Taronga Conservation Society Australia has ditched many of its paper-based administration processes after deploying a new staff experience app underpinned by SAP’s cloud platform.

The society has been using the app, dubbed StaX, for the last year to simplify and centralise the day-to-day admin needs of the more than 600 employees at Sydney’s Taronga Zoo.

Developed by Melbourne-based CX firm Bourne Digital, the app allows staff to perform key transactions like submitting food orders for animal and HR requests, as well as receive alerts.

With a largely mobile workforce, spread across 21 hectares, it has enabled staff to spend more time in the field focusing on wildlife, particularly in the wake of the bushfire season.

Taronga project manager Mark Kemp told iTnews the web app was built to remediate core processes like finance, payroll and HR, which were previously paper-based.

“Essentially, what we were looking to do is align things more with our digital technology strategy at Taronga, and try to approach things with a digital-first approach,” he said.

Kemp said the app, which integrates with other services like Microsoft Azure AD and Atlassian’s Jira, was part of a broader core business systems uplift project with SAP.

“The reason why we chose to go that route is because we’re also using the S/4 HANA database for our SAP upgrade project too,” he said.

“So it was a bit of marriage between how the database could be utilised.”

While the app’s development was relatively quick, with the first release in the wild two months after the project began, Kemp said much of the complexity centred around change management.

“Obviously going from a paper-based to a digital workflow, we had to do a lot of stakeholder engagement and management, and that was quite a complex task,” he said.

While the project had required an extensive change management process, Kemp said the outcome was a “cornerstone app that people can’t really go without”.

“I just need to talk to anyone around the zoo to qualify that. Everyone that’s been at the organisation for longer than a year has stated how much time they save,” he said.

The success of the project means the app is currently being rolled out to Taronga’s sister zoo in Dubbo, Western Plains Zoo.

Keeping zoo keepers in the field

One of the app’s central features is an alert issuing function that broadcasts an alert code to staff – both within the app itself, as well as in email form – when an incident occurs.

Kemp said this was particularly useful for staff, given the zoo is a huge physical site with various animal precincts spread across quite challenging terrain.

“If there’s an animal breach, someone can open up the web app, click a button and it issues an alert that gets emailed to all users notifying them that there’s activity going on,” he said.

“Previously what we found was we literally had people racing to a workstation or to their phone to try and send out an email, but the uniformity of the language wasn’t there.

“What we’ve implemented with StaX is there’s a lot more uniformity around those broadcasts now, so that everything that goes out is a code stating what’s been done.”

Other useful features include an open weather API that includes a UV index, which Kemp said is useful for Workplace Health and Safety as many staff work outdoors.

The app also links out to Facebook Workplace, which Taronga uses for social and informal comms.

Phase two

While Kemp described the app’s integration with Taronga’s systems as “relatively superficial” at the moment, there are plans for more complex integrations in the future.

But for the time being the society is focused on phase two of the app, which has already been tested with key stakeholder groups.

Phase two will include additional functionality that allows staff to perform on-site vehicle booking, which Kemp said was particularly important for Western Plains Zoo.

The society plans to introduce phase two shortly, though this will likely be delayed by the coronavirus pandemic as Taronga has been forced to temporarily close.

“The result has been overwhelmingly positive and we’re very much looking forward to releasing phase two. We’re very close to rolling it out,” Kemp said.

Taronga Zoo banishes paper with SAP-based staff app

This article first appeared on itnews.com.au