Regardless of the specific use case, the problems this customer was facing will surely be recognisable for many of the readers.
This particular organisation had been running a planning and application process through a combination of Excel and Access database. Whilst it no doubt met the need when initially implemented, it had become evident that it was no longer fit for purpose.
With expectations of all stakeholders being much higher, the restrictive nature of the legacy approach meant information took too long to find, was often inaccurate and there was concern over the audit-ability of the process and data from a compliance and GDPR perspective.
Local or distributed teams couldn’t collaborate leading to errors, duplication and poor efficiency brought about through labour intensive activities, and with a dramatic increase in housing and planning applications looming, and change in regulations, there was an expectation the situation would only get worse.
The user experience was very ‘old-school’ and not what would pass as acceptable today, so with the added pressure of availability of resource (or lack of) and a high bar for onboarding or training of new staff, a new approach was needed to support the current and forecast future demand.
So we needed to design a solution which neutralised these issues and provided a step change in their operations.
Starting with a cloud environment, we provided a secure, backed up system to ensure all the information produced and stored for the customer was created once, fully referenced and available at any time for stakeholder access.
Building a rich and intuitive interface, we were able to provide a low-train solution so new resources and operators could be onboarded quickly, and rapidly familiarise themselves, filter, navigate and view planning information within the context of any enquiry or case.
By ensuring it was linked to their accounts and authentication systems, we were able to allow users to log in using their Microsoft accounts and also access any financial information their role allowed them access to.
A key challenge was also making this work with or without network connectivity, be it with field access (in the middle of a remote location) or where the team needed to work from home, synchronising back up when back in range.
All this had to be delivered in a controlled manner, so that transition to the new service did not disrupt the ongoing operational activities of the organisation, with migration of the existing legacy data a key, but often overlooked issue for many customers.
Most of the important or value-added information for any planning application potentially comes from the capturing or acquisition of field data, such as photos, location, time, context and comments.
In this case we needed to provide a mobile application which could work remotely, and collect all the value-added data to build into the planning record and history regardless of where it came from and who.
The app needed to know who the user was, where they were, when they were there and what planning activity they were assessing, so we needed to bring together a number of technologies including mapping, layers and location tracking.
With the combination of planning and mobile based information, we were able to build a rich, time based record of planning activities, wrapped up with a workflow for approval that was fully auditable and repeatable thanks to the data integrity brought about by having it all in one place.
Further automation included SMS and Email notifications for various stages and parts of the system to ensure stakeholders were kept informed, with out-reach surveys forming an extension of the main system to ensure the all important engagement and communication was maintained.
Using a low-code development approach, we delivered this solution in a very short space of time and at a fraction of the cost of larger systems, so if you are disappointed with the options you feel you have in front of you (Excel, On-Line Products etc) and want to consider a solution that meets all your requirements, give us a call.
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