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Sentient Dynamics introduces BERT for Local Land Services

Sentient Dynamics introduces BERT for Local Land Services

An upgraded version of BERT is coming to all regions, providing improved scalability and more integrations.

Credit: Dreasmtime

Microsoft partner Sentient Dynamics has designed and built a business evidence and reporting tool (BERT) for NSW government agency, Local Land Services (LLS). 

The tool helps guide staff through the planning and reporting process, aligning with the agency’s state and regional strategies.

The first version of BERT was built for the agency’s North West region, which assists farmers and landholders in several areas such as controlling weeds and invasive species, and monitoring traveling stock reserves.

LLS operates in 11 regions across NSW, which means it has 11 different strategic plans that feed into a statewide strategic plan. The agency has more than 1000 employees across 110 towns and cities.

According to LLS business partner strategy and performance, Emily Kearns, the agency was using multiple disparate systems to manage business reporting and planning. This resulted in data that was inconsistent and unreliable, and took a long time to collate.

“There’s a lot of moving parts in our framework, achieving central oversight and the ability to see how we were delivering on our strategic plans was always challenging,” she explains.

“If we were ever audited or we ever needed to deliver something to the Treasury, there were a lot of spreadsheets, there was a lot of paper, and there were a lot of files that we had to go digging through to find out what we were delivering and how we could prove that.”

BERT sits within Microsoft Teams and uses Microsoft Dataverse and Microsoft Power Apps to capture business plans. 

It also uses Microsoft Power Automate for workflow automation and notifications, as well as Microsoft Power BI to visualise data, generate reports and enable data-driven decisions.

“One of the reasons for building the solution initially in Dataverse and Teams, and using as many Microsoft tools as possible, is because LLS already had an existing investment in Microsoft [technology] and was familiar with those tools. So, we were able to get engaged and spin up a solution quite quickly,” Sentient Dynamics principal consultant, James Diekman said.

Sentient Dynamics built the solution in three months and implemented it for the agency’s North West regional division in July 2021. An upgraded version of BERT is coming to all regions, providing improved scalability and more integrations into other applications and systems the agency is using.

LLS team leader for Agriculture, Dale Kirby estimates BERT has saved approximately 45 days per year for data gathering, and around 10 days per month for generating reports.

“It alleviates all of the multiple reporting channels that we have been putting data together for,” he says. “We could have an annual report by calendar year and then another annual report by financial year, and that would change the data. So, we would be going back to spreadsheet-based data collection to then slice that data to give accurate reports for each of those different cadences.

“BERT also gives us what is effectively a lightweight CRM to track how we’re engaging with customers, because that is a key state metric for us. It gives us much more visibility over where we were getting enquiries, which we can then report on and rejig our strategic priorities accordingly.”

Kearns added it would like the regions using BERT initially to put their business plans in and commence reporting on statewide metrics, and then see future modules embedded from other platforms such as risk and finance down the track.

“We haven’t really seen what BERT can do at a state scale across the organisation,” says Kearns. “That’s where we’ll get some real value in driving organisational improvement – by delivering savings and efficiencies around how we are delivering on the outcomes in our strategies."

LLS also previously engaged Sentient Dynamics to build a solution that allows farmers and advisers to report their mice damage during the recent outbreak across NSW. 

The mice reporting solution isn’t connected to BERT, but shares a similar user interface and adopts a simple approach in using a Microsoft form that stores data into a SharePoint backend that’s connected to a Power BI dashboard. 

It was also using Power Automate to take the form responses and save those in a SharePoint list and can be connected to the Power BI dashboard.

Since going live in July 2021, the mice reporting solution has recorded almost 200 entries, and LLS was also fielding queries to use the system across other teams to manage other issues such as locust plagues.

“The form itself saves about the same time, and the key benefit is that the data entry is open to anyone, allowing for an integrated approach to pest management,” Kirby said.

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