With SurePact’s project management software, Cherbourg Aboriginal Shire Council is embracing technology and getting the most value from their funding for the community.
The Aboriginal Shire of Cherbourg is a local government area in Central Queensland, completely surrounded by the South Burnett Region.
In the 2016 census, the rural town and locality of Cherbourg had a population of 1,269 people, 98.7% of whom identified as Indigenous Australians. The town is located in Wakka Wakka tribal boundaries, but many different clan groups are represented within the population.
Although the town was originally founded in the early 1900s under a policy of segregation, today’s Cherbourg Aboriginal Shire Council (Cherbourg ASC) prides itself on being a forward-thinking Council that is sensitive to the needs of its growing community.
The Council owns all the houses in Cherbourg, and there are minimal external enterprises. The Council is therefore largely reliant on grants from both Commonwealth and State Government bodies for its funding.
Cherbourg ASC is subject to annual government audits, and must be able to demonstrate how funding is being allocated with full transparency and accountability.
Sean Nicholson, Cherbourg ASC’s Economic and Community Development Manager, has also identified internal communication and approvals for project variations as areas that could be streamlined and improved.
“A current issue when there are variations to projects is the three or four levels of approval,” Nicholson says. “[Approvals] would have to go through our own internal department, all the information needs to be gathered, put together and signed off so that it can be varied internally and then it has to go to be approved externally.”
More broadly, the Council has made digital transformation a deep strategic priority, and is seeking out technology that supports this transition.
“We are embracing technology and are trying to bring our businesses into that space as well,” Nicholson says.
“There are several reasons for this. Firstly, it is of interest to management to run a business as efficiently as possible, so there is obviously the efficiency analysis.
“People are also interested in technology – they use it all the time socially now and we want to bring it into the workplace. For instance, instead of banning mobile phones and bringing that antagonism into the work environment, we have got employees with phones, we tell them how to use it for work and as long as they are productive we are happy.”
Cherbourg ASC has begun to use SurePact’s project management technology, which streamlines all the activity related to a project in one place with built-in analytics and real-time reporting dashboards, to oversee a variety of projects, particularly with regards to the construction and maintenance of social housing.
“We have a range of our major projects on SurePact,” Nicholson says. “SurePact allows for the communication, the flow and the progress of these projects to be accessible to all the key people who need that information instantly.”
Cherbourg ASC is currently undertaking a number of projects as part of the Works for Queensland program, a State Government initiative that supports regional Councils to undertake job-creating maintenance and minor infrastructure projects.
“We have various projects under that umbrella, including adding a range of pathways around town and fixing up a radio station that was not in good condition, and these projects are all on SurePact,” Nicholson says.
“SurePact enables us to see when a project was initiated, when it was supposed to stop, if the funding is approved, if it is environmentally safe, and if workplace health and safety is all in place… we can access photographs of before-and-afters, all the grant documentation, sign-offs and Form 16s.”
Managing these projects through SurePact makes it easy for Nicholson to provide timely and accurate reports on their progress, both internally and when reporting to funding bodies.
“I attend the Council meeting once a month, and within that meeting I can easily demonstrate on SurePact where each project is up to time-wise,” he says.
“The transparency of SurePact allows us to show the high standard of ethics and the quality risk analysis, WH&S accountability and procurement documentation of what we do.”
Nicholson says that SurePact has enabled Cherbourg ASC to avoid time and scope blowouts and improve their communication.
“Communication and time-saving are the biggest benefits we have seen from using SurePact,”
“In the corporate and business world, managers always say, ‘But I wasn’t told, I had no communication, I didn’t know.’ With SurePact, there is no manager that has any excuse for a lack of communication.
“People can see exactly where they are and their part to play, from the accounts department to project, economic and asset management teams and each individual subcontractor and work crew.”
Nicholson says the SurePact software has helped to significantly speed up Cherbourg ASC’s approvals process.
“The accessibility of the platform means decisions can be made very quickly,” he says. “The external stakeholders can just access the project and see what’s going on… with a phone call, a decision is made and the project moves forward.
“Digital technology gives us that extra visibility. Lots of what we are doing uses digital technology, which is done on iPads and mobile phones, and so what we really like about SurePact is that it’s easily accessible on these devices.”
As they continue to use the software, Cherbourg ASC has also found that the SurePact team have been responsive to their suggestions.
“They actively seek improvements and are willing to discuss them and look at them,” Nicholson says. “It all happens in six weeks, and you won’t find any other software that does that.
“SurePact is so convenient, and every day we are updating projects. As more of our staff become familiar with SurePact, it will become further integrated into our systems.”