FixMyStreet Pro customers can now take advantage of a new feature for the service: the ability to connect to Notify and send status updates via text.
Just like a lot of the new service features we develop at SocietyWorks, they often start off as a great idea from a client.
On this occasion, it’s Hackney Council we have to thank; they came to us a few months ago with the desire to connect their GOV.UK Notify account with their FixMyStreet Pro instance in order to give citizens more options for staying informed about their reports.
It made perfect sense to us, so together we’ve been working on this co-funded piece of development, which, now that it’s completed, is available to all of our Pro customers. The work involved adapting the FixMyStreet SMS authentication functionality and adding the Notify functionality as the new SMS backend provider for the verification step.
For Hackney, the integration with Notify means that when a report is made to them, the site asks the report-maker for either their email address or mobile phone number, which, once verified, will create an account and enable the Council to provide text or email notifications about the report.
If you’re a Pro client and you’d like to connect your Notify account to your instance of FixMyStreet Pro, send us a message in helpdesk.
Not a Pro client yet but interested in becoming one? Get in touch with us here.
Image: Ono Kosuki on Pexels
2021 might not have gotten off to the easiest of starts, but one thing that will be a bit easier from now on is street reporting in Central Bedfordshire, as we welcome them into the FixMyStreet Pro fold.
For residents of the area, this means that any and all street and highways reports can now be made through the FixMyStreet website or app, or via the council’s website. Wherever a report is made, they’re all going to end up neatly in the same place, thanks to our integration with Central Bedfordshire’s backend management system, Symology Insight.
Frustrated at finding themselves experiencing a higher volume of calls from residents over online reporting (somewhere in the region of 400 extra calls per month!), the Council was in search of a channel shift that would produce a better experience for residents and council staff alike.
While there are cheaper alternatives to FixMyStreet Pro, the savings Central Bedfordshire will now be able to make using a fully integrated system made the investment worth it. That coupled with FixMyStreet’s high-performing, user-centred interface and our years and years of experience integrating into any existing backend set-up made it the ideal solution.
“This is an exciting development for Central Bedfordshire residents as the FixMyStreet system is not only easier, faster to use, and more interactive, it can also connect with other systems to ultimately lead to smarter more efficient services.”
– Councillor Ian Dalgarno, Executive Member for Community Services
There were a number of key issues that Central Bedfordshire wanted to address through this integration with FixMyStreet Pro.
Firstly, they wanted to improve the accuracy of their highways reports, something that FixMyStreet helps to achieve thanks to its user-friendliness, its intelligent asset layer displays and its flexible categories.
Another requirement was to remove the ability for residents to submit reports anonymously, with a view to encourage better quality reporting, easier case management and to facilitate a stronger relationship between resident and council.
They also wanted to reduce the burden on and cost of their customer service team having to manually build reports, double key information and answer calls from residents wanting updates on their case. From now on, rather than having to call the Council for an update or needing to decipher an unfamiliar Symology Insight status code, residents will now receive clear updates on their reports automatically to the contact details they provide. Plus, our transparent approach to reporting means that anyone can view previous reports and subscribe to updates for easy progress tracking, which helps to reduce duplicates and creates a better user experience for residents and council staff alike.
Talking about what a difference this channel shift will make to Central Bedfordshire, Councillor Ian Dalgarno, Executive Member for Community Services, said: “This is an exciting development for Central Bedfordshire residents as the FixMyStreet system is not only easier, faster to use, and more interactive, it can also connect with other systems to ultimately lead to smarter more efficient services.
“As the new system allows users to submit reports against specific council assets, it will be a lot simpler for officers to locate and assess any problems.”
We’re no stranger to integrating with Symology Insight both on premise and hosted, but as with any integration into an existing business system, it takes a lot of hard work and hiccups can happen.
In this case, we ran into an obstacle getting updates to sync from Insight. Thankfully, Central Bedfordshire and Symology were quick to jump into action and we worked together to improve our connector and enable the systems to speak to each other fluently. The end result is a seamless experience for users, who are kept in the loop as soon as their report is updated in Symology by Central Bedfordshire staff.
Now that the button’s been pushed and the Central Bedfordshire version of FixMyStreet Pro is live, we hope it will help to make at least one part of 2021 a little bit easier to manage for the Council and its residents.
If you’re a council and you’d like to explore how SocietyWorks’ services can help you drive efficiencies and save money this year, do get in touch.
Image: Jack Bowers, Central Bedfordshire Council
Bexley’s installation of FixMyStreet Pro went live in June 2019, and as we noted at the time, it integrated with their existing Symology asset management to process reports of highways issues like potholes, graffiti and abandoned vehicles.
Once the system had been running for a little while, Bexley started examining other ways in which FixMyStreet could improve internal workflows and save the borough time and money.
As a result, they have now also integrated with a further two systems: Confirm for trees, parks and ground maintenance issues, and Uniform for some fly tipping issues.
For the report-maker, this keeps things nice and simple: they only have to visit one place and can report any issue across this range of categories. Meanwhile, the council are benefiting from the ability to collect consistent data, which is then passed on to the most relevant back office system depending on which category the reporter selected.
FixMyStreet Pro’s two way integration across all of these linked systems means that when the council update the relevant issue in any of them, it also updates the website and lets the citizen know that there’s an update on their report, or that it’s been resolved. Both citizen and council save time, with no need for a follow-up call to see how the issue is progressing.
We’re also pleased to hear that the customer service centre have adopted FixMyStreet as their main reporting platform internally, as well. This means that staff don’t have to learn and use three different systems: they can easily create a report on behalf of a citizen within FixMyStreet, and rest assured that it will be sent to the correct department.
We proudly boast that we can integrate FixMyStreet Pro with any existing council CRM — and that’s the truth, though it’s always interesting to see what challenges each new one will bring.
Thanks to the London Borough of Bexley coming on board as our latest client, we can add Symology to the ever-growing list of systems that are proven to work in harmony with FixMyStreet.
There were two new challenges to solve to ensure a smooth integration here. First, although Symology has an API, which is the easiest way to ask a CRM to provide you with regular feeds of data, we couldn’t find a way to extract updates on reports from it. These updates are what keep our users informed of the progress of their issues, so we needed to find a different way to extract them.
No problem, thanks to Bexley’s obliging and responsive team: to get around this issue, they set up a regular CSV export for us. FixMyStreet Pro can automatically parse this and take in the contents, then publish updates on the site as appropriate.
The other challenge was that Symology has no functionality to perform ‘logic assignations’ — in other words, using the relevant fields of a report in order to send them on to the correct team, assign them the right priority, or apply analysis codes. Fortunately, we were able to integrate all the necessary moving parts into our Open311 adapter functionality, making sure reports will be directed to the right place.
A final belt and braces move is that when a report is identified as high priority, we send it to a dedicated priority email address as well as into the system, to make extra sure that it is seen as quickly as possible.
We enjoyed meeting these challenges for Bexley, who were receptive to all our suggestions and very helpful working with us to get them implemented.
Everything that happened to get this integration up and running need not trouble the residents of Bexley, of course. Reporting their issues will be smooth and simple — and that’s the end result we always strive for.
This year, Bristol Council did something unusual and admirable. As far as we’re aware, they’re the first UK council to have taken such a step.
Working with mySociety on custom Open311 ‘middleware’ while adopting FixMyStreet as their fault-reporting system, they now enjoy full flexibility, no matter what the future holds.
Thanks to this open approach, Bristol will extract more value from their existing systems and lower operating costs. With integrated, open solutions, and the raised quality of report formatting that Open311 brings, everyone will benefit.
Councils are increasingly understanding the value of flexibility when it comes to service providers.
Contracts that lock them into a single provider for many years mean that, often, there’s no opportunity to benefit when technology advances, and disproportionate costs can be charged for implementing the slightest changes.
This desire for flexibility was a strong factor in Bristol City Council’s decision to adopt FixMyStreet for Councils — and that opened the door for a conversation about Open311.
We’ve always advocated integration via Open311, to the extent that we offer free hook-up with FixMyStreet to any councils who support it.
Because Open311 is an open standard, it supports the entire landscape of providers like FixMyStreet. Right now, Bristol can accept street fault reports not just from us, but from a full range of services — in other words, any site or app that cares to connect with them can do so. No-one knows what the future will hold: if a game-changing system emerges in the future, it makes sense that you’d be able to accept its reports.
All well and good: but when Bristol City Council implemented FixMyStreet as their fault-reporting system, the concept was taken a little bit further. With our collaboration, Bristol created their own Open311 ‘middleware’, sitting between the two systems and talking to both.
Via this method, their existing CMS, Confirm, can hook up to reports coming through from FixMyStreet. That all works smoothly — but, just as importantly, if Bristol ever decide to replace their CRM provider, they’ll be able to do so with no knock-on effect to FixMyStreet reports. And if they ever decide to replace FixMyStreet with a different provider, or indeed to accept reports from a range of providers, they can do that too.
Bristol found us via the GCloud procurement system, and are the first metropolitan unitary authority to install FixMyStreet.
Bristol launched its FixMyStreet service to the public in the summer of 2016.
This autumn, they added asset-based reporting, meaning that known council properties such as streetlights, grit bins and gullies are all marked on FixMyStreet’s maps. Residents can pinpoint and report the location of faults with these assets far more accurately as a result.
There’ll be a phased rollout across departments, starting with Highways and moving across departments as Bristol extend their own middleware. We’ll be watching with great interest.
Interested to learn more? Join one of our regular Friday webinars.