Like all regional councils in New Zealand, Environment Canterbury (ECan) has a vital role in shaping the future of the country for generations to come.
Not only is it responsible for managing natural resources – air, soil and water, and how land-use impacts on the environment – it’s also responsible for making sure the air remains clean, people can play and swim in the region’s rivers, gather food, benefit from productive use of the land, and enjoy recreational pursuits and the region’s unique biodiversity and landscapes.
ECan works on projects that target environmental milestones and promotes sustainable management of natural resources. But when its methods to track progress in its water management programme didn’t flow so easily, ECan needed to look at its technical source.
ECan used Microsoft Excel files, and even paper, in its ten regional ‘water zones’ to record progress across freshwater management, biodiversity and biosecurity projects. Challenges across so many workstreams included:
- Lack of consistency in the content gathered across the zones
- The time taken to compile multiple spreadsheets and paper into digital reports
- Accurate and efficient progress reporting.
A cost-effective solution that provided consistency across all data and projects was required.
Already possessing a Microsoft Office 365 licence, ECan was able to make better use of the technology it had to create a powerful data capture and analysis tool.
ECan already made extensive use of Power BI. Datacom introduced ECan to PowerApps for the first time, enabling integration of Power Automate, PowerApps and Power BI on one platform.
Able to connect to ECan’s SQL server via Microsoft Data Gateway, the ‘inZone’ solution built on the Microsoft PowerApp platform gives ECan the opportunity to store projects, milestones and outcomes, as well as obtain monthly and quarterly status updates and data. The system also sends out focused email notifications to project managers and group leaders via Power Automate. Notifications are triggered when a project has not been updated at a specific time or when a report is due.
inZone helps ECan to better organise projects with the option to tag by zone or milestone. Application screens can even be colour co-ordinated to visually differentiate between projects, milestones and outcomes.
Being cloud-based also allows the team to access various development and user acceptance testing (UAT) builds while working in the production environment.
Delivered using an agile methodology, the solution was devised and launched as a minimum viable product (MVP) in 12 weeks.
Datacom helped ECan to understand that it didn’t need new servers or services – it just needed to make more use of its existing Microsoft licences.
With its expert knowledge of Microsoft technology, Datacom helped ECan to identify the issues and build a customer-focused solution within a short timeframe.
The project has proved to be so effective that the solution, which can be easily updated at any time, could be adopted for other ECan business projects.
“We now have a more complete picture of all activity that Environment Canterbury, the community and industry are delivering across Canterbury. The system has paid dividends in resourcing and prioritisation opportunities.”
Paul Hulse, Zone Delivery Manager at Environment Canterbury
ECan now has the only known designed system to capture and report on water management related information in New Zealand.
Datacom and Microsoft’s applications have helped ECan to:
- Spend less time on administration and reporting, and more time delivering projects to benefit the community and environment
- Collate reports ahead of public meetings and in real-time, allowing decision makers and public stakeholders to get an up-to-date picture of its water zone management efforts
- Reduce the time it takes to generate reports from two weeks down to just minutes
- Save money – the project will pay for itself in just ten months
- Improve the engagement of local communities and committees.
By enhancing the way ECan gathers and organises data, the organisation can now concentrate more resources on keeping the environment clean and maintaining the Canterbury landscape for generations to come.