment within one minute."

Cox said getting funding for the project was quite easy due to the obvious productivity benefits of automating this process.

"Development has cost more than half a million dollars and we expect ROI to be achieved fairly quickly."

Planning for the project started in 2000 with a comprehensive design phase. A proof of concept was conducted in February 2001 and the then Netbridge Systems Integration (now Volante Solutions) custom-built solution went live in September last year.

"We had to interface a number of systems [with the solution] including an in-house application that covers some aspects of the tracking of the application and our MapInfo system."

Melbourne Water outsources a significant part of its IT (network and desktop support, database support and the building of all in-house applications), so working with third-party service providers was also a major concern.

Operating on an NT platform, the ARP uses a purpose-built Microsoft Outlook form as its user interface, with work queues being managed via Microsoft Exchange public folders.

The business rules are defined in the workflow component and within the MapInfo GIS solution. All criteria used in processing the business rules are managed via a modifiable set of Sybase database tables.

Cox said in the five months since the system went live only minor changes to the business rules, which are user defined, had been made.

"The system has been very stable and well supported."

With regards to training for users, Cox said this involved a couple of hour-long, one-on-one training sessions.

"Users were not looking at information that was not familiar to them. They were involved in the design of the system from the start."

Despite enduring the trauma of moving offices and combining three offices into the new location, Cox said the IT team of 10 has plenty of projects on the horizon.

Two projects the agency is working on with Volante implementation of a document management

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