Slipstream: The Ministerial Workflow Solution.

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Case Study: DITR Ministerial Workflow Solution


The Department of Industry, Tourism and Resources engaged Westbourne to design and build a ministerial workflow, scanning, document management, and directory system. Named ‘Slipstream’, the system provides comprehensive ministerial workflow management and tracking functionality, and includes powerful searching and reporting capabilities. Slipstream has been designed to operate and integrate with the department’s standard desktop and database operating environments.

The Business Problem

The Department replies to thousands of correspondence items written annually to the various ministers. They also prepare hundreds of briefing reports and responses to parliamentary questions. The department has traditionally managed this vast quantity of work through a combination of manual processes and a basic tracking system.

In engaging Westbourne, the department sought to automate the ministerial management process so as to provide significant improvements to work practices, better tracking and greater accountability of ministerial items, and to provide ongoing cost savings.

The Previous System

Under the previous system, Ministerial Liaison Officers (MLO) entered the data for ministerial items into the TRACE database as each item was received in the department, or as each briefing document or parliamentary question is initiated. The MLO Officer printed the information, photocopied any attachments, and bundled the information together into colour-coded manila folders. The folders were assigned to the appropriate departmental officer for processing, before being returned to the MLO. The MLO printed the correspondence reply letter or briefing document and couriered it to the Minister’s Office for signing. Upon signing it was passed back to the MLO who in turn sent it back to the department for filing. All metrics relating to the time spent in the various functional areas and the time taken to complete the item were collated manually.

The Solution

Slipstream is designed to automate the manual ministerial workflow process. As well as powerful workflow capabilities, the system design incorporates directory services, a fully integrated electronic document management system, scanning capabilities, comprehensive reporting capabilities, and integration with Microsoft Word.

Westbourne assembled a highly skilled and capable project team to cover the project management, architectural analysis, business analysis, development, testing, and documentation requirements. Through the course of the project, Westbourne worked with the department to further develop the requirements and business rules, so as to reflect best practice in ministerial management.
The team developed a custom user interface to provide data entry, workflow management, imaging, and other business functionality. System users have the ability to organise their ministerial items as they receive them, and perform ad-hoc searching on the items and their attached documents. Advanced searching capabilities also include the ability to search on the history status of ministerial items throughout the entire system.

The system incorporates scanning capabilities and electronic document (EDMS) integration, allowing incoming correspondence to be attached to ministerial items. This minimises the need for photocopying and reduces the incidence of ‘lost letters’. The processing of correspondence received by the department is thus significantly improved through the introduction of these technologies. Integration with Microsoft Word takes the form of automatic generation of ministerial documents such as briefing documents and replies to correspondence. Slipstream is tightly integrated with the EDMS, meaning that users are not required to have knowledge or understanding of the underlying EDMS—they are able to concentrate on the task at hand while the technology works behind the scenes.

Westbourne developed a directory system that not only provides directory services to Slipstream, but also operates as a standalone corporate system. The directory system allows users to maintain their own personal details and gives system administrators and division representatives the ability to update the directory system to reflect the structure of the department as it changes over time.

The system includes advanced reporting capabilities, with users and management able to see at a glance the status of all work in the system, and to measure the effectiveness of organisational units against departmental benchmarks.

Benefits of the System

Since becoming fully operational within the department, Slipstream has been widely accepted and utilised to its full capabilities. User groups have quickly accepted the transition from a paper-based workflow to an electronic system. In that time, a Slipstream support team was established to provide phone and monitoring support to assist with the changeover.

Slipstream produces many tangible benefits. Its diverse and powerful reporting capabilities produce an effective way for departmental and executive officers to monitor work and process benchmarks. Time lost manually tracking items has been virtually eliminated by the comprehensive searching functionality, which provides users with multiple search levels and attached file searching capabilities.

End users also have the ability to customise their work area through a variety of means; through Keylists (specialised item filters), field choosers, and other user options. Slipstream has the look and feel of commonly used Microsoft products, allowing users to leverage their existing skills and experience with those products and be productive within minutes. This has resulted in a system that minimises training expenditure, and has lead to high levels of user acceptance.

For the executive users, Slipstream provides succinct reports detailing the productivity of the department across the various organisational units.