Friday, 29 May 2015 12:26

Qld Marine Rescue moves to the cloud with Microsoft Featured

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Marine Rescue Queensland has deployed Microsoft’s Office 365 across its state-wide network of 1,500 volunteers enabling a centralisation of systems and facilitating faster, more efficient contact throughout the organisation.

Prior to the deployment by Microsoft and its partner Empired, MRQ did not have a centralised system and each of the organisation’s 25 squadrons throughout the state was using its own documents and set of guidelines.

With public expectations of high standards of operation by Marine Rescue, the organisation needed to ensure some consistency across its individually-managed autonomous squadrons spread around the state.

Marine Rescue president Keith Williams says expectations placed on the organisation from the general public have undergone a large transformation. “Where in the old days there used to be a bit of give and take – ‘Well, we’re only volunteers’ – that’s pretty much all gone now”.

“We’ve got 25 locations in incredibly diverse areas throughout Queensland, from Southport on the Gold Coast that do up to 900 jobs a year, through to Mornington Island in the Gulf of Carpentaria that has a total population of 300 people on the island and about eight Marine Rescue volunteers. In the past all these volunteers have been inventing their own processes, there was no consistency or collaboration between groups.

“They’ve all been doing absolutely everything on their own and that’s become harder and harder to do in this age of increased compliance and risk assessment.”

“The problem screamed out for a whole of state approach, having some of the administration centralised, so everybody can get what they need without reinventing the wheel the whole time.”

With the Office 365 deployment, Williams said: “Everybody, from Maritime Safety Queensland, the compliance regulator, through to the general public now expect that Marine Rescue volunteers will be trained to the highest levels and will have all their processes together.”

Williams says that with Office 365 it has given MRQ “the ability to put everybody on the same page, for starters.”

“But it also enables us to create group-based aliases, so I can just send an email to all volunteers in a region now, rather having to remember each individual person.

“It doesn’t sound like such a big thing but when you’re coming from nothing it’s been a huge step forward to be able to achieve that and to know you’re talking to the right people.”   

Williams say SharePoint has proved another marked improvement, with MRQ using a satellite-hub concept where the State body shares content that is relevant to all squadrons. Each squadron has a satellite that it controls so that it can share information that is only relevant to that squadron – retaining autonomy while meeting the overall aim of being able to share content across the state.

According to Williams, SharePoint is now being used for a number of tasks that are essential to increasing the professionalism and accountability of the organisation.

“We didn’t understand the full usefulness of SharePoint at first,” Williams said. “It started off with us being able to put a lot of our documents about our compliance out to everybody, now it’s evolved to include a lot of training material.

“What will happen is that we’ll end up with a system whereby people will be able to do completely self-based learning.

“They’ll get the training material, they’ll be able to sign in and perhaps have a co-ordinator sign off that they’ve done practical training skills in that area.

“Then they’ll be able to do that exam in their own time at their own location, so SharePoint is bringing massive benefits to us,” Williams concluded.

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Peter Dinham is a co-founder of iTWire and a 35-year veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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