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

Hackney Council noise case management sprint notes: 25 May – 8 June 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.

During the last sprint we focused on prototyping the system’s mobile-optimised interface to get a second round of feedback on some of the suggestions the team has already made in previous sprints, and also identify ways that the product can help officers attending noise complaints ‘on the ground’

The prototypes received some good feedback including:

  • Case list page works well – combination of filtering and searching by address or name addresses the needs of officers prioritising their work.
  • Great suggestion that the case page should display the number of previous cases at the given address, and/or number of notices previously served to the address – again, to help surface context that might affect the priority of a case.
  • Confirmation that officers expect to be notified by email when a case is assigned to them.
  • The concept of logging “actions” on a case generally makes sense to officers. Important to include failed actions as well – eg: “unable to contact reporter” or “phone unanswered”.
  • Extra information about perpetrators was valuable – we now need to investigate what we can show / where it would come from.
  • 100% of respondents said what they’ve seen so far would save them time compared to current or previous tools.

As we’re getting nearer to actually coding up some of these prototypes we’ve also had discussions about the infrastructure and languages used to develop the new NoiseWorks product as well as scheduling time in future sprints to start building the prototypes.

This sprint we’re testing the final set of prototypes around the citizen experience of the service. While most of the case management features are staff-only, we’re keen to get citizen feedback on how they access their past complaints, keep digital ‘diary sheets’ of noise re-occurrences and how they’d expect to be notified about updates to their case.

Image: Frederik Lipfert

Full green garden waste bin awaiting collection

Sprint notes: 26 May – 7 June 2021

Here’s what the SocietyWorks team got up to during the latest sprint.

FixMyStreet Pro

This sprint the team hosted an informative Show & Tell session for Buckinghamshire Council, impressively titled ‘The Art of the Possible’. The aim of this session was to outline some of the new improvements available for FixMyStreet Pro, as well as to provide an overview of how WasteWorks, our waste management service, and ApplyForIt, our licensing application service, could bring further improvements for the Council. These improvements include: an enhanced customer journey; extra streamlined data flow from back office systems; adding additional service areas to reflect unitary status; additional asset layers; augmented mapping.

NoiseWorks

Not satisfied with just one Show & Tell session this sprint, we also met up with our friends at Hackney Council to show them the latest progress on our in-development noise case management service. The focus this sprint was on examining the mobile app experience for officers in the field. We gained valuable feedback and insights, with 100% of officers stating the NoiseWorks experience would save them time. Can’t get better than that!

WasteWorks

Also this sprint, we’ve been working hard with Bromley Council on their online green garden waste payments system – part of the WasteWorks service. This system will allow Bromley to generate income from new subscriptions, renewals and direct debits for their green garden waste collection service. This will be going live next sprint. 

Other projects

Another Bromley project, we’ve been doing some work on a CRM project for them, as well as integrating parks into their installation of FixMyStreet Pro, so that residents can now search by park names. Alongside this, we ticked several smaller Freshdesk enquiries from clients off the list, and added a new logo to Zurich’s version of FixMyStreet Pro.

SocietyWorks Team 

And finally, an exciting update on the SocietyWorks team: we are very happy to announce that we have recruited two new developers who will be joining the team very soon!

Got questions about anything we worked on this sprint? Get in touch.

Image: manfredrichter

SocietyWorks is sponsoring LGA Conference 2021

Catch us at the LGA Virtual Annual Conference 2021

We’re very happy to be sponsoring this year’s virtual Local Government Association Annual Conference: three days of online talks from leading central and local government politicians as well as expert speakers from within and outside the sector.

Three lovely members of the SocietyWorks team will be there (virtually, of course) on 6 – 8 July, so do say hello whenever you see:

David EatonDavid Eaton, Sales Director – David has helped councils across the UK improve their customer experience, create incredible savings and drive channel shift via smart digital services for everything from highways and waste to FOI and noise. Ask him anything about setting up a new reporting service for your residents; he will have the answer.

 

Mark Cridge

Mark Cridge, Chief Executive – In addition to leading activities at our sister civic tech organisation mySociety, Mark has been instrumental in the launch of SocietyWorks and our suite of citizen services. Passionate about putting citizens at the heart of local authority services, Mark’s the one to talk to about all things digital transformation in local gov.

 

Sally Bracegirdle, Marketing & PR Manager – One of SocietyWorks’ newest team members, Sally joined in December 2020 and has spent her first few months on the job setting up lots of ways to share our expertise in the sector – one of those ways being attending this conference! Ask Sally about how to use internal and external communications to deliver a successful online service for citizens.

 

We’re looking forward to hearing from some fantastic speakers at the conference and chatting to people who share our interest in providing accessible, efficient and exceptional digital services for citizens. Hope to see you there!

In the meantime, ask us anything about citizen-friendly local authority services.

SocietyWorks is working with Hackney Council to produce a noise case management service

Hackney Council noise case management sprint notes: 11 May – 25 May 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.

We are now halfway through the Alpha phase of the project, which involves prototyping, testing and iterating the noise case management service. This sprint the testing focussed on how we could allow Hackney staff to filter and manage multiple cases, and this led to some really useful follow-up conversations with Principal Officers, which identified a more action-based approach as an intuitive way to help them quickly pick up and understand cases.

Findings from this sprint’s prototype testing included:

  • The importance of displaying full addresses when listing cases – including street and flat numbers.
  • Being able to find or filter cases by letters or notices that have been served to the perpetrator – this would help officers identify cases that need follow-up.
  • Ideas for better ways of prioritising cases – for example, by repeat offenders, breaches of notice, multiple complaints, or priority categories (like car alarms).
  • The usefulness of displaying actions that have been taken on a case, such as contact with residents, visits, notices, referrals.

Whilst ASB isn’t within the scope of this phase of the project, there is naturally some crossover between the noise and ASB teams at Hackney. This sprint we had a really energising meeting with members of the ASB team, where Beth and Soraya (the leads on this project at Hackney) took the team through the work we’ve done so far, to ensure we’re sharing as much knowledge as possible and learning from each other.

We’re proud to be working alongside Hackney Council to develop the new NoiseWorks product, and have already had some great feedback the staff at Hackney – Gerry, the Service Manager for Enforcement, in particular, thanked us for the work we’re doing, and appreciates that we’re taking the time to really involve and listen to the team.

Next sprint, we’ll be prototyping the system’s mobile-optimised interface to get a second round of feedback on some of the suggestions the team has already made in previous sprints, and also identify ways that the product can help officers attending noise complaints ‘on the ground’.

Image: Justus Menke

FixMyStreet Pro User Group

FixMyStreet Pro user group, May 2021: what happened on the day

Last week we hosted another of our FixMyStreet Pro user groups. These events provide the perfect opportunity for us to get together with all of our council partners to show them what we’ve been working on and, importantly, give them the chance to influence what’s next for FixMyStreet Pro.

Senior Developer Dave Arter gave everyone a tour of all of the recently added features for FixMyStreet Pro, from a new OS Maps API and some fantastic mobile navigation improvements to extra detailed asset information and intelligent image redaction.

We also heard from Sam Pearson, mySociety’s Site Reliability Engineer who took us behind the scenes of FixMyStreet Pro. Sam gave us a fascinating glimpse into the architecture of the service, how it’s maintained and how we keep it secure for our customers. 

Councils drive our development roadmap

A highlight of our user groups is always the interactive roadmap session – this is the part where we involve councils in helping to decide what new features we should be working on next for FixMyStreet Pro. 

Starting with a runthrough of some of the new feature suggestions we’ve been receiving from our council partners recently by Operations Director Louise Howells, we then broke out into five groups to discuss each suggestion and prioritise them from most to least pressing. Under the guidance of our Designer Martin Wright, each group used Miro boards to select the one project they most wanted to see worked on, before regrouping to compare selections and choose an overall winner.

So what did our council partners choose to be worked on next for FixMyStreet Pro? Scheduled emergency messages that only appear at the correctly calculated time. This is something several councils have asked for, so we’re very happy to be getting the ball rolling.

Designer Martin Wright moves the final post-it on the Miro board to crown ‘Scheduled emergency messages’ as the winning upcoming work idea

Bouncing ideas around

As well as having a say on our development roadmap, the user groups are also a great opportunity for councils to share best practices with each other, present case studies on how FixMyStreet Pro is working for them and discuss topics of interest.

Jack Bowers, Principal Highways Liaison Officer at Central Bedfordshire, presented a brilliant case study all about how FixMyStreet Pro has, within just a few months of launching, helped the council to create fast channel shift, improve the citizen user experience and reduce reporting costs by 24%. Just what we like to hear!

We also heard from Tom Scholes, Group Manager – Asset Data & Systems at Oxfordshire County Council, who led a very engaging discussion on demand management and intervention criteria. Tom spoke about how the council often receives reports about potholes that fall below their threshold for repair. He then sought advice from other councils on how best to utilise FixMyStreet Pro to handle this without compromising the citizen experience. Some fantastic ideas were thrown around, and we’ll be on hand to support Oxfordshire to better help citizens understand what counts as an actionable report.

And that’s it! It was a very enjoyable user group, and we’re already looking forward to the next one in November, which with any luck will be an in-person event!

If you have any questions about anything mentioned above, or you’d like to be invited to the next user group, do let us know.

Image: S O C I A L . C U T

Sprint notes: 11 – 26 May 2021

It’s been a cold and wet May, but we haven’t let that dampen our spirits here at SocietyWorks. Here are some of the highlights from the last sprint –  it was a busy one!

FixMyStreet Pro user group

This sprint we hosted another successful user group for our FixMyStreet Pro customers. These events give our council partners the chance to catch up on all of the new features we’ve been working on for the service, and also provide the opportunity to influence our development roadmap.

Thank you to everyone who made it on the day, and a special thank you to Jack Bowers from Central Bedfordshire Council and to Tom Scholes at Oxfordshire County Council who each presented a fantastic case study for us.

We also heard from Senior Developer Dave Arter who provided an expert demonstration of the recently added FixMyStreet Pro features, which now include OS Maps with MasterMap detail, mobile navigation improvements and image redaction.

You can find out more about the user group here.

WasteWorks

If you’re a keen follower of our sprint notes, you’ve probably noticed that we’re very excited to be co-designing with councils on the new WasteWorks product.

This is a citizen-centred system for councils to manage all elements of domestic, bulky and green waste online, integrated fully into any and all in-cab systems. We’ve moved into post-go live phase with Bromley Council after launching their phase 1 of work the other week.

NoiseWorks

Sshhh!  NoiseWorks is coming….

We have been partnering with Hackney Council to develop a nuisance noise reporting system for their local residents. We have completed phase 1 and are working towards completing phase 2 of the project. Please get in touch if you would like to know more. 

Smaller projects

We have also been working across a variety of smaller projects. This includes working on Red Claims for Buckinghamshire Council, bug fixing and supporting our clients via Freshdesk. 

Putting our heads together

This sprint we also had our SocietyWorks team meeting. This was a great opportunity for us all to get together to examine our internal processes, discuss the SocietyWorks suite of products and prioritise future projects. 

If that’s not enough we have also been looking to recruit new developers so we can continue innovating, collaborating and partnering on projects that will make a difference for citizens in our communities. 

Image: Gary Ellis

Noise case management with Hackney Council

Hackney Council noise case management: sprint notes 27 April – 11 May 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.

We’ve moved to Alpha!

Work continues on the NoiseWorks product that we’re undertaking with Hackney Council to produce a robust, well-tested case management system for resident noise reports. 

While our Discovery phase saw us interviewing Hackney staff to understand everyone’s working processes and pain points with both current and past case management systems, the Alpha is an opportunity to test what we’ve learned, and really narrow down on a user needs focussed noise case management product. 

Each sprint during the Alpha we’ll be testing a different aspect of the workflow. This most recent sprint has been dedicated to the experience of creating, viewing and updating a single case. 

Hackney Enforcement team members have been individually invited to check out a Google Form which contains step-by-step questions and screenshots, as well as links to clickable prototypes. Forms like these are a great way to gather Alpha feedback that works around officers’ busy schedules, and also ensures we get clear, actionable information that can inform future rounds of prototyping and carve the path towards Beta.

We’ve seen some interesting feedback come out of the prototypes, for example: 

  • A much clearer steer on the first thing officers need to do when faced with a new case – 85% said they’d first check that all the complaint details and contact details were present and correct, so we’ll be looking to make that quicker to verify.
  • An increased emphasis on the exact location or identifying features of the noise source, such as vehicle registration numbers – especially when it comes to detecting multiple complaints that could be treated as part of the same “case”.
  • A reassuring sign that two thirds of respondents thought this product could help them save time compared to their current or past case management systems.

We’ll continue to work and evolve the prototypes with the feedback we’re receiving from the team at Hackney. 

We’re also making sure we maintain a balance between what staff users need without compromising on the citizen experience by asking Hackney residents to get involved with testing. Hackney have added a call-out on their Hackney Matters emails, which are sent to local residents, asking for citizens to get involved and give feedback – 22 people have already signed-up! Plus, we’re asking people who submit noise complaints whether they’d like to take part too. We’ll be making use of these contacts in a later sprint.

Got a question about this project? Ask us here.

Image: Possessed Photography

FOI Works integration with iCasework for Hackney Council

FOI Works can now integrate with iCasework

FOI Works, our citizen-friendly FOI service for public authorities, can now integrate with the iCasework FOI case management service.

Back in 2018, we started working with Hackney Council on a new Freedom of Information service that would improve citizen access to FOI and which could be integrated into their existing case management system via an API.

That service is FOI Works, and we’re very pleased to say that we have recently added a new standard integration for it: iCasework.

What is FOI Works?

FOI Works is an unobtrusive, open-source FOI service for public bodies that provides a user-centred FOI request process, while intelligently leveraging already published information to reduce request volume. 

Acting as the easy-to-navigate front door to FOI for citizens, FOI Works integrates seamlessly with case management systems to help divert citizens to potentially relevant responses already published within the case management system’s disclosure log.

Through this integration, FOI Works also removes the need for authorities to do any manual data entry; sending requests straight through to the case management system and immediately allocating a case number to the citizen.

Integration with iCasework

After initially using the Infreemation case management service to manage their FOI requests, Hackney Council recently told us they were switching to iCasework. So, sticking to our promise of connecting our services up to whichever systems our customers choose, we jumped straight into expanding FOI Works’ integration workflow, allowing for a new API connection with iCasework.

While we made some tweaks to the software behind the scenes, the in-built flexibility of FOI Works meant that there has been little to no change or disruption to how the service works for the Council and its residents. This is important because it allows our public authority partners to grow with the software, rather than needing to change everything whenever new or alternative systems are introduced.

The future for FOI Works

Our top priority when it comes to providing public authority services is the citizen, so we’re always thinking about how we can ensure that no matter what integration is required on the backend, the citizen gets the best possible experience on the frontend.

Looking ahead for FOI Works, we’d like to partner up with another public body to build a disclosure log into the service to further ensure that no matter what’s going on behind the scenes, FOI Works can provide citizens with easy access to all of the information they seek, while at the same time helping authorities to reduce the quantity of duplicate or unactionable FOI requests submitted.

FOI Works can be procured as a bolt-on to any case management system for public authorities – find FOI Works on G-Cloud.

Image: Samuel Regan-Asante

FixMyStreet Pro can display defect pins on the map to show when work has already been scheduled

No report needed: new FixMyStreet map pins show citizens when remedial work has already been scheduled

Developed for Oxfordshire County Council’s instance of FixMyStreet Pro, useful new map pins show citizens when a fix has already been scheduled by the council, further helping to avoid report duplication and manage citizen expectations.

When a citizen makes a report on FixMyStreet.com or on one of the council branded Pro versions of the website, that report is published publicly with a little pin on the map indicating where the defect is. Among the various benefits of this transparent approach to defect report making is the way in which it helps to reduce duplicate reports; the citizen can see that the council has already been made aware of the issue and therefore doesn’t need to submit a new report.

Wanting to take extra advantage of this feature, Oxfordshire County Council approached us last year with a request to display some brand new pins on their maps to show where highways inspectors have already made note of a defect and have scheduled contractors to carry out a repair, thus eliminating the need for anyone to make a report in the first place. 

To collect the information for the new pins, Oxfordshire set up a new standard asset layer feed for FixMyStreet Pro especially for defects that have already been flagged by the Council’s highways inspectors. 

Taking data straight out of Oxfordshire’s backend management system, FixMyStreet Pro’s frontend produces a pin on the map to represent those defects, which can be seen to citizens from the ‘All Reports’ page when zoomed in to a certain level over the corresponding map tiles. These pins are shown in blue to differentiate them from those indicating a citizen-made report.

New defect map pins for Oxfordshire County Council's version of FixMyStreet Pro

Before a citizen places a pin of their own on the map to begin a report, FixMyStreet Pro will display the blue defect pins to helpfully suggest that this could be a problem that’s already been flagged by the Council.

Upon clicking one of the new pins, the citizen will be shown a pop-up containing up-to-date information on the defect, including when a repair is estimated to be completed. 

All of this should help to save the citizen the bother of submitting a report, while for the Council it helps to not just save time and money, but to also instil confidence in residents that defect repairs are all in hand.

SocietyWorks’ services are under continual development and we love taking suggestions for new features from our council partners, like this one from Oxfordshire. If you’d like to find out more about FixMyStreet Pro, or any of our other services, you can schedule a demo here.

Image: Miguel Teirlinck on Unsplash

Northamptonshire FixMyStreet

Smooth sailing through a unitary split: FixMyStreet Pro and Northamptonshire

As you probably know, earlier this month two unitary authorities replaced the two-tier council structure in Northamptonshire – an area where street and highways defect reports are managed via our FixMyStreet Pro service.

Integrated directly into Northamptonshire County Council’s asset management system of choice Yotta Alloy, FixMyStreet Pro, known as Street Doctor in Northamptonshire, acts as the all-important, user friendly front door for citizens who need to report any local problems. This being the case, as well as preparing for some behind the scenes rerouting to ensure that reports would go to the correct place for the two new councils, the pressure was on for the SocietyWorks team to ensure that there would be no interruption to the service for citizens on 1 April when the two councils came into effect.

So how did we do this?

Preparing for the split

One of the main reasons citizens prefer to use FixMyStreet to report issues to the council is that they don’t need to know which council is responsible for what problem, so our first priority was to understand where FixMyStreet would need to send reports after the split, all based on category and location data provided within reports. 

Our MapIt service, which FixMyStreet uses to match councils to the area for which they’re responsible, would have the new authority boundaries in place from 1 April ready to direct reports to the correct council.

The new councils, North Northamptonshire Council and West Northamptonshire Council, were each to absorb responsibility for Northamptonshire’s district councils, which meant writing some code that would work out which council was previously responsible for an issue, and ensuring that those reports continued to go to the correct place until such time as the new councils have designated a new way to receive them.

Next we created two new bodies for North Northamptonshire and West Northamptonshire, covering their respective district areas and ensuring the report categories were the same across both for consistency. For highways issues, we renamed the existing Northamptonshire County Council body to Northamptonshire Highways.

On the front-end, our design team rebranded Northamptonshire’s instance of FixMyStreet Pro to align with the two new unitary councils. Instead of creating a new website for each council, both councils would be represented on the existing Street Doctor site, making it very easy for citizens to make a report – they wouldn’t need to search for a new place to make a report, nor would they need to know which of the new councils is responsible; we would work all of that out for them.

As before, the website would work seamlessly on any device, giving citizens the ability to make reports wherever suits them best, while helping the new councils to drive channel shift and continue to create savings.

It all comes together

North Northamptonshire Council and West Northamptonshire Council came into being on 1 April 2021. On that date, citizens in Northamptonshire needing to report local problems such as potholes, broken street lights or graffiti were able to do so with no disruption. 

The updated version of Northamptonshire’s FixMyStreet Pro went live at midnight on 1 April, providing citizens with a familiar, easy-to-navigate place to make reports to the two new councils.

At the same time, the new boundary areas were set on MapIt, ready to ensure that reports went to the correct council. These boundaries may be updated again as standard after the upcoming local elections should there be any changes.

Got a question about FixMyStreet Pro? Ask away.

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