Key role for Office 365 and Information Leadership in business transformation and compliance at Central Hawke's Bay District Council

Published on April 21, 2020


Central Hawke’s Bay District Council (CHB) are the first New Zealand Council to use Office 365 for widespread Public Records Act compliance grade Electronic Document and Records Management System (EDRMS).

This move was seen by CHB’s new leadership team as a cornerstone project for internal business transformation. Previously, council records were created and managed as paper records and e-documents in ad-hoc fileshares. This made it hard for staff to get a full picture in making decisions and giving advice. It also hampered streamlining business processes to improve efficiency and service levels.

Their new Office 365 system provides for consistent and easy ways of filing documents and emails and provides powerful search, including search by property or customer. It is also integrated with their rating and property system.

This has enhanced staff’s ability to work anywhere, collaborate, serve their constituents more efficiently, and forms the basis for their workplace of the future. CHB are now leveraging this further through digital initiatives to work with and serve the community and stakeholders.


Much of CHB’s information was held in paper documents, as well as e-files on fileshares and within email. Fileshare folders were up to ten deep and had ad-hoc structures. This made it difficult to locate all the information on a topic or property – especially for new staff.

By addressing these issues, CHB wanted to encourage knowledge sharing and spread information across the organization, as well as to drive efficiency gains and increase service levels.

To achieve this would require significant behavior and process changes. The implementation plan needed to bake in change management and governance. It also needed the creation of consistent agreed structures for how information would be filed and found.


Workshops showed that the departments at CHB each had very unique needs and workflows, but still needed to access the same documents. Because of this, unifying various fileshares and information sources was a priority. In particular, pulling everything into a single property search.

Ease of filing information, as well as securing information that was sensitive, was a priority. The designs included the use of Azure based iWorkplace Apps that allow metadata to be autoclassified. Another iWorkplace App (Smart Case Files) simplifies content management and gives administration staff easy access to set fine-grained security and permissions without system administrator rights. This is very useful for managing risks related to privacy and commercial sensitivity.

Public Records Act compliance needs were met by Office 365 native document library and metadata structures coupled to the iWorkplace Smart Records App. This Azure App creates a datamart of all records that can be used for splice/dice reporting as well as creating rules for retention and disposal of content. The rules can be automated and include processes for manual appraisal and approvals to dispose of, as needed.

The project included deep engagement with staff on the design of the workspaces they would use. There was also an interactive expo event that visually showed the project’s purpose, problems it solved, and how other New Zealand organizations and Councils had utilized Office 365.

As the project progressed, a further expo was set up to work through key changes needed for external digital interaction – with customers, community, and stakeholder groups. This helped not only plan for the future, but also to deepen the buy-in and understanding of how Office 365 should work for them.

We wanted something that went beyond just digital file storage. We wanted something that was going to be a catalyst for our digital journey so we could achieve our aspiration to think smarter, work better together and enable customer excellence. Office 365 has given us access to the workplace of the future, and access to the digital future.

Monique Davidson (CEO, Central Hawke's Bay District Council )


SharePoint’s detailed and customizable search was an immediate improvement for staff who can now find documents – filtered down by: department, case file, or document type. Information is held in consistently structured workspaces that include all functions and activities.

Staff have found unexpected benefits, such as being able to work remotely at submissions hearings. With their EDRMS and strategy in place, CHB continue to discover new opportunities of working with SharePoint and Office 365. This informs their strategy as they plan to build upon their Office 365 platform in future phases of their digital transformation.

As the first local government organization in New Zealand to embrace SharePoint and Office 365 for compliance grade EDRMS, Central Hawke’s Bay District Council has opened the door for other Councils.

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