Council shuns IRIS shared software consortium

It was a surprise to everyone, even Bay of Plenty Regional Council, when an evaluation led it to choose software from US company Accela.

Bay of Plenty Regional Council has hatched a software surprise, opting not to join a consortium of New Zealand regional councils using a shared, purpose-built software platform.

The council, on the east coast of the North Island, will implement software from US company Accela rather than the Integrated Regional Information System (IRIS) developed and used by six other councils.

The decision means the development and maintenance costs of the IRIS platform will remain with the six current members -- Northland, Horizons, Taranaki, Waikato, West Coast, and Environment Southland -- rather than being shared more broadly.

Mike Nield, director of corporate services at Taranaki Regional Council, said IRIS has a sustainable model and funding for IRIS' 10-year development plan.

"Yes, we are disappointed and would love to have them on board," he said.

A Bay of Plenty Regional Council report from last May (PDF) indicated that the council and neighbouring Gisborne District Council were both considering joining IRIS.

Deputy chief executive Eddie Grogan indicated that Gisborne considered IRIS to be a front-runner in its procurement decision. Bay of Plenty had already consulted with interested parties and received four submissions supporting IRIS membership.

However, Bay of Plenty decided to put its procurement out to open tender, a process that has now led it to select Accela.

"After a robust tender process, we decided Accela best met both our current and anticipated requirements," Grogan told ZDNet. "Implementation is staggered; however, the organisational efficiencies this will enable will be noticeable from as early as October this year."

Grogan's May report said many council applications that are used to capture core information are fragmented, cumbersome, and present operational risk. Users are spending too much time recording and maintaining data.

"Out-of-date software applications [are] constraining system upgrades, preventing functional gaps from being filled, and using development capacity to 'band-aid' current solutions," the report said.

The council won't be alone in using Accela in New Zealand. Other users include Otago Regional Council, Environment Canterbury, and, in its own coverage area, Tauranga City.

Accela offers a purpose-built civic platform that comes either pre-configured or can be customised. It also offers open data and process automation out of the box, as well as a software development kit.

For IRIS, Nield said, it is "business as usual".

"We remain open to them seeing the error of their ways and joining," he joked. "No, they've been through a process and we wish them all the best."