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The mother of all migrations
Given an overloaded shared drive, a small IM team, and a big task, Ashburton District Council managed to pull off an impressive feat – migrating to an EDRMS without a hitch.
The amount of clever and careful planning, and smooth execution of the migration impressed the judges at our Autumn Conference, and they awarded Ashburton the IRM Project of the Year Award.
So how did they pull it off? The first step, according to Ashburton DC’s Leonie Robinson, was to visualize the problem so management could see the scale of the task that lay ahead. With over 800,000 documents, 56,000 folders, and some folder structures up to 18 deep, it was definitely a challenge.
The project was planned out in four steps. First, they ran a crawler, scrape tool, and an Optical Character Recognition tool. These ran across the network drive overnight, extracting data to a SQL database, searching contents of documents for TechnologyOne IDs or ADC’s Classification codes, and discovering PDFs that weren’t OCR’d, respectively.
With all the documents listed in the database, they were able to strip out documents that did not have an extensions that related to council records eg software. Then they refined it down to those documents in the target timeframe for the first migration, and worked through duplicates.
This database then fed through to a staging area on Sharepoint, where staff could go through and examine their documents to ensure they were correctly tagged. With this step complete, they moved to the migration.
The migration went smoothly thanks to all the preparation behind the scenes. A copy of each document is migrated across, up until the morning of the roll out. Then, a script runs through and checks any documents that have been updated – migrating across the latest version, and hiding the original files on the network drive. Scripts also recognize the names of the IM team, and reset the modified by and modified date metadata, to remove the work that the IM team have done in moving the documents.
All that’s left is to push the network metadata into the EDRMS’ system fields, fix poor metadata, and delete old, duplicated, or marked documents. This process went so smoothly that the project often found itself running two to three days ahead of schedule.
Crucial to the success of the project was the communication with staff, and ensuring everyone was on board, and well informed.
Preserving photographic history in Pahiatua
From a large scale, council-spanning project to a more niche, but equally important project in the southern Tararua town of Pahiatua.
Like much of rural New Zealand, it has a rich history that was swept up in the local government reforms of the late 1980s. Pahiatua Borough and County Councils no longer existed, but their photographic history did, and it meant a lot to the local community.
The original task was to take down photos and give them a clean. The team thought, well if we’re doing that, why not digitize them as well? Then they found some of the photos deteriorating, so why not shift them into storage and display reproductions? Actually, not all the people in the photos are identified. Why not create a reference of all the names and faces?
It was in that way that a project was born. The call was put out to the community for help in filling in gaps that existed in the photographic record. They rallied to the cause, and the council eventually ended up with an almost complete record of the Borough Council from its inception through to its amalgamation in 1989.
One particularly notable exception was the Borough Council mayor from 1902 to 1904. After his 1912 conviction for a crime relating to the trust funds of his clients, it seems the council of the time took it upon themselves to expunge him from the historical record.
The end result of this was a project that showed you don’t need a massive scope or budget to achieve something meaningful. The records management team completed this on the smell of an oily rag, but were successful because they worked closely with the community for a result that will have a long lasting impact for the people of Pahiatua.
Water, water everywhere, but how much is there actually?
Having a clear picture of water allocation is crucial for regional councils, and Northland came up with a way to view where their water is being used, right down to the river reach level.
Their enhanced Water Allocation Tool (WAT), pulls data from a variety of systems, to form a complex GIS based model. It incorporates consent data, rainfall data, stock numbers, minimum flow levels, and more to provide a real-time snapshot of water in the region.
This is then made available internally and externally using ESRI technologies that are already being used within NRC.
This has provided huge benefits across the council. Planners can use figures from the tool to better plan policy, and illustrate why regulatory restrictions are required. The consent team can quickly see where water is over-allocated, and issue consents in a much quicker manner. Plus, Environment teams and hydrologists can easily find areas of pressure, and prioritise their resources accordingly. They say bad data in means bad data out. Improving the data available to the council has also greatly improved processes to create better, more meaningful data.
The WAT has also made it possible to give the community more control and engagement with the water allocation process. Being able to view the maps allows a self-serve aspect to the process, meaning that a customer can check out an area, and see if they’re likely to be granted a water take. Prior to this tool being in place, they had to ring a staff member and wait while they did manual calculations.
The tool, with its clear and obvious benefits for council and community was announced the winner of our GIS Project of the Year Award.
The district plan goes digital
The first New Zealand council to create a district plan drafted directly into a property-based e-plan, New Plymouth’s approach to e-planning was an impressive one.
With the information displayed in a digital, interactive form, the map-centric design uses spatial data as a portal into the plan itself. Using an interface not dissimilar to that of Google Maps, users can enter specific addresses, or navigate around the map.
Once they select a property, users can view a whole range of details, including zoning, what parts of the district plan apply to that property, special features such as notable trees, and more.
They can then click through to these areas to see more information on that topic, and the relevant areas of the district plan. The overall impact has been a district plan that is much more engaging and accessible for the public.
This didn’t happen overnight though. It took a great deal of collaboration between the GIS and planning teams. They built up a GIS planning schema to provide a framework for the GIS layers to integrate with rules. A graphic designer was added dinto the team to create a cohesive and attractive design, which took a complex subject and made it accessible in a form that many customers are used to from the big tech companies.
There have been a range of benefits for the council too, with teams more engaged in planning, and able to find information quicker to answer customer queries. The planners also have more knowledge on GIS, meaning increased spatial awareness when drafting new rules.
This is a cutting-edge tool that other councils can use as a blueprint to create their own digital plans as the regulatory environment shifts toward e-plans as the preferred format.
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