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Latest news and innovations for councils and the public sector from the SocietyWorks team.

FixMyStreet Pro is going to Highways UK

We’re excited to be taking our much-loved digital reporting service for streets and highways, FixMyStreet Pro, back to Highways UK this year.

Taking place at the NEC in Birmingham on 3 – 4 November, Highways UK is the big expo for those working on the UK’s road infrastructure — from local authorities to contractors and regional transport bodies.

If you’ll be attending, stop by stand F72 to say hello to us and learn about how councils and highways agencies are using FixMyStreet Pro to streamline the defect reporting process, create huge savings through channel shift and provide a truly joined-up and transparent service for citizens.

Three members of the SocietyWorks team will be on the stand: David, Clare and Sally. They’re all on the exhibition app, too, so if FixMyStreet Pro is something that interests you, why not connect with them before the event and schedule a meeting?

Here’s where to find us at the event:

Floor plan for Highways UK

Until then, you can ask us any questions about FixMyStreet Pro here.

Image: Omer Rana

See you at the District Councils’ Network Annual Conference

SocietyWorks is proud to be sponsoring this year’s District Councils’ Network Annual Conference, which takes place on 21 – 22 October.

District Councils’ Network (DCN) is a cross-party member led network of 183 district councils and a Special Interest Group of the Local Government Association (LGA).

This will be the first time we’re attending the conference, so we’re excited to meet everyone and introduce ourselves to the network.

We’ll also be introducing our new digital domestic waste service WasteWorks, co-designed with Bromley and Peterborough Councils. 

With citizens spending a lot more time at home during the last eighteen months, awareness of local authority waste services has never been sharper, so we’re keen to talk to attendees about how we can help councils to manage those rising expectations for on-demand access and fast resolutions. 

If you’re heading to the conference, do come over to our stand and say hello to David and Sally, who will be representing us on both days of the event. Grab a brochure for WasteWorks, or stick around for a chat about all things digital government, service transformation and giving residents the best possible customer experience.

In the meantime, if you’d like to learn more about what we do, you can find out more here.

FixMyStreet Pro in London

FixMyStreet Pro’s ability to handle the complex routing of inbound street and highways reports really comes into its own in London.

With thirty-two different boroughs and multiple public authorities taking responsibility for keeping the Capital’s cogs turning, the process of reporting problems in London can be somewhat of a tangled web for residents that aren’t sure who’s responsible for what, and for councils whose teams and internal systems are working in silo, leading to more phone calls, more emails, more duplication of effort and slower response times. 

FixMyStreet Pro has the intelligent functionality to connect everything together for councils using the service, and automatically reroute reports from one authority to another – and it works at its best when everyone is using it to its full potential. 

That’s why earlier this week we hosted a focused workshop for our growing contingent of London-based FixMyStreet Pro customers to share best practice ideas for how to get the most out of the service and maximise user uptake.

London talking

Transport for London (TfL)’s Customer Services Delivery Manager Fola Olafare kicked things off by talking through how FixMyStreet Pro (known by TfL as Street Care) has been working for them since its launch in 2019, and their ambitious aims for expanding the service’s reach and impact over the next eighteen months. 

Fola’s presentation ended with a lively group discussion in which attendees from Hounslow Highways and the London Boroughs of Bromley, Hackney, Merton and Westminster bounced their best ideas around for accelerating channel shift.

Next up we heard two case studies on successfully establishing FixMyStreet Pro as your channel of choice for taking reports from citizens. 

Tracy Eaton, newly-appointed Product Owner for FixMyStreet Pro at Buckinghamshire Council, where 61% of reports are now being made via FixMyStreet Pro, spoke about the importance of making use of the service’s ability to feed detailed and transparent information back to citizens, and how, by using FixMyStreet Pro’s map asset layers, duplicate reports for related categories have dropped down to just 0.05%.

Meanwhile, Jonathan Richards, Business Support & Market Manager at Bromley Council, shared some insight into Bromley’s channel shift journey with FixMyStreet Pro, which now accounts for a whopping 94% of all inbound reports.

Intelligent routing of reports

For our final session of the workshop, SocietyWorks’ Senior Developer Matthew Somerville gave a detailed demonstration of what is, arguably, the most intelligent and useful feature of FixMyStreet Pro for London boroughs: its ability to display assets and categories that are the responsibility of another authority on the map, and to reroute any reports pertaining to those categories.  

This particular feature of FixMyStreet Pro reflects the key functionality of the national FixMyStreet.com service, which allows citizens to make reports to councils and ensures those reports go to the correct place. After all, most citizens don’t care about whether an issue is the responsibility of one council or another, and nor should they have to; they just want to make a report and receive updates about its progress.

The difference with the Pro version is that everything is integrated with councils’ backend systems, so not only do reports go to the correct place, but they also require no manual intervention from staff, and facilitate a seamless two-way transfer of data.

Take the London Borough of Bexley’s version of FixMyStreet Pro as an example. As well as allowing residents to select from a list of categories that are the responsibility of the borough, Bexley also displays categories for reports that need to go to TfL (eg. Abandoned Santander Cycles), if and when a resident clicks on the ‘red route’ area of the map. 

Red routes on Bexley Council's FixMyStreet Pro showing red routes on the map

Any reports made on a ‘red route’ will automatically be sent to TfL, creating a really smooth experience for the report-maker and saving Bexley the trouble of having to deal with an irrelevant report.

In cases where a report could still be the responsibility of TfL, but it’s not on a ‘red route’, FixMyStreet Pro will work that out and send the report to TfL instead of to Bexley. Take the example below, which shows TfL’s traffic lights asset layer displayed on Bexley’s reporting service, ensuring that the report will not only go to the right place, but gives the most accurate information when it arrives.

TfL's asset layers displayed on Bexley Council's reporting service

Vice versa, on TfL’s version of FixMyStreet Pro, Street Care, should a citizen go to make a report about an issue on a ‘red route’, they will be able to choose from a variety of categories, most of which are the responsibility of TfL, some of which aren’t.

For example, if a citizen heads to Street Care and tries to report some litter on the road, they will be advised that this report needs to be dealt with by the borough, and will be able to click through to the national FixMyStreet.com site where the report information will be carried over, causing no interruption to the report-making process. 

TfL's Street Care is powered by FixMyStreet Pro

Equally, if a citizen tries to report a problem via Street Care and drops the map pin on a road that’s not maintained by TfL, this will be explained clearly and, again, the report-maker will be able to click through to a pre-filled report on FixMyStreet.com.

Reports can be rerouted from TfL to the correct borough

It’s not obligatory for our London borough councils to display ‘red routes’ and redirect reports to other authorities, but Matthew’s demonstration provided ample inspiration for how transformational doing so can be to the user experience.

For London boroughs, FixMyStreet Pro is a powerful tool for channel shift and presents a crucial opportunity to join a community of councils and other authorities delivering a truly efficient and joined-up service. 

Image: Ashleigh Joy Photography on Unsplash

We’re taking WasteWorks to RWM

RWM is the UK’s largest Recycling, Resource and Waste Management event, bringing together individuals, businesses, and local authorities dealing with recycling, resources, waste, and the circular economy.

We’ll be exhibiting at the event for the first time this year to introduce local authorities to WasteWorks, our new digital waste management service that integrates with in-cab systems to transform the user experience and drive incredible channel shift.

If you’re one of the many local authorities heading to the NEC on 22 – 23 September, come and see us in the Local Authority Lounge (we’ll be at stand LA1) to grab a brochure, or stop for a chat to learn more about how WasteWorks revolutionises digital access to domestic, bulky and green waste services for your residents, your staff and your contractors.

On day two of the event, we’ll be co-hosting a seminar with our partners Yotta to discuss how, together, we help councils to streamline waste services, realise significant cost savings and deliver a truly citizen-centric experience. Transforming waste services for true citizen satisfaction takes place on 23 September at 11am in the Local Authority Lounge.

Who’ll be there:

David Eaton, Sales Director – With over a decade of experience helping councils and other public sector organisations across the UK to achieve their digital transformation goals via robust and responsible technologies, David’s the one to speak to about all your digital waste service needs. He’ll be around on both days of the event, and is looking forward to finally being able to meet people in-person once again!

 

Sally Bracegirdle, Marketing & PR Manager – Accompanying David at the event, Sally joined us back in December 2020, so RWM will be the first in-person exhibition she’s been to with SocietyWorks! Sally’s passionate about helping councils to close the feedback loop and deliver a fulfilling citizen reporting experience. Ask her about how WasteWorks facilitates first-rate communication between citizen, council and other line of business system teams.

 

Martin Wright, Designer – Martin will be joining David and Sally on the second day of the event, when he’ll be delivering the seminar with Yotta. Martin plays a crucial role in ensuring that all of our digital services are designed with citizens at the front and centre. As well as being a designer, Martin also undertakes much of our user research, making him the perfect person to talk to about delivering citizen-centric public services.

We can’t wait to get back on the road to in-person events – see you there!

If you’d like to learn more about RWM, visit the event website.

Image: Claudio Schwarz

We’re making some improvements to our infrastructure platform

One of our main priorities for this year has been to make some significant investments in our infrastructure platform to bring about some key improvements. 

After completing a review, a project is currently underway to make some upgrades to the platform and expand our presence into additional locations, which will enable us to provide more flexible capacity and geographical redundancy for services.

This is a significant update to our platform and is intended to underpin the growth and availability of our services over the next three years. 

Currently, we are engaging with suppliers to bring this capability online and will be focussing on applying this to our core services over the rest of 2021. 

In the interim, we have also completed a number of smaller actions to further strengthen our infrastructure.

  • We have redistributed services across our back-end tier to ensure better capacity management and limit the impact of sudden spikes in activity. This is an ongoing activity and we will continue to make adjustments as necessary.
  • We are updating our emergency response procedures to ensure that a clear process is in place for managing spikes in connections that run the risk of overwhelming the back-end.
  • We have already expanded our monitoring to better capture some aspects of the back-end system and make these available to our engineering staff for real-time troubleshooting. This is already helping us find some areas for potential improvement in resource and connection pool management and we are actively working at adding further capabilities.

We are always reviewing our planning and decision making, and have contingency plans in place as we make improvements.

Image: Zeynep Sümer

Join our session at SDinGov

Next month is SDinGov (Service Design in Government, if you were wondering), a two-day conference that brings together a community of professionals involved in designing and commissioning public services.

This year’s event will take place virtually, and we’re thrilled to announce that our submission to host a speaker session has been accepted.

SocietyWorks will be represented by our designer Martin Wright, who will be taking his popular consequence scanning workshop out for a spin once again. 

During the workshop you’ll take part in a consequence scanning exercise with Martin and the rest of the group, in which you’ll design a fictional new public service for a local authority and help to ensure that its launch doesn’t turn into a costly PR disaster. 

By the end of the session, you will know how to predict, assess and mitigate any potential negative consequences of your future public service design projects.

Martin has run variations of this workshop a couple of times now, so if you’ve missed out before, now’s your chance to see what it’s all about.

Consequence scanning – an exercise you can use when designing new services at SDinGov will take place on 16 September at 10.30am – 11.30am

See you there! 

Find out more about SDinGov here.

Hackney Council noise case management sprint notes: 6 July – 3 August 2021

These sprint notes are part of a series following our work with Hackney Council on the production of a noise case management system. View the previous notes here.

Service assessment

In the previous month we took part in a service assessment, which was a chance for us to share the work we’ve been doing so far with a panel, and to check that we’re meeting the Service Standard by testing our work against fourteen Government Design Service (GDS) criteria.

We have now received the full results and while feedback was generally positive, we have also been given recommendations on criteria that the panel feel we did not fully meet. We have been through each of the comments and recommendations with Hackney, and have agreed on which ones we’ll be taking forward. We’re due to meet again in a few weeks to show some of our changes and what we’ve learned, and are currently in the process of gathering further evidence for the assessors. One of the things they felt we weren’t clear about is what we’d learned from our testing with staff at Hackney. Our plan is to go back through the prototypes and provide specific examples of work we’ve changed based on feedback. Another recommendation we’ll be working on is showing the end to end process through a process diagram with swimlanes, something we had in the earlier stages of discovery, but with all the new information and understanding we have this is something that could be expanded upon. 

Alpha and Beta

As we’ve moved from Alpha and into Beta, we wrapped up our work so far with a report detailing all our findings and links to all relevant prototypes and user stories that were gathered. This is something that we’re currently asking Hackney for feedback on and will form a create base for future documentation.

With the move to Beta we’ve gone through about 70% of the prototypes and started to document the technical functionality of each feature in Github tickets and an accompanying technical specification. To make the work easier to follow and prioritise, we’ve grouped related sections of work together in Github as milestones. This will help show any dependencies between work more easily too. 

The technical specification will be a working document as we develop and test with the team at Hackney, but for now we’ve sent over the first draft which details how high level key functionality, citizen reporting, authentication for staff and the citizen view when authenticated. 

Development work 

As we’ve worked with Hackney before on FixMyStreet Pro we knew certain things would need to be in place, like the way council staff authenticate using Google login. 

We’ve also been working on the reassignment of cases between different officers, and have demoed that at a recent ‘Show & Tell’ meeting to the team at Hackney.

Image: Pawel Czerwinski

New joined-up admin functionality across FixMyStreet Pro and WasteWorks

View and monitor reports for each of your service areas through one visual heatmap, built into the dashboard of FixMyStreet Pro and WasteWorks.

Back in 2019 we worked with Bromley Council to introduce a new heatmap feature to FixMyStreet Pro’s arsenal of tools for council staff. 

The heatmap converts report data into a visual format that is easy to understand, allowing council staff to see at a glance which issues are most prevalent, and where they are being reported.

Since being rolled out to all Pro customers, the heatmap has become one of the service’s most popular and useful features, which is why we built the same functionality for our new waste service WasteWorks.

Bromley also co-designed WasteWorks with us, and so is one of the first councils to go live with the service and benefit from being able to track and manage more than one service area from a single, central dashboard.

Now, when Bromley staff log in to their FixMyStreet Pro dashboard and select the heatmap overlay, as well as being able to view street and highways reports, they can also see where reports and requests are being submitted through WasteWorks for waste services.

The heatmap looks and works in the same way as before for Bromley. Hotter colours represent higher report volume, cooler colours represent fewer reports, and dropdown filters allow staff to view report data by category, status, timeframe and ward.

By default, the heatmap shows every report made to the council in the last month, so initially the map will look something like this:

Bromley Council's heatmap on FixMyStreet Pro

But now, without needing to leave the page, Bromley staff can view reports about, say, fly-tips, made in the last 12 months, which have been closed

Bromley Council's heatmap on FixMyStreet Pro

…or, green garden waste subscriptions, which have been completed in the last 5 days.

Green garden waste subscriptions shown on Bromley Council's heatmap

Heatmaps for both FixMyStreet Pro and WasteWorks are available to all UK councils. If you’d like to see how they work, you can request a demo.

Webinar: Scoping out a successful citizen service: how to get started

Thank you to everyone who joined us on what was an extremely hot afternoon last Thursday for the first in our new series of webinars for local authorities. Scoping out a successful citizen service: how to get started was an exploration of the best way to get started when designing or redesigning an online service for citizens.

Leading the session, our designer and user researcher Martin Wright plotted the route from discovery to successful service uptake, highlighting the importance of carrying out consequence scanning and advising on how best to balance resident requirements with council capacity.

We were also joined by Bromley Council’s Technical Support Team Manager Jonathan Richards, who spoke about Bromley’s recent experience of designing and implementing a brand new online waste service for residents.

If you weren’t able to join us but you’re interested to know what was spoken about, you can watch a recording of the session below, and if you have any questions about anything that was discussed, let us know and we’ll get back to you with an answer!

Full video:

 

Stay updated on our upcoming webinars by signing up to our monthly newsletter.

Hackney Council noise case management sprint notes: 8 June – 6 July 2021

These sprint notes are part of a series following our work with Hackney Council on the production of a noise case management system. View the previous notes here.

It’s a bumper edition of our Hackney noise case management sprint notes, this time covering two very busy sprints.

Service assessment

During the last two sprints, we prepared for and submitted the noise service we’ve been working on with Hackney for a service assessment. This was a chance for us to share the work we’ve been doing so far with a panel, and to check that we’re meeting the Service Standard by testing our work against fourteen Government Design Service (GDS) criteria.

On the day of the assessment, we were joined by Emma Gowan and Selwyn Preston from Hackney, as well as Phillipa Newis from Greenwich. 

We’re still waiting for the full assessment results, but we can certainly say that it was a really useful exercise for us to gain an external view of the service and take some guidance from experienced specialists from the government digital community.

Citizen user experience research

We also spent some time carrying out further research into the citizen experience of creating noise reports. Specifically, we wanted to find out more about what citizens want in terms of creating a diary of noise reports, how they want to see case history and the preferred way to receive notifications.

For this, we spoke to a sample of Hackney residents, 73% of whom had previously made noise reports. Our investigations found that most of them would rather be notified about their noise cases via email than via a text message, phone call or letter.

Interestingly, while 54% of the residents we spoke to say they would likely make their report on a mobile phone, the majority of them don’t want another app. This is fortunate, because we’re looking to build a responsive website that doesn’t leave older devices behind.

Take a look at some of our other findings:

Was it fairly easy to report the noise recurrence?

Was the language clear and easy to understand?

Is it useful to see a log like this, of all the actions following your complaint?

Alpha and Beta

The last two sprints saw us enter the final round of Alpha testing for the noise service. Wanting to be prepared for what happens next, the SocietyWorks team met internally to discuss the Beta part of the project.

First up on the list for this stage is to work out how the product will be built and to start creating tickets to document what we need to build. To start with, we’re focusing on allowing officers to reassign cases to each other. This will involve looking at how real-life staff profiles are set up within the system, instead of just the example profiles we have so far. 

Image: Nick Fewings

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