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Hobsons Bay City Council

Hobsons Bay City Council

Transforming Government Operations to Better Serve the Community

As one of Melbourne’s most dynamic city councils, Hobsons Bay City Council plays a pivotal role in shaping the experience of more than 90,000 residents and countless visitors within its jurisdiction. Located in the southwestern part of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, the council oversees the management and stewardship of a diverse region, including both urban, industrial and coastal areas. 

From overseeing urban planning and public infrastructure, to delivering a wide range of community services, Hobsons Bay City Council’s responsibilities are complex. The council guides and supports the region’s ongoing growth, managing essential public services like waste management, road maintenance and community health.

Overcoming Limitations by Leveraging Tech as a Catalyst for Change

Providing an outstanding service experience to the community requires operational efficiency and innovation. But the council had outgrown its tech and tools. The various spreadsheets, paper-based forms, and disconnected systems, couldn’t keep pace with its data management needs. From data being out of date or hard to find – to being prone to inaccuracies, change was needed.

Planning for that change started with gaining a deep understanding of current processes. “IT is often the catalyst. It puts the focus on how we need to change – whether that’s working together, serving the customer, or in our delivery. It forces a look at processes,” said Grant Schuster, Head of Business Transformation at Hobsons Bay City Council.  

That look revealed many manual and siloed processes that were impacting productivity and making it difficult to deliver on customer experience goals. Earlier attempts within the organization to digitize ended up replicating the existing paper processes, which didn’t solve the core challenges. “They created digital forms that emailed us a PDF of the output, and then someone had to manually transcribe it into the internal permit system or request system,” said Grant.

Optimizing the ultimate customer experience meant reimagining council’s internal processes and workflows and modernizing the tech stack. 

Knack Provides a Single-Source Solution to Improve Operational Workflows

It was time for a single-source solution that was easy and intuitive to use. One that offered the robust data management and security capabilities the council needed. That’s when no-code platforms came into focus. 

Knack was recommended to Grant Schuster by a colleague at another council who had mostly used spreadsheets and Word documents to manage data and processes until, after a deep exploration of alternatives, found Knack and began recommending it as the best solution.

After trialing Knack, and seeing the intuitive end-to-end flow, Grant jumped onboard as well. “An important value of Knack is its openness. We use CSS, JavaScript and API integrations to quickly customize the front-end app experience and give it our own look and feel for the best customer experience,” said Grant.

The development speed was also a winning point. “From choosing the Knack platform, we went from nothing in the app to a knowledge base, a project recording system and getting staff reviews up – all within a month. It was super powerful,” said Grant.

From choosing the Knack platform, we went from nothing in the app to a knowledge base, a project recording system and getting staff reviews up – all within a month. It was super powerful.

Grant Schuster, Head of Business Transformation

Transforming Project Management and Reporting

Project management is key to the operational flow of the entire organization. Tasks must be assigned to give everyone clarity about who is accountable. And the current status of project activities and milestones must always be visible. The use of paper-based forms made this reporting slow and difficult.

“We wanted to create an intuitive system that makes it really easy to report on projects,” said Grant. He used Knack to create one place to assign accountability and enable people to enter their updates. They could list milestones and report them. “The Knack app is a great governance tool. You can assign a task to someone and reassign it, as needed. Those assigned can close it, prioritize it, report on it, re-forecast it. It provides a really great one-stop view,” Grant added.

Role-based Access for Curated User Views

Knack’s cloud-based platform and granular user access controls allow everyone to use the system at the same time. The information is always up to date and in sync, and every employee has their own curated page of projects and actions. Supervisors can see projects and updates for their entire team. They see only what’s relevant to their work.

It’s provided a single source of truth where everyone can track progress against projects and know what is happening when. It’s simple and intuitive for users, while providing data privacy protection.

Maximizing Productivity with Instant Assignment Transfer Capabilities

With a high volume of projects and task assignments, it’s critical for the work to continue seamlessly even if an employee is out on leave.

“We’ve done a lot to integrate our apps. We use Make to synchronize our users and our positions. Every responsibility is created based on position, that way if someone goes on leave another person can be instantly assigned to handle that position – and all of its tasks and other responsibilities automatically shift to the new person using Knack’s amazing form rules,” said Grant.

Customized User Inputs to Increase Adoption

Getting users onboard with the new system meant the experience had to be frictionless, cutting the learning curve so there was no reason for hesitation or avoidance. Knack’s customization capabilities and validation controls made it easy to minimize the actions each user could take within the app.

“Much of the power comes from being able to give the user the minimum fields to complete their tasks, and have other fields being updated using record rules. It makes the interface really clear, and all the other stuff happens behind the scenes,” said Grant.

Reimagining Performance Management

Staff performance reviews are also built into the system. Prior to reviews being part of the Knack solution, they were completed using PDF or Word documents. With over 500 employees on staff, the review completion rate was about 35%. The remaining 65% said the process was too difficult and time consuming, or their forms just got “lost in the mail”.

Since the information needed to complete reviews, particularly history records for actions taken to deliver projects and meet governance responsibilities, now exists in the one integrated Knack system – It was a logical next step to create a performance review app that is linked to that performance data to streamline the review process.

“It’s easy. It’s quick. There’s no more ‘Where’s that form? What did I do with it?’ The system automates the review steps and moves it through the process,” said Grant. Now staff and supervisors can focus on the important performance conversation rather than struggle with paperwork, and the completion rate has skyrocketed to 99%.

Streamlining Efficiency with a Knowledge Base

The team also used Knack to build a centralized knowledge base for all processes. Now employees can use the knowledge base instead of chasing down answers from other workers or tracking down procedures to find the information they need.

“It saves so much time. It’s all in the system. There’s no more chasing people for answers and the system kicks off the process directly,” said Grant.

Customer Portal Streamlines Service Requests and Fulfillment

And Knack’s no-code benefits aren’t only improving internal operations. During the pandemic the team also built and launched a customer relationship management (CRM) app to allow customers to upsize their waste bin through an online customer portal.

Managing the oversight of bins at over 40,000 households, makes for a high volume of requests to respond to and resolve. So when designing the app, Grant and his team took a very data-focused view of how the system should work. “Knack was a great way to show people in real life that there was an easy way to eliminate the time-consuming manual processes,” said Grant.

“Knack was a great way to show people in real life that there was an easy way to eliminate time-consuming manual processes.

Grant Schuster, Head of Business Transformation

To schedule service, the app provided a simple form to complete. “You shouldn’t need someone to fill in a form and then have that form transcribed into a system so it can be assessed or processed, or to register your payments. It should all be the same system. And you shouldn’t have to write a report, it should be the same system,” Grant explained. And that’s exactly what they delivered with Knack.

The system does all the work. Customer requests are matched with the regular waste collection schedule to recommend a service date. Then work crews have a custom app view that shows their work for the day, along with locations pinned on a map for navigation.

The app then prompts them through the required service steps, including taking a photo of the bin and linking the bin to the property in the integrated bin database. Once submitted, the job is marked as complete, with date and time stamps for each step. And customers receive automated communication throughout the process. “From a customer experience perspective, they’d never had such good communication from so little staff effort,” Grant said.

The app was a big success, processing 5,000 customer requests in a two-month period. The original eight-touch process was reduced to only three touches, saving at least 30 minutes per job. That resulted in an estimated savings of $125,000 over the two months.

Compostable Paper Bags

A customer portal was also launched to provide compostable paper bags. The bags enabled residents to more easily collect food waste from the house and transfer it into a separate green waste bin, reducing waste to landfill. Customers registered for the program online in the Knack app and then collected the bags at a council office.

The office staff would match the customer name, record the collection in the system and hand over a pack of bags. “The customers were in and out in thirty seconds. It was unlike other experiences they’ve had before,” said Grant. Now customers can go through the portal to buy the bags, make payment via the built in Stripe gateway and then go collect them.

What’s Next for Hobsons Bay City Council and Knack?

Knack continues to play a foundational role in the business transformation initiatives at Hobsons Bay City Council.Knack’s easy-to-integrate and customize apps are the solution of choice for helping the council deliver the best experience to the community.

“Knack is a catalyst to really transform our processes, our governance and our accountability,” said Grant.