Central Land Council (CLC) is a Commonwealth statutory authority. Its territory encompasses the southern half of the Northern Territory, more than 771,000 square kilometres of remote, rugged and frequently inaccessible land.
CLC is responsible for promoting Aboriginal rights on behalf of the region's 24,000-strong indigenous population. It is party to any commercial dealings related to the use of Aboriginal land, including tourism, pastoral, mining ventures. CLC is also the vehicle for delivery of a number of federal and Territory government initiatives and to this end, it receives in excess of $25 million funding annually.
Since establishment thirty years ago, the organisation has grown rapidly into a complex business. Today CLC boasts eight regional offices and employs just over 200 staff including lawyers,accountants, land management, economic development, anthologists, and geologists.
Since 1997 Professional Advantage has worked closely with CLC supplying its core financial systems and more. As Bruce Nystrom, General Manager, puts it "Professional Advantage partner us on every level. I would characterise CLC's relationship with Professional Advantage with that old chestnut, win-win. Together, Professional Advantage and CLC have solved a lot of core problems for CLC.
In 2008 CLC determined that a number of new initiatives were required to add productivity and governance to a range of operational and resource planning concerns. Nystrom summarised the rationale. "The driver is always about productivity, it's about occupational health & safety, it's about bang for your buck. What can we do that will improve our business cycles."
Having recently implemented SharePoint, there was an early view that it could handle these requirements. Once its complex needs were understood, CLC looked around for an alternative but complimentary technology. Professional Advantage recommended and implemented XMPro. As Nathan Morsillo, Finance Manager, put it, "what Professional Advantage brought to the equation was a process mind and knowledge to the equation." With priorities driven by the big issues of the day, CLC digitised a selection of key business processes all previously reliant on mixes of manual, paper and office/access systems. Morsillo says "each of these change programs took some 'blood sweat and tears.' Change is hard work, but absolutely necessary for improvements."
These changes included:
Fleet bookings and details
Most of CLC's constituents reside in remote communities leading to a high "cost of doing business". Fuel cost increases alone represent a significant burden as CLC staff travel millions of kilometres a year. CLC also runs a fleet of 80 vehicles, mostly specialist four wheel drives. Nystrom sums up the problem, "80 vehicles means 80 drivers and 80 trips, 80 times $75k per vehicle. This means major asset, major risk in the organisation from a health and safety point of view. Our previous arrangement was very hit and miss. The process was paper based run from whiteboards and multiple Excel spreadsheets.
"With Professional Advantage we developed a workflow. We call it our vehicle booking system. Nobody runs around with a piece of paper or has to negotiate an outcome. It manages the route planning, authorisations, essentially resource allocation, physical preparation and inspections, all from a calendar style dashboard. When the vehicle is returned from the field, things can fall off, things can break, and our vehicles are in remote, dangerous and high risk locations. It's very important for management to know that the system of vehicle maintenance and inspection is ensuring all vehicles are safe and reliable for the staff to use. That's important for the staff to know, too."
Remote staff also has implications for workflow in general. "We have people who are out in the field. That's where our work is done. Things don't just 'not work' when they are away. Process keeps occurring, people perform their role confident that the next step is controlled and it will be performed in a timely manner. That's powerful stuff because it means you don't have to wait for everyone to be in the same room at the same time." "The solution ticks the box that everything's there and we're providing the employees with a safe workplace."
Morsillo summarised the success as "certainty, with regards occupational health and safety, cost control, and auditability. At the click of a button all staff can see where a person is meant to be or where a vehicle is at that moment in time. You almost can't put a value on it. The business process system is also starting to inform decisions about where our fleet is focused and inform future fleet purchasing decisions. "Importantly being a process management solution it can be modified to meet our needs as we've grown." That's a big advantage over a typical application solution. I definitely know that we've made the payback that we have invested in the project, both in terms of time and dollars," Morsillo adds.
"It means control, enhanced productivity and confidence that business processes are being followed and finalised." - Operations Manager
Mining title and agreement management
One of the biggest challenges that CLC faces is the tracking and administration of its 300 and growing exploration licence applications (ELAs). The ELA process has regulated prescribed time frames, over decades, much longer than typical staff tenure. The process has significant commercial consequences and involves many parties. Nystrom sums up the challenge. "It's a daunting administrative task. We have an international top-three gold mine here in the Tanami Desert. The cash flows are very considerable, multi-millions. So it's conceivable if the systems don't support it, that any party could miss the obligation or opportunity for substantial cash flows to occur because due to the turnover of staff, or just human frailty, you forget there's a significant date. It's a significant corporate knowledge retention and access issue, especially given we are reliant on a transient workforce."
Until a few years ago the organisation kept track of the leases with a rudimentary database and Microsoft Excel spreadsheets. Roger Barnes, CLC Mining Manager, states "the risks associated with this included the lack of integration with the data sets and tripping over statutory deadlines, so things that were supposed to happen didn't because we'd lose track of where these titles were at."
To increase accuracy and ease the management burden, CLC approached Professional Advantage to see what could be done. As a result Professional Advantage developed a mining title and agreement knowledge base and business process management solution, with integrated document management, imaging and other technologies.
Barnes sums it up, "Professional Advantage helped us define the problem. We were starting at a fairly low point, revamping a database. The idea we could have workflow management over this was something Professional Advantage gave us the confidence to do. Adding things like the document management, as well as maps and whole lot of value-add really made it comprehensive. We replaced a whole lot of antiquated, manual and paper based systems. The approach also recognised that there are long time frames involved and an uncertain future with different governments and changes in legislation likely. Professional Advantage has been conscious of building in flexibility. There's an ability to configure and adjust the process, it's not rigid."
Nystrom states, "The solution is enabling the company to more efficiently administer mining leases over extended periods. Given the scale of mines administered by CLC, from small leases to multi-million dollar operations, it is set to become one of CLC's most important technological tools."
Other wins to date
Another key pain point tackled was onboarding staff and hiring causals. Morsillo states, "the issue was sign-off hadn't happened, HR didn't know, possible certifications and training were absent before someone started work. I believe that the new process, using business process management, has addressed those risks completely." Other wins include sundry payment management with seamless integration into the finance system. This process alone has saved time and dollars.
Nystrom is confident that further opportunities remain for CLC to leverage its workflow and business process improvements. "CLC recognize that there's an increasing dividend in expanding the workflow operations. All the process improvements have certainly allowed us to be more efficient and have more certainty where we're at."