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The Meeting Factory - Colchester

Colchester Borough Council regains hours of productive time using The Meeting Factory

The democratic services team at Colchester Borough Council is reaping the benefits of a tailor-made committee management system thanks to The Meeting Factory.

The Challenge

The democratic service team at Colchester Borough Council is reaping the benefits of a tailor-made committee management system thanks to The Meeting Factory.

Responsible for the smooth running of the decision-making process, the team has the critical role of organising meetings, putting together agendas, writing up and publishing minutes, and making sure action points are followed up - all within Government-imposed deadlines. This means the team are always working to tight timelines when it comes to the publishing of meeting information.

The Solution

This whole process has been simplified for the team at Colchester Borough Council since they signed up to The Meeting Factory - a paperless agenda and meeting management system specifically designed to streamline the workload for democratic teams.

Launched by IT solutions company Free Rein earlier this year, The Meeting Factory now enables the Colchester team to publish agendas, reports and minutes on the internet, intranet and via e-mail simultaneously at the touch of a button. Although it is new to the market, The Meeting Factory is based upon proven components - namely the e-KIS Content Management System which has been installed in over 50 organisations over the last 7 years, and was designed in partnership with the University of Essex.

The Meeting Factory is fully integrated, with individual changes automatically carried through the entire system. Updates are quick and simple, with consistency of information ensured. Being web browser based, it also offers anytime, anywhere flexibility for users and means a quick and painless rollout throughout the organisation. This transparent and dynamic method of working is key to The Meeting Factory.

Aimed initially at the local authority market, The Meeting Factory offers significant advantages in terms of efficiencies and costs-savings, as well as providing accurate, consistent information across multiple communications platforms. The Meeting Factory is designed to help local authorities deliver; the Gershon efficiency challenges, the Priority Outcomes for online services, and the Transformation of the local democratic process.

The Results

As far as Amanda Chidgey, democratic services manager at Colchester Borough Council, is concerned, the benefits of the systems are multiple.

"The Meeting Factory enables us to publish both internally and externally on the internet in one hit and it enables us to file all the decisions that have been taken previously thereby building up a valuable historical database."

"The Meeting Factory automates a lot of the repetitive, mundane tasks, meaning we are better able to manage our time and hot those important deadlines. The automatic creation of meeting information packs into PDF format and email has played an important role in improving our efficiency"

Has the system offered any unexpected added value to the team's working practices or priority outcomes?

"One of the beauties of the system is that it enables us to provide a whole raft of information about our councillors in one place," says Amanda.

"We can upload the basic contact details and information about various committees and outside bodies members sit on. Thereafter, whenever they attend a meeting or declare an interest at a meeting The Meeting Factory automatically populates the information in their file."

"It puts a bit more pressure on the councillors because their constituents can log on and see how often they attend meetings. The information has always been public but we've never before had the ability to make it readily available - in the past we've always had to be reactive to request."

Another bonus for Colchester Borough Council is that the new system has also made it possible to restrict access to sensitive or confidential information in documents.

"The Meeting Factory enables us to publish confidential reports and only authorise access for certain senior people and councillors". explains Amanda. "Previously we couldn't publish these reports at all, we could only provide them on request. Now we have a complete record and we know it's all there in one place."

And it's not only functionality that has improved. The presentation of documents on the web is also markedly improved, according to Amanda, because of the facility to merge all the documents into a PDF print pack with automatic page numbering, headers and watermarks.

"It is published on the web in a package from so we know how it will print out at the other end. Previously it was published in separate documents and we were never quite sure where the page breaks came and how it printed off. The product now looks a lot better.

Few new systems are introduced into organisations without teething problems, but Amanda insists there were hardly any.

"What has been a surprise to me is how much the people at the company understand what we're talking about as a local authority - that has been extremely beneficial. It' been a really good partnership at the end of the day."

If you would like to find out more about what The Meeting Factory could do for your organisation, please call Tony Addison on 01473 810002, or e-mail tony.addison@free-rein.net