Ground Control

FixMyStreet Pro helps this grounds maintenance company keep everything in order

FixMyStreet Pro isn’t just for councils — it’s a very flexible codebase that can be adapted to work for all kinds of other uses with just a few tweaks.

When Ground Control needed an app to help them manage their clients’ assets, they knew exactly where to come.

The lowdown:
A custom, branded app, allowing onsite reporting behind a password-protected interface. Reports to be routed from field staff to a central contact, and fully editable. All reports to be extractable in csv format.
Ground Control’s work can be seen everywhere, but the chances are that you’ve never really noticed it. When you visit many household names in the retail sector — Tesco, Halfords, B&Q or Fitness First for example — you’ll first be parking in, or walking through, the grounds that they tend. This large and long-established company provides ‘external services’: that means that they maintain the land around buildings on behalf of their clients, which include not just these retail chains, but a number of schools, NHS properties and water utilities too.

The work involves regular inspection of their clients’ grounds, and if anything is found to be amiss, then of course, a report must be made and the problem fixed. How best to do this in the digital age? Naturally, Ground Control’s thoughts turned to FixMyStreet.

Flexible FixMyStreet

The FixMyStreet codebase is ideal for any use which requires reports to be geographically located and categorised, then sent off to the correct contact dependent on those two factors. Of course, its biggest and best-known implementation is as the national street fault-reporting website, but during the decade since its creation, the same code, slightly tweaked, has also been put to use reporting cycling incidents, medicine shortages, empty homes, and anti-social behaviour on public transport.

Meeting Ground Control’s needs

But, as it happens, Ground Control didn’t require any extensive re-imagining of the FixMyStreet codebase. Their requirements were pretty similar to those of a standard FixMyStreet Pro installation, such as we would provide for a council: they wanted their operatives to be able to report potholes (and potentially, in the future, other issues) and for those reports to be sent to the right place to get them seen to.

There were just a few crucial differences: first, the installation had to be a private system for Ground Control employees, so that competitors couldn’t access any sensitive information. Everything was to be behind a log-in. Secondly, they requested custom branding that would adhere to their own design templates. So far, so good: these were minor changes that could be implemented simply.

More significant was the need for each report to allow for the upload of multiple photographs: Ground Control wanted inspectors to be able to take photos of potholes both close up and in context, and possibly from a number of different angles.

At the time, although the website could handle multiple images, the app could only manage one photograph per report — so we fixed that.

By improving the code for Ground Control like this, we’ll also be able to provide the same benefit to all users of the FixMyStreet app. It’s great when a new piece of code can improve everyone’s experience like this!

Ground Control app running on an iPhone
Happily, all Ground Control’s other needs were already met by the standard FixMyStreet Pro installation. Inspectors can send their pothole reports up the line to a central contact; different levels of access presented no problem, either. Superadmin users can allocate permissions to field staff members. A common scenario, Ground Control told us, is that the person receiving a report might have extra information that needs to be added, so the moderation feature comes in useful, allowing them to edit or add to a report with minimum fuss.

FixMyStreet already allows council clients to add custom fields to the reporting interface (for example, some ask for specific details like the size or position of potholes); Ground Control used this facility to allow inspectors to record details such as site IDs and the names of the customers whose sites they were reporting on.

A dashboard shows staff the most recently-reported issues, together with stats on their status, and reports can all be downloaded in .csv format. Finally, since Ground Control staff use a variety of devices, they were glad to find that the app works equally well on iOS and Android, or on a native browser of any mobile device.

Up and running

The bespoke application was up and running in August 2017, and staff are now using it to report potholes, with potential to extend the app to cover other common issues such as graffiti or vandalism in the future.

So, next time you walk through some beautifully-maintained grounds on your way to do that big supermarket shop, the chances are that FixMyStreet has played a part, along with Ground Control, in keeping everything looking nice.

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