Low-code 101 #8 – Spotlight on the Virtual Visits Accelerator

The eighth webinar in this series sees host, Laura Ritchie, speaking to Darren Hartley and Mike Woodgate, Solution Architects, to show the virtual visits accelerator built in Liberty Create.

Welcome to the newest episode of our Low-code 101 webinar series. This time, Laura Ritchie is talking to our Solution Architects, Mike Woodgate and Darren Hartley, about another new app they have worked on in Liberty Create. It’s the Virtual Visits Accelerator, an app that enables organisations to arrange, manage and conduct appointments over video. This reduces the necessity and cost of face-to-face visits – it became vital during the COVID crisis.

It is now available as an accelerator for any Community member to download and personalise for their own use. The Virtual Visits Accelerator has many different uses across many different types of organisations.

See how it’s used

Watch the webinar to take a behind-the-scenes peek into how the app was built and watch a demo of how it works. You can find the other episodes in the Low-code 101 series. A transcript of episode eight is laid out below.


Laura: Hello and welcome to another Low-code 101 webinar! I’m Laura Ritchie, from the Marketing Team at Netcall and today I’m joined again by Darren Hartley and Mike Woodgate, two of our Solution Architects. We are still working remotely, but I hope there won’t be any background noise issues. Hi there Darren and Mike…

Darren: Hi Laura

Mike: Hello

Laura: Mike, you’ve been busy as usual building business cases for low-code applications on Liberty Create with our customers. I wanted to share something you’ve both worked on with a customer recently, as it’s a great demonstration of the power and speed of developing in low-code. It’s designed to provide a “virtual visit” application and it’s available as an accelerator so it can be used for other businesses for their own, slightly different, purposes. Can you give us a bit more information on the app what exactly the customer wanted to build it for?

Mike: While the principles of this application can be used in a number of different sectors, the first organisation to deploy it was in the building sector. Their inspection division provides a consultative service to builders to review developments with the aim of providing assurance to buyers the build quality meets expected standards. As part of the process, the organisation knew that not every inspection resulted in an approval, instead defects being identified and requiring subsequent site visits to confirm the rectification work had been completed – and repeat visits were not a chargeable item.

But it was recognised that unless the issue identified was a major problem that in many cases the repeat visit was quick, yet entailed significant travel time.

For the majority of re-inspections it was felt that photographic evidence would suffice. This business driver was given further impetus when the COVID-19 lockdown was introduced meaning site visits couldn’t take place at all. Therefore, in common with any other organisation undertaking on-site work, such as loss adjusters for example, an alternative method of working had to be used to keep the business working.

Laura: So the application incorporates video conferencing, allowing them to carry out those second inspections remotely, to check that the defects are resolved?

Mike: Yes, that’s right. The Virtual Visits app is used to create a case for each project and the individual visits which are scheduled as part of the agreed programme. The exercise is then managed by the practitioner with an audit trail of activity maintained.

Scheduled site visits are agreed with the site manager and carried out. Any defects are noted and required action agreed with the site manager. Previously, the inspector would then revisit the site to confirm the work had been carried out. As repeat visits are not chargeable, the company wasn’t realising any revenue for the additional visit. It also meant that the next phase of build work could be delayed – so the developer’s project plan was at risk. And, if it was a final inspection, the end buyer’s moving dates are at risk, and we know the knock-on effects that can have on a property chain.

Now, using the app, the site manager uses a secure portal to view the outstanding actions and uploads photographic or video evidence to demonstrate the work has been completed. Of course, documents can also be uploaded, which means that attestation can be carried out and this supports the collation of evidence in loss adjusting or perhaps to demonstrate aspects of corporate governance.

The app also provides the ability to hold video conference calls, so the practitioner has a full suite of capabilities available to allow the job to be done in the most appropriate way.

Working in this way means that an inspector does not need to make further site visits in the majority of cases. Instead, they can do a desk-based review of the evidence – saving travel time (as well as avoiding the time to physically walk around a site).

Laura: And as time is money… that obviously represents significant cost savings – do we have a clear picture yet of the savings our customer will generate by reducing the site visits?

Mike: Well, the rollout of the virtual visit app is estimated to reduce revisits by around 50%. So, as an example, say that equated to 25,000 hrs of travelling time and approaching £450,000 in fuel costs. That time saving represents the equivalent of 13 full-time employees in assessment time. So their inspectors have more time to focus on additional tasks.

In total, the app has made improvements to the process which will give rise to savings which are approaching £1m. And that’s every year ahead too.

Laura: What a fantastic result! So Darren, when COVID-19 and social distancing became a priority, did this project suddenly become more urgent for our customer?

Darren: Exactly. They chose Liberty Create, our low-code platform, to build an application to solve this problem because they suddenly needed it even faster than they originally planned.

I spent an afternoon with one of their team – he was actually a former carpenter and knew the on-site procedures precisely. We mapped out exactly what the app would need to do for them.

We’ve then taken the application and learning we gleamed from them to create a new, more generic application that can be downloaded from our AppShare. It still delivers the same principals that Mike has described, but we’ve added some extra functionality to give our customers who download this an application that is ready to go.

Laura: Brilliant. So let’s see the virtual visits app then – and you can show us in a bit more detail how it works?

Darren: Sure thing. Here’s the app from the inspector’s user interface – it allows the individual inspector to choose the type of virtual visit required – a remote meeting or an information request (where the contact at the location, for example a site manager, can provide the requested data).

It also accommodates the planning of an onsite visit, for situations where the virtual visit is not sufficient. It has the functionality to allow the recipient to suggest alternative dates or times.

Once the date is agreed, the virtual visit takes place. The latest version of Create utilises Amazon Chime functionality for the video call. The app also allows notes and feedback to be captured, plus images and documents that are relevant and then reporting on outcomes of the visit as well. All communications and document exchanges are contained within this ‘all-inclusive’ application.

Laura: And presumably, like all apps on the AppShare, all the security measures are built in as well?

Darren: Of course – it goes without saying that it has a two factor authentication method added by default, asking a user to provide their First name, Surname, email address and mobile number, which in turn generates a token to their mobile, required to log in to the application. This is supported in all interfaces apart from the Administration interface, where users must have a mobile number against their user account to use this functionality.

Laura: Can you show us the process map?

Darren: Indeed – The process follows the following steps:

  • Request created – the point where a new request has been generated by a surveyor user.
  • Contact – request pending confirmation of date – this is where remote and on location meetings await the confirmation of the date of the visit by the contact.
  • Surveyor – new date suggested – where a contact has suggested a new date, awaits the surveyor to confirm or suggest a new date.
  • Awaiting completion of visit – regardless of visit type, the point where the request sits until the visit is completed.
  • Surveyor – Visit information sufficient? – allows the surveyor to review all provided information from the contact and any they have gathered before they complete the visit request or decide to perform a site visit, asking for information or schedule a remote meeting to finalise the information they need.
  • Surveyor – Provide summary of why location visit is required and set new date – as described, asks the surveyor to suggest a location visit date and the reason why. It is anticipated that this would be after a number of remote visits or information requests have not provided the detail needed.
  • Surveyor – Detail additional information needed – this is where a further information request is needed after a remote or on-site visit hasn’t provided all the detail necessary and asks the surveyor to detail the information requested and the date this needs to be returned by.
  • Surveyor – Complete summary – allows the surveyor to complete any associated back office tasks they need to complete the request. This is anticipated to be an integration point to pass information to customers back office applications or develop reports for the completed requests.
  • Complete – the request end stage (if not aborted).

Laura: So how long did it take then to build out the application itself?

Darren: The original customer application took just two weeks for their initial pilot, which they’ve now taken onboard themselves and are developing further. Our accelerator that we’ve demonstrated here was built in four weeks total, a bit longer purely due to adding in Amazon’s Chime service integration which the customers version didn’t use and all the supporting documentation that comes with the accelerator, to make it as easily implementable and expandable for customers, as possible.

Laura: And from a user’s point of view can you show us what it looks like when a surveyor / inspector requests a visit?

Darren: Of course. Logging into the site contact interface, they can see all the requests against their site. Depending on the type of request, they can see them broken into the relevant category and click on the reference to manage that request. The pages are responsive as well, so we’ve tried to make it easy to use on a tablet or mobile, so those site contacts carrying modile devices rather than lugging a laptop around can easily respond on the job.

Laura: And as you’ve said, this is available as an accelerator on our AppShare – Mike can you give us a few examples of how this could be adapted to be useful to other organisations?

Mike: Well, this will benefit any organisation which has to work with clients remotely. Any that are doing some form of inspection – buildings and maintenance are the most immediate examples. The insurance sector, Underwriters and Loss Adjusters could make effective use of the app capabilities as well, reviewing an asset for risk and managing any subsequent claim for loss or damage. That could include anything from ships and cargo to motor vehicles, personal injury and much more.

Also, activities which require collaborative working, like marketing and advertising. In fact, any operation which needs to see proof that something exists and the condition it is in will benefit from this approach with its case management, audit trail and the ability to capture evidence.

Laura: Well anyone that is a member of our Community can take a look at the full details about this Virtual Visits accelerator on our AppShare. Of course, anyone can join the Community – you simply register your email address.

Thanks for talking me through all of that Mike and Darren – I love seeing all the different ways that low-code is being used to make savings and also to make things safer for people.

I hope you’ll join me for our next “Low-code 101” but in the meantime, you’ll find a vast amount of information on our website, as well as our LinkedIn and Twitter pages – so please do follow us.

But that’s everything for today, so goodbye from me, Mike and Darren…

Darren: Bye!

Mike: Goodbye!

Watch the webinar in full. Our next episode of “Low-code 101” will be available soon.

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