CRM-based case-management system revolutionises land-use approvals process and dramatically reduces costs.
"Now we can put everything online. It's absolutely the right tool for the job."
Western Australian State Government Department of Indigenous Affairs
The Western Australian mining boom has resulted in a huge amount of work for the Department of Indigenous Affairs. Tasked with processing Section 18 land-use applications for development activity on sites of Aboriginal heritage significance, the Department's manual and paper applications process had been unable to keep up with the demand from industry for development applications. Subsequently, it has resulted in delays and errors at various stages of the process.
The Department worked with business consulting and systems integration firm Velrada to establish a proof of concept, and subsequently a production-ready pilot case-management solution. This was based on Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 and Microsoft SharePoint 2010 platforms and was instrumental in establishing the business case for State Treasury Capital funding of around A$3.9 million, to develop a full Aboriginal Heritage E-Lodgement Project (AHELP) for the next three years.
Created in 1995, the Department of Indigenous Affairs (DIA) is a Western Australian State government agency responsible for advising Government on issues relevant to WA's indigenous communities. In the era of Australia's resource boom one of their most cumbersome tasks involves processing a considerable number of land-use approvals under Section 18 of the Aboriginal Heritage Act.
According to the Act, anyone wishing to develop on land with Aboriginal heritage significance is required to make an application to the DIA. From there, the Department makes a recommendation to the Aboriginal Cultural Material Committee (ACMC), who pass on their recommendation to the Minister.
But with almost no ICT infrastructure, a patchwork ICT set-up and a labour-intensive, paper-based approvals process, the Department had a huge challenge on its hands.
"Up to 15 copies of the same document might be required – including maps, application forms, heritage survey reports and transcripts of interviews with Aboriginal communities," says the Western Australian State Government Department of Indigenous Affairs. "The submissions were often 10 centimetres thick."
However, the Department's staff had only ever worked with paper-based records, so moving to an ICT-based solution presented potential problems of its own.
"The Department immediately started thinking about a Microsoft solution. It's familiar software so training staff would be relatively straight forward. And for a small department like DIA, Microsoft is more often than not the best cost-effective and smarter way to achieve results."
There were a number of stages and plenty of stakeholders involved before a complete solution could be delivered – especially when it came to funding.
The first step was a strong proof of concept, which is where the Department got Microsoft involved.
The Department needed an alternative to paper-based record keeping. One that saved time, cut Department costs, eliminated errors, placed a smaller cost-burden on industry, and was, importantly, simple for the DIA team to learn and use.
The proposed solution was a new case-management system based on Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 to automate the Section 18 land-use approval process, with integration to Microsoft SharePoint 2010 and ESRI geospatial software using Microsoft Silverlight, along with HP's TRIM records management system.
In partnership with Velrada, DIA developed their proof of concept into a production ready pilot case-management system that allowed them to streamline an approvals process involving 30,000 listed Aboriginal heritage sites spread across WA's vast 2.5-million square kilometre landscape.
Dominic Nolan, Engagement Director at Velrada, understood the demands of the project, and the importance of its success: "They needed a tool that could automate and simplify lodgement, assessment and determination of applications – while also being designed for a team that had never used a case-management system before."
The successful prototype has highlighted the configurability of the Dynamics CRM platform, including integration to specialist tools such as the ESRI geospatial software that enables the DIA to capture and view Geographic Information System (GIS) imagery. This allows the Heritage team to analyse and share maps with ease.
Of course, with five products working together, integration could have been an issue. But, as DIA notes, the integration is seamless.
"Now we can put everything online. It's absolutely the right tool for the job."
The prototype has certainly turned heads, with plenty of support from other State Government Departments and senior government executives. Velrada's Nolan can see why.
"The assessment process is faster and more thorough, ensuring DIA could provide consistent quality of advice to the ACMC Board and Minister."
The success of the pilot has helped DIA secure funding to implement a full Aboriginal Heritage E-Lodgement Project (AHELP) over the next 3 years.
From paper to paper-less, DIA has achieved a great result in a short time. Stakeholders at all levels are impressed – especially the Heritage team within the DIA, who have to process applications every day. And with funding approved to roll out AHELP, DIA is justified in calling the case-management system "a big success".
Cutting costs to government and industry
The Department looks to save A$8,000 per month in internal printing costs, and a further A$5,000 in printing per application for each proponent. With 200 applications, that's nearly A$1.1 million in total savings each year.
But the CRM solution doesn't just have the potential to save millions in direct processing costs – it offers a huge benefit to industry in the value of time saved while their applications are approved.
Saving time and reducing errors
The time-saving features of the new case-management tool have been enthusiastically enjoyed by the Department's Heritage section staff.
"The time saving allows more focus on valuable tasks like getting out into the field to work directly with traditional owners," DIA says.
Despite the concentrated labour that used to go into the paper-based process, there was still a considerable risk of errors, as the same information was re-keyed time and again. So the CRM pilot has also reduced the potential for mistakes, and in a department with so much hinging on every decision, this provides a lot more peace of mind.
DIA's executive-level staff are also reaping the benefits of a genuine CRM tool customised for case-management.
"Instead of asking or waiting, our executive team have a live feed they can look at straight away. It's online reporting in a flash."
Improving information management and accountability
To obtain the full funding needed to make the overall AHELP program a reality, DIA's pilot had to deliver complete transparency. This would demonstrate that regulatory compliance was being met and protect the Department's – and the Western Australian government's – reputation.
To address this, AHELP has fully incorporated compliance management, issue tracking and statutory records compliance capability.
The whole process is also highly collaborative. The SharePoint portal strategy will offer internal and external access, so that stakeholders at all stages of the approval process can see what's happening with applications every step of the way.
The new transparency and accountability offers great potential for future engagement with Aboriginal communities. DIA comments: "With the old paper-based system Aboriginal communities were seldom aware of applications until they saw a notice in the paper. We now have the capability for everyone from the Minister's office to the communities themselves to be kept constantly informed."
Ensuring compatibility and ease of use
With a range of different tools to integrate into the CRM – SharePoint, Silverlight, the ESRI geospatial software and HP TRIM for records management – the Department needed an interface that worked both seamlessly and intuitively. DIA's solution was to upgrade the Department's ICT infrastructure to ensure that the underlying architecture was based on state-of-the-art technologies and best practice.
"We started with new Microsoft enterprise agreements, and installed everything in the same Windows 7 environment, with the latest version of Microsoft Office. That way all of the rich features of CRM could be available for staff."
The result has been a very smooth operating experience and one that the staff find very easy to use.
Microsoft product that was featured
Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 helps you manage relationships that are integral to success – employees, partners, suppliers, distributors, vendors and many other critical stakeholders.
Microsoft Dynamics CRM can easily be configured for these "Extended CRM" scenarios and help enhance the value of all relationships, help improve business relevance and fit, help drive operational excellence and help increase business insights.