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Latest news from the team behind FixMyStreet Pro

FixMyStreet and fire fighting

Two regional news stories have recently highlighted the use of FixMyStreet by fire services. That’s not something we’d anticipated when we made the site, but we’re really glad that to hear that we’re helping to fight fires!

Firstly, the West Midlands Fire Service have asked the public to report derelict buildings on the site. FixMyStreet reports go to the council, who can take appropriate measures to secure such buildings and reduce the risk of arson.

Meanwhile, Cleveland fire fighters are themselves using FixMyStreet to report incidences of fly tipping, and they say that getting piles of refuse or garden waste cleared up before people are tempted to set fire to them has helped them bring down the number of conflagrations in the county.

As both these brigades have found FixMyStreet useful, we hope that other fire services might follow suit (or maybe citizens could take matters into their own hands and report such things without waiting to be told!).

We’re already aware that lots of police officers also use the site to make reports as they are on the beat: it is, of course, very well suited to any occupation that regularly makes patrols around the local community.

Image: Egor Vikhrev

FixMyStreet for TfL — now live

Back in November, we announced our new partnership with Transport for London. We’re now pleased to say that the new Street Care service is live.

FixMyStreet interface for TfL

If you’re a seasoned user of FixMyStreet, there’s no learning curve required: you can proceed exactly as normal. If you prefer, you can carry on making reports through the national website at FixMyStreet.com or via the FixMyStreet app.

The only difference is that now, if the issue is the responsibility of TfL, that’s where your report will be routed, and that’s where updates will come from to let you know when the fix is in progress or completed.

The new service covers potholes, roadworks, bus shelters and traffic lights on the capital’s busiest roads — the ‘red routes’, which make up only 5% of the city’s highways, but account for a whopping 30% of traffic. Users can also report graffiti and flyposting, problems with hoardings, scaffolding and mobile cranes, street lights and damaged trees.

As ever, the underlying FixMyStreet platform means that you don’t need to think about who is responsible for your issue. If a problem is reported and it’s nothing to do with TfL, it’ll be automatically routed to the relevant borough or authority.

Glynn Barton, TfL’s Director of Network Management, said: “The TfL Street Care service will give people more information about the work we are doing on London’s road network and at bus stops and reassure Londoners that we really care about getting things fixed.”

It’s one more bit of joined-up thinking for the capital, that will make reporting easier for residents, commuters, and visitors, while also bringing increased efficiency at every stage of the process. We’re delighted to see it up and running.

See TfL’s press release here.

Image: Giammarco Boscaro

feet on each side of a yellow line in the road

FixMyStreet Pro: 2019 in review

What a year it’s been for FixMyStreet Pro, now the official street reporting system for 21 authorities across the country.

Growth…

During 2019 we’ve welcomed Bexley, Cheshire East, Hackney, Northamptonshire, Hounslow Highways, Westminster, Island Roads (Isle of Wight), Peterborough, and now Transport for London to the list of Pro clients.

In all, that adds up to 6.5 million residents who can now report problems such as potholes, faulty street lights or vandalism, either on FixMyStreet.com or on their councils’ own websites.

And if you consider that TfL covers all of Greater London, a further 7.5 million residents and countless commuters, tourists and visitors to the city are also covered for reporting on overground and underground stations, red routes, bus stops, etc.

In all cases, reports pass directly into the authorities’ internal systems, making for swift resolution and the ability to keep the report-maker informed of progress at every step.

…and improvement

It hasn’t been all about expansion, though. This year, we’ve also been adding further features for councils to the FixMyStreet Pro offering. It’s worth noting, perhaps, that improvements for councils always translate into improvements for residents too, either in terms of quicker report processing, better status updates, or public money saved — and often all three.

Here’s a rundown of the new features we’ve introduced this year:

Getting out and about

We attended Highways UK in Brum and the LGA conference in Bournemouth — it was good to meet so many of our clients and those considering whether FixMyStreet Pro might be a good fit for their needs.

And we were delighted to meet up with residents in Westminster and let them put the FixMyStreet to test while we watched and learned.

Residents testing FixMyStreet prototypes

 

Looking forward to 2020

We’ve already been carrying out some research with client authorities, and we’ll be continuing this work into the new year. We also have some development planned.

  • Conducting user testing to see how people use the input forms, what might be confusing and how this can be addressed…
  • …and further user testing to observe how people use FixMyStreet on mobile devices.
  • We’ll be talking to District Councils to see how their needs differ from other authorities, and how we can meet those needs.
  • Meanwhile we’ll be giving the FixMyStreet app a much-needed update.
  • We’ll make it easier for staff to add the email address of someone who requests updates on an existing report.
  • And lots more!

We’re really looking forward to getting our teeth into these features and then rolling them out to our client councils in 2020.

The FixmyStreet Pro team


Image: Nadine Shaabana

Peterborough

Spreadsheets begone! FixMyStreet Pro for Peterborough

We know that in many cases, when we install FixMyStreet Pro for a new council, we’re bringing not only a smooth reporting interface for residents, but also a better day-to-day experience for staff. In the case of Peterborough City Council, that was very much the case.

A very manual process

Peterborough had been using a stopgap solution for street reports, after the service they had been using ceased to exist. So, for some time, residents had been asked to make their reports through basic online forms. Not too onerous, but clunky enough.

The real pain point was mostly experienced, however, by council personnel. Customer services staff had the job of manually transferring the details from a spreadsheet and into the council’s Confirm CRM, where highways inspectors could pick up the reports and act upon them.

Then, once an issue had been resolved, inspectors manually updated another spreadsheet to let the customer service centre know of the status change, in case the report-maker called for an update.

There was no automated means by which a user could be updated with progress on reports, or told when it had been fixed.

So in short, FixMyStreet Pro will be making life easier all round, for staff and for residents. Plus the easier internal workflow should save a substantial amount of time and money, while keeping citizens engaged and informed every step of the way.

Improved efficiency

Councillor Farooq Mohammed said, “The introduction of FixMyStreet has brought in significant improvements to the services PCC provide to its residents. FixMyStreet not only brings efficiencies to various service departments, it is very user friendly and easy to use for our residents. This improves the response time to our residents.”

And Peterborough’s ICT Project Manager Jason Dalby added, “mySociety fully understood the challenges we face as a local authority and very quickly turned our requirements into an automated fault reporting system with integration into our Highways back office Confirm system, improving our efficiency by eliminating manual data entry.

“We are proud to be partners with mySociety and continue to work closely with them to improve FixMyStreet for our mutual benefit”.

We’ll continue working with the council over the next few months on their other service areas too, so watch this space.

If you’re a council and there’s potential for efficiencies in your reporting system (whether large or small), do get in touch.

Image: Dun.can (CC by/2.0)

A FixMyStreet Pro heatmap

The heat is on

As part of FixMyStreet Pro’s ongoing development programme we’re pleased to announce that the heatmap feature, created with Bromley Borough Council, is now available to all clients on the Avenue tier.

Bromley wanted to see at a glance which issues are most prevalent, and where in the borough they are being reported. The heatmaps we developed in response to this need can be accessed through the staff dashboard.

These can be used in conjunction with the category dropdowns to display the report patterns for just one or any number of categories at a time.

If you’re a subscriber to our Avenue plan, the heatmap is now available to use. Just log in as a staff user, then click Admin > Stats > Heatmap. Let us know if you need any extra support, or if you have feedback about this feature.

Fixing the streets of London: a partnership with TfL

At TICTeC Local, the conference on impacts of technology for communities and local government, the fault-reporting service FixMyStreet today announced a new partnership with TfL. 

Thanks to the deal, from early December reports made through the site will be routed to TfL where it is the authority’s responsibility to get them fixed — and as another option, there’ll also be a smart new portal on TfL’s website for easy reporting.

TfL have responsibility for all highways issues (red routes) on main arterial roads in Greater London, as well as most bus stops, traffic lights and bus shelters, underground and overground stations. 

When a report is made anywhere within Greater London, the FixMyStreet system will automatically route it to the right authority: that’s the relevant council if it’s their responsibility; or TfL if it’s up to them to get it fixed.

TfL reports will drop directly into the transport authority’s own system, which has been integrated with Manager and Inspector tools, as developed to answer the needs of contractors as part of the FixMyStreet Pro service.

Additionally, where reports are made through the websites of the five London boroughs which use FixMyStreet Pro as their main reporting interface for citizens, this smart routing will also kick in, with relevant reports being redirected to TfL. And that goes both ways, so reports made on the TfL website which aren’t their responsibility will be sent off to the right council instead.

Mark Cridge, Chief Executive of mySociety, the non-profit who run FixMyStreet, said, “This is a great step forward and shows just how well the FixMyStreet platform can knit in with other systems to ultimately produce more connected, efficient city services.

“It’s a model we could replicate across other major metropolitan areas such as Greater Manchester, Birmingham or Glasgow and Edinburgh. There are also opportunities to plug in with Business Improvement Districts and any other pan-London systems that process reports from the public.”

Winkle_Street,_Calbourne,_Isle_of_Wight,_UK

Making things right on the Isle of Wight

FixMyStreet Pro has crossed the Solent, with Isle of Wight the latest council to install it as their official report-making interface.

Street issues on England’s largest island are handled by the company Island Roads, who keep things in order for residents and tourist alike, with responsibility for highways maintenance; road, pavement and cycleway improvements; street lights, street cleansing, winter gritting, bridges, drainage, street furniture and car parks.

As with all FixMyStreet Pro integrations, islanders can take their pick between making reports through the Island Roads website or on FixMyStreet.com; either way the issue will display on both sites, and drop directly into the case management system, Confirm.

What was different about this installation?

Island Roads requested a feature that we hadn’t previously developed for any of our other council clients, but which we suspect that some may be interested in now they know it’s available.

When a report is submitted, it drops into a special triage area where operatives can analyse it in more detail, ensure that it is categorised correctly, and check that it contains all the relevant information that the inspectors need in order to locate the fault and fix it.

Island Roads have also made use of another new piece of functionality: emergency categories.

If a user indicates the report might require immediate attention — say, in the case of a fallen tree on the road or a hazardous pothole — the form submission is disabled.

Instead, the user will see a message, telling them to call Island Roads directly:

Form changes if the user selects that the problem is urgent

The aim is that this simple safeguard will have a hand in preventing accidents.

Alex Brown, Systems Technician at Island Roads, said: “The focus of this development has been to enable the public to report their highway related issues to us easily, with the necessary information for us to respond appropriately and deal with the issues effectively. The project team at mySociety were excellent to work with and developed a solution which met our specific requirements.”

Image: Mypix [CC BY-SA 4.0]

FixMyStreet Pro at Highways UK

We’re back at the big highways maintenance expo of the year, Highways UK on 6-7 November, in Birmingham’s NEC.

If you’re attending and you’d like to know more about FixMyStreet Pro, come and seek us out at stand I23, where we’ll have brochures for you to take away.

Stay for a chat with David and the rest of the team, who will be delighted to discuss everything from CMS integration to the display of assets, to how we’ve made life easier for your staff behind the scenes. Best of all, ask them about the savings you can make when you install FixMyStreet Pro as your main reports interface.

But don’t just take it from us. Anna Fitzgerald from Oxfordshire County Council will be joining us all day on the 6th, while Rob Gillespie from Ringway, who are responsible for the Isle of Wight’s Island Roads and Hounslow’s highways, will be available for a chat from 2-3pm on the 7th.

Here’s where to find the FixMyStreet stand: we’re looking forward to seeing you there.

Click on the image below to see it at a larger size.

Highways Uk plan

Top image: Aleksejs Bergmanis

More control for councils, with context-specific guidance and routing

Image of some graffiti

Making categories work for you

We’ve now made it much easier for councils who have FixMyStreet Pro installed to:

  • add context-specific guidance for users
  • route report-makers off to a different place if desirable
  • edit the names of categories.

The more you can do with your forms, the easier — and maybe even safer — it is for everyone.

For example, when someone picks “highways obstruction”, you might want to tell them that if the obstruction is a potential cause of accidents, they should make their report by phone.

Or when the ‘graffiti’ category is picked, you might want to add a question like, “Is this graffiti offensive?”. If the answer is ‘yes’, you know that you need to act more speedily to get it removed.

Pro users have always had the ability to do this, but we’ve now made it much simpler.

We’ve also added some extra functionality: if desired, when a user selects a particular category, or selects a particular answer to a question the form can be disabled altogether.

Here’s what these options look like in your admin interface:

FixMyStreet Pro additional editing abilities for councils

Just check the box if you’d like submission to be disabled when a specific category is chosen. To add questions, use the ‘add field’ button.

editing categories in FixmyStreet Pro

Once you’ve created your question/s, you can use the interface above to decide what happens when they are answered in specific ways.

Use cases

Why would you want to disable your forms?

Well, thinking again of highways obstructions, you may wish to ensure that any and every such report is reported by phone rather than via the site, so that it can be attended to as a matter of urgency.

As soon as that category is chosen, you can display a message to say ‘Please report all highways obstructions by phone, for rapid attention‘ and give the relevant phone number.

Any user who doesn’t register the message, and continues to try using the form (let’s face it, we all skim text on the internet), will find that they can’t submit it.

Pointing the way

If required, you can also add a link to point the user to a more suitable place to make their report. This means that you may even want to include categories for issues that you don’t actually deal with.

If you already know, for example, that your residents come to FixMyStreet trying to report gas and water leaks, parking issues or antisocial behaviour, you can include these as options, but disable the form submission and provide the correct link to take them to a preferable reporting route.

Finally, just a small thing but one which will save you time and effort: we’ve made it easier to change category titles.

We’ll be adding all these details to the user manual imminently, and hope you enjoy the increased flexibility and control that these features give you.

Image: Toa Heftiba

 

 

FixMyStreet Pro for Westminster

London’s best known and most-visited neighbourhood is now covered by FixMyStreet Pro. If a user is living, working or sightseeing in the borough of Westminster, their reports will drop directly into the council’s own MSDynamics365 system. 

In this first phase, the following categories are covered, with potholes, street signs and lights to follow soon:

  • Bins
  • Drains
  • Fly tipping
  • Graffiti
  • Flyposting
  • Street cleaning
  • Vehicles

Users can make a report either via fixmystreet.com or on the Westminster website, and in either case they’ll go directly into the council systems to be dealt with. There’s also the option to use the council’s My Westminster portal.

Why Westminster chose Pro

The council was satisfied with its internal systems for report handling, but both senior staff and councillors agreed that they wanted to offer something more user-friendly for their website visitors. 

mySociety’s knowledge and experience helped us deliver this project smoothly to further improve the efficiency and transparency of our City Management teams

FixMyStreet Pro is the ideal solution in this situation: we’ve worked for years on making the interface resolutely simple for all to use, and it can connect seamlessly with any existing internal set-up.

Councillor Paul Swaddle, Cabinet Member for Customer Services and Digital, Westminster City Council, says: “mySociety have been professional, from the point of contracting all the way through to deployment of our new ‘Report it’ application.

“Their team worked in partnership with council staff to integrate FixMyStreet into our systems including CRM against challenging timescales. They also supported us in delivering several successful resident engagement sessions, and quickly reflecting user feedback in the WCC branded version of the site.

“mySociety’s knowledge and experience helped us deliver this project smoothly to further improve the efficiency and transparency of our City Management teams.”

Especially for Westminster

As with all FixMyStreet Pro installs, this one has its own distinct features. It’s been a very collaborative project with the council, in which they’ve provided a specialised adapter that allows FixMyStreet to connect with their CRM, and we managed the configuration and a single sign-in functionality.

This involved integration with the council’s own My Westminster log-in, a pre-existing service where users can keep track of their reports, planning applications and so on. 

As well as the normal interfaces, you can now make a report through a My Westminster account, and this means that only a single log-in is required: ideal for the local resident who may be completing several community-based tasks in short order. We’ll be writing more about this in a forthcoming post.

Talking to the back end

Westminster use Microsoft Dynamics 365 for their CRM, so FixMyStreet Pro needed to be able to pass reports into it and retrieve status updates back from it, all with no interruption to users or staff. This was achieved with an adapter, specially created by Westminster’s IT department, and the Open311 protocol which allows for a standard report output.

Report with no name

This installation also features something we haven’t implemented before: anonymous reporting. For a really frictionless experience, users can log an issue without providing contact details or even a name. Of course, if this option is chosen, they won’t get any updates to the report’s status, but it certainly makes things quick and easy.

Testing with the people that matter

Westminster have been a shining example of best practice when it comes to implementing a new service. They did something that ideally all authorities would do when introducing a new online system, inviting potential users in to have a go, and feed back their thoughts.

 

 

Once they had had a chance to enjoy that amazing view from the council offices, local residents tried out the report making interface. mySociety designer Martin was there to take notes, and users’ feedback was added directly into our development roadmap.

We hope that they, and all residents of Westminster, will be happy with their new service.

If you would like to explore the installation  of FixMyStreet Pro for your own council, please do drop us a line and we’ll be happy to talk.

Top image: Dean Molyneaux (CC by-sa 2.0)

FixMyStreet Pro blog

FixMyStreet Pro is the street & environment reporting service that integrates with any council system.

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