- Services transformed within 12 week periods
- Each system made huge savings for council services
- Achieved industry leading response time – from 6 weeks delay to zero backlog
- Staff upskilled with more interesting roles
- Influencing change to council culture
- Direct impact on improving council user experience
- Developed the UK's first Track and Trace integrated end-to-end system
- Other COVID response apps for Supporting vulnerable people, Household waste recycle centre booking systems and Digital waste permits
- Transformed accuracy in location identification using What3Words
- Commissioning work with Care Homes
- New digital grants process
Growing everyone’s ambition to embrace digital
In 2019, Cumbria County Council wanted to accelerate digital transformation and knew that customers wanted to change the way they interacted with them. With limited budget and a small team, low-code technology enabled them to create 16 different systems within 12 months. Each one made huge financial and resource savings.
Change typically makes teams uncomfortable. So, first, the Digital Team helps departments grow their ambition. Armed with their vision, teams are able to remove standalone, paper-based processes and actively take part in a multidisciplinary, inclusive agile approach to change. The cutting-edge innovations that they developed are exceptional.
Year 2 with low-code
2021 Finalists for Best Transformation Team
iESE Public Sector Transformation Awards
Meeting 100% of transformation targets and delivering for COVID – and sharing with other councils
COVID community support
Several projects leap-frogged the task list when the pandemic hit in 2020. The first, the Supporting Vulnerable People Application, was a system to monitor support required and match that with suitable support services, including foodbanks, charities, pharmacies and delivery services.
- Multi-department, multi-agency project
- Working system created in 5 days
- Managed 9,000 interactions between April and August
- Evolved from lockdown 1 to provide the same level of service with reduced staff and new support categories, such as financial support
PPE Distribution became a major and urgent necessity. Due to the system that the Digital Team built, and the hard work of front-line teams, they were able to help thousands of people in vulnerable and difficult situations. The incredible speed of response is a real credit to the team.
- Multi-department, multi-agency project
- Working system created in 2 weeks
- Supported 2,800 households
- Safely distributed more than 1 million facemasks, 2 million gloves, 800,000 aprons, plus other materials
- Applications shared with peers via Netcall's AppShare
When central government permitted the opening of Household Waste Recycle Centres after lockdown, site visitor numbers were high, posing a risk to site staff and the public, plus congestion was caused in the area. A new solution was required quickly to prevent complete site closure.
- A user-centered, digital-first booking system and automated back-office solution was delivered
- Working system created in 1 week
- Numbers instantly became evenly distributed – improving safety, congestion and public opinion
- 59,000 bookings made between July and December
Track and Trace integrated end-to-end system
During the COVID-19 crisis, the team developed the UK’s first-ever local Test-and-Trace system.
Up-and-running before the national government system rollout, it was a multi-agency effort with no extra software costs.
The Multiagency group included Public Health, the County Council with digital transformation expertise and a COVID trained contact centre and the Cumbria NHS Sexual Health team who brought deep contact tracing experience.
In the absence of a national scheme, they started piloting local contact tracing. This ended up as juggling multiple spreadsheets, involving sharing complex personal data across organisations. It was open to human error and had security concerns.
The Digital Team set out to build a system which was easy to use, training light, with accessible data in a clear consistent format. It was to be used and maintained by NHS, Council and Public Health stakeholders.
The roll-out provides a clear impact overview. It was so successful that it attracted national media attention. It was featured in the Sunday Times and on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, which announced “Councils do trace better”.
- The solution went live after a 10-day build
- No additional software costs
- The solution is flexibly updated with as new Public Health requirements are published
- Appropriate user security and Data Protection is in place
- Urgent cases are flagged and outstanding actions are highlighted
- Data is imported from National Government data which initially took 3 advisors 14 hours per day – a 99.5% time saving achieved, as it now takes 45 minutes for a manager to check data consistency
- At 30th September 2020, 4,500 cases reported, and a 97.1% success rate (compared to the national average of 24%)
- Shared with peers on AppShare
2020 App of the Year Winners
Cumbria were presented with the 2020 Liberty Create App of the Year Award from Netcall in November 2020, for their Track and Trace App.
Watch this video, where Karl Relph, Cumbria’s Digital Service Design Officer, is presented with the App of the Year award and explains their app.
Highways Management System
Care home commissioning
The team delivered a Highways Request System to triage, validate and case manage work requests. They transformed accuracy of location identification, which wasted time because it was difficult to find potholes or issues based on postcodes or street names, or one of Cumbria’s beautiful rural locations.
- The Digital Team proposed and introduced What3Words into the location reporting
- What3Words divides the globe into 3m x 3m squares and each has a unique 3-word address
- Pictures can still be provided, to describe the problem
- Adding What3Words to the report allows the onsite Highways Team to find the exact location
Addressing how the Service Team place residents in need within Care Homes, the Placing Support system enables individual care homes to update their vacancy information online. The vacancy and capacity data can determine where to place the next person.
- Up to date vacancy information – almost real-time
- Time saved in placing service users
- Automated via online form to the care homes to review needs and accept or decline the user
- Case progress can be tracked and reported on in real-time
The Commissioning Manager regularly feeds back how grateful he is for your support, commenting at how impressed he is with your can-do attitude, successful delivery and your very hard work.
Jo Atkinson – Assistant Director Strategic Commissioning
Year 1 with low-code
A ground breaking journey
Cumbria was one of the first five UK councils to use low-code. It was a paradigm shift. The Digital Team needed to reimagine their rules. Innovation became a central theme in every job description.
They were attracted to Liberty Create, because it offered them cost-effectiveness, training and e-learning all within the package. Plus, Netcall’s history of focus in local government meant that we would understand their challenges.
Crucially, the Netcall Community connected their team to a wider peer group. The AppShare, allowing free-to-use applications to be downloaded, enabled their platform growth to be rapid. Cumbria could meet their Digital Declaration objectives by sharing and collaborating with other authorities.
Continuous improvement becomes part of the team’s DNA
Starting with two IT specialists and two business analysts, embracing multidisciplinary work roles, they thrived by extending this approach to other departments. The active participation from departmental users, and feedback from specific user customers, was vital to their success.
“Lift and shift” was not an option. Total service redesign meant starting with probing questions and working past objections with a show and tell approach, making use of early successes to show just what could be achieved.
The corporate digital transformation strategy was superseded by the revelation of how fast things can be improved. Resistance to change was diminishing.
Service redesign actually bought teams together:
- The digital team organically began working closely with their departmental colleagues
- People in other departments saw these changes getting rave customer reviews
- This prompted a new willingness, plus a little healthy competition, to adopt similar ‘shiny new services’.
Early digital transformation results
The Create platform, working hand in hand with this new methodology, delivered faster results with improved process outcomes. Development timescales were vastly reduced – what was done in 4 months, can now be done in 4 weeks.
We want to provide digital services that are so good that people choose to use them, not to entirely replace telephony, but to offer a user-friendly system that is more cost-effective for the council.
Test Case # 1 Skips and Scaffolds
A paper-based, manual service which was open to interpretation, is now automated, fast and transparent. Plus, it was delivered in twelve weeks, from scoping to go-live.
The Create system incorporates features like photo upload, and has introduced automation into the inspection process.
This has improved:
- Customer experience – 77% of all permits are now received online due to the ease of application for contractors
- Online has opened payment method choices, the easiest way to pay is via Gov-Pay, which most choose
It’s also had a vast impact on processing time:
- Reducing 6 different processes by 80-90% of handling time, creating days and days of freed time for staff to deal with other processes.
- New reporting functionality and improved workload visibility for the Streetworks Team has improved the response time, to an average of 3h 45m.
But, most importantly, there are huge savings:
- Administration savings, totalling 804 hours a year
- Inspection savings at a staggering 2,936 hours each year
- Printing needs have diminished, providing financial, eco and storage savings
Test Case #2 Waste Permits
In four weeks, the team developed and launched a full end-to-end system. It included a fraud checker with an integrated number plate checker resulting in an 83% reduction of admin time in chasing and eliminating fraud. Now this is needed for less than 5% of applications.
Staff have thanked us for introducing the new systems. I have worked for Cumbria County Council for 10 years and I’ve not heard words before like ‘fantastic’ and ‘it’s bloody marvellous’ to describe a system that we are using.
Test Case #3 Blue Badges
This system took fourteen weeks to fully develop and launch. It integrates with the central badge record and gov.uk/pay and allows for same day processing, when applications are correct. It has achieved a zero day backlog, which is an industry leading response time, and previously there was a six-week backlog when the applications were heavily paper based.
This represents a 75% overall time-saving for blue badge customers, one of whom commented “Probably the best form I have used. So quick and easy to order a replacement badge.”
We’ve seen an increase in people using the new systems, skips and scaffolds is up to 77%, blue badge is up from 43% to 68% since we launched that – we are starting to see a definite shift.
Technology and culture change
Liberty Create is an enabler. Very short feedback loops speed up the development process. Fine tuning once launched can be done really quickly because everything is done in-house.
The Digital Team can work closely with service managers to co-design services and then build them in-house without the need for developers, they’re involved in testing and trialling.
The buy-in that this generates is infectious. Each success motivates the “next department” to join and make a difference. The team host, “show and tell” sessions for interested colleagues so that everyone can be part of the digital change plan, and share blogs and videos to showcase outcomes.
And, crucially, each system built using Create makes resource and financial savings.
The future with low-code
The on-going mission
This Digital Team has an ongoing single mission: Advance new ways of working to transform the way customers interact with the council.
The cumulative savings and productivity gains are significant. The depth and breadth of services being transformed means that every council employee has had their work transformed, in some way, by this team.
The Digital Team live and breathe using customer centric design and they encourage collaborative working within the council, which empowers others to work more effectively within a multi-agency environment.
Not only are the Digital Team respected in their specialism, but they are now the go-to team in solving problems across services.
Simon Higgins, Assistant Director Customer and Community Services, Cumbria County Council