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October 24, 2016

Automation is good for the environment

LOOKING TO BE GREENER AND LEANER

The role of the Department of Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism is to foster sustainable and shared economic growth and promote tourism within the province, through public entities that carry out the department’s mandate.

These entities are tasked with job creation, industrial development, economic growth, environmental management and tourism.

Ayanda Dlomo, Government Information Technology Officer for the Department recalls what it was like when he first started in 2011.

“When I arrived, there was still a strong legacy of manual processes. Certain things needed to be done in a more efficient way, as they took too long and required an official to be physically present in the office. If the person was not there, the process had to wait,” he says.

All processes within the department began with a paper-based motivation (known as a memorandum), which then too had to go through a series of approvals.

“It was the same story with invoices,” Dlomo recalls. “If someone in the chain of approvals was not in the office, because they were attending meetings elsewhere, a driver would have to be sent to them and the documents would be signed between meetings. Then the driver would have to return to the office with the signed papers.”

This was not efficient. The distance between regional offices could be as much as 400km and anything could happen to the driver and documents while on the road.

“We needed a system to bridge the distance between offices and enable us to do things in a more efficient and effective way,” Dlomo says.

A FITTING TECHNOLOGY SOLUTION

“We wanted an end-to-end product, not one product to plug each hole, from different providers. At that time Boxfusion was offering

eSubmission and eLeave, but we explained that our problems are much bigger than that,” Dlomo notes.

“We wanted a solution to help us with the payment process, with fuel claims, travel expenses, quotations management, requests to procure and with invoice tracking,” Dlomo explains.

Having realised that its automation needs were huge, the Department began the procurement process and invited tenders, ultimately deciding on the Boxfusion SmartGov offering.

“Their solution was flexible to accommodate our processes, rather than us changing our processes to accommodate their solution,” explains Dlomo, when questioned about the Department’s choice.

“We wanted to automate our office because we are an environmental management department, so we need to lead by example and reduce the use of paper. So we looked to automating the engine-functionalities of our department, first.”

The Department now makes use of, among others, the eSubmission, eLeave, S&T Claims, Invoice Tracking & Payment, Expenditure Approval applications, with the internal codename “eVaya”.

CREATING THE IDEAL OPERATIONAL ENVIRONMENT

“We developed our own specifications first, looking into the needs of the department. We didn’t want to be influenced by the solution, we wanted to understand exactly where the pain points are, what areas needed improvement and develop our own work processes. Then we went out on tender to look for a partner to help us implement this process we had developed.”

A lot of work went into designing the ideal system for the Department, and everyone was involved.

From potential users to business process owners, everyone had a say in what the solution needed to look like, and what it needed to do.

“By involving the users from the beginning, we ensured they were invested in the system and that they would encourage and help their colleagues to use it, after implementation,” Dlomo says.

“We could see the results almost straight away. Obviously we were seeing results in areas that touch the lives of employees first. Once they realised they could submit and track their claims online easily, they were more responsive.”

CHANGE IS GOOD

“The Department is now able, with one or two clicks of a button, to make informed decisions, because information, was readily available,” Dlomo notes.

“We are also able to respond positively to audits now. We are able to track submissions and we don’t have any situation where a submission is lost or misplaced.”

Having a reliable system in place to deal with data and processes means that the Department is now able to focus on service delivery and its core business in the field, rather than have workers spend their time on administration. “In other words, we want our employees to spend less time preparing to go to the field, and more time out there, doing their jobs,” Dlomo concludes.

BENEFITS OF THE EVAYA SYSTEM:

  • Information is not lost in transit
  • Track and monitor every process
  • Better transparency, improved efficiency in processes
  • Improved service delivery
  • Informed decision-making
  • Less time spent on paperwork

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