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  • Writer's pictureJenna Williams

Transforming Governance: The Impact of Paperless Solutions on Efficiency and Sustainability

Updated: Feb 13

Environmental sustainability sits at the forefront of Australian communities' priorities, as evident in national council strategic plans. Extending on the theme of sustainability, the continued widespread use of paper in council meetings poses a dual challenge – environmental impact and unsustainable operational inefficiency.  


Our recent Insights Report, The Unrealised Potential of Council Meetings highlighted council concerns about paper wastage, sustainability and struggles with the inefficient management of large agendas and attachments. In this blog, we delve into the potential of paperless governance and showcase some real-life examples of councils who have made the transition. 


Paper Wastage a Key Concern Across Councils 

Council business papers often exceed 2000 pages monthly, equivalent to 40 reams of paper for a council with 10 councillors. This not only raises environmental concerns but also hampers operational efficiency. The sheer magnitude of paperwork can be overwhelming, requiring significant time and resources to manage, distribute and store. On top of this, it involves substantial printing costs, further straining council budgets and wasting administrator time with hours spent at the photocopier.  


Council business papers often exceed 2000 pages monthly, equivalent to 40 reams of paper for a council with 10 councillors. This not only raises environmental concerns but also hampers operational efficiency.

While many councils have invested heavily in making the move to digital, the revelation that almost 75% of councils still maintain some level of reliance on hard-copy business papers, as stated in the Insights Report, underscores the slow progress in adopting more sustainable practices. 


Frustration With Staff and Councillors Navigating Long PDFs 

In the same survey, almost half of councils said helping staff and councillors navigate large PDFs was their biggest frustration during council meetings. The complexity of standard electronic pdf formats makes it challenging to keep up with proceedings, leading many to prefer traditional hard copies. 


One of the primary issues with navigating large electronic PDFs is the potential for information overload. With business papers often containing a plethora of documents, reports and attachments, it can be overwhelming for users to locate specific information quickly.  


These challenges can be addressed when councils invest in user-friendly digital solutions that simplify the usage and offer "single-click" navigation for large documents containing multiple attachments. Meeting Management solutions that provide robust search functionality and user-friendly interfaces can encourage self-reliance and assist councils to move away from hard-copy business papers.  This frees up administrator time to focus on other valuable activities, like supporting councillors with complex procedures related to the code of meeting practice.

 

Real-world Challenges: Tweed Shire Council's Experience 

In a recent interview, Stephanie Papadopoulos, Corporate Governance Manager at Tweed Shire Council, highlighted the struggles her and her team faced with large agendas.  


“Our papers can include thousands of pages, and within those, there’s large attachments and files made up of plans and diagrams,” she said. “We found our previous system would regularly not cope with the large and diverse attachments.”  


Discover how Tweed Shire Council took a holistic approach to meeting management resulting in a more straightforward, more efficient meeting process - Read more here



A holistic approach to paperless governance became essential for a seamless transition beyond simple PDF bookmarking. The Resolve Meeting Management Platform offers a comprehensive solution, simplifying widespread adoption.  


“I’m glad we took the leap to a more holistic solution rather than something that might have been a minor improvement,” she admitted. “It’s definitely made our meeting process easier and more efficient, and I’m so pleased the organisation and councillors have adopted it.” 


A holistic approach to paperless governance became essential for a seamless transition beyond simple PDF bookmarking. The Resolve Meeting Management Platform offers a comprehensive solution, simplifying widespread adoption.  

Improving Access to Information for Better Decision Making 

Paperless governance extends beyond sustainability; it enhances transparency and government effectiveness. Kurtis Redman, Solution Lead for Resolve Meeting Management, emphasises the platform's role in providing real-time access to information, reducing the reliance on meeting administrators as a single source of truth. 


“It’s difficult to manage council without real-time access to information related to the history of agenda items or visibility on actions and resolutions. Councils typically lean heavily on meeting administrators for this information. This can tie up hours of time that could be spent on other tasks and frustrates stakeholders who feel they should be able to easily self-serve accurate information. 


It’s difficult to manage council without real-time access to information related to the history of agenda items or visibility on actions and resolutions. Councils typically lean heavily on meeting administrators for this information. 

Impact Beyond Sustainability 

The Unrealised Potential of Council Meetings report also uncovered that traditional systems don’t leverage technology to automate resolution management, this leads to limited reporting capability which makes managing council very difficult. Transposing information into Excel and leaving it to administrators to chase departments for updates is a duplication of work and adds another failure point to the process. Digital systems with robust reporting functionalities empower managers and administrators, ensuring transparent and efficient communication of necessary details between council and operations. 


Embracing paperless governance not only contributes to sustainability goals and cost savings but also enhances transparency and decision-making. Imagine the positive impact on your council's decisions and budget if you transform the accessibility of meeting information and reduced the administrative workload, printing and paper usage by 50% or more?


A paperless future is not just eco-friendly; it's a strategic move towards more sustainable governance practices. 


For more information, you can download The Unrealised Potential of Council Meetings report here, and read discover how Tweed Shire Council took a holistic approach to meeting management resulting in a more straightforward, more efficient meeting process here.


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