Netcall | Customer Story

Journey to accelerate change.

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Project highlights:


  • Enables a great customer experience
  • Removes barriers to other projects 
  • Empowers the person who wants to solve the issue
  • Removes the need for heavy duty coding and data transformations, which costs millions and takes years
  • Joins together legacy systems in an overall business process, allowing creation of APIs for flexible, fluid customer interfaces
  • Adds value to IT’s reputation

Full steam ahead


Accelerating innovation is hard at the best of times. When you are responsible for the fixed infrastructure of the UK’s railway, safety, efficiency and reliability are paramount. And that can obstruct innovation. 

The Enterprise Architects in the Chief Innovation Technology Office are responsible for digital change throughout Network Rail. Anand Patel and Philippa Callcut share their experience of accelerating change using Netcall’s low-code solution, Create. 


A unique organisation


Network Rail look after 20,000 miles of track, 30,000 bridges, viaducts, tunnels, crossings and signals. They manage, maintain, operate and enhance the whole fixed infrastructure of the railway. 

They don’t run trains. They do operate and manage the 20 busiest railway stations in the UK, accounting for 4.7 million journeys each day. That represents their greatest touch point with the end user – passengers. 


What is great customer experience?


“Customer” is a broad concept to Network Rail. It includes direct customers, train and freight operators, plus indirect customers, such as passengers and neighbours living near train lines. 

For the IT Team, Network Rail staff are the customers. This is also varied: some staff work in dangerous environments others are corporate users, who need to run office systems effectively. IT focuses on how they provide services more effectively to all front line staff. So, what is great customer service for Network Rail staff?

Areas of focus to deliver against for their customers:

  • Safety – Every process must enhance the running of Europe’s safest railway.
  • Reliability – Preventing and responding to disruption.
  • Growth – Capacity is a great challenge, expansion is tackled with tech. 
  • Efficiency – Driving down operating and maintenance costs.
It’s amazing, it’s so agile. Within weeks you have something tangible that you can test, use and iterate in real time.


Business change priorities 


Network Rail’s three key business change issues resonate with most organisations: 

  • Scalability of people and skills. Third parties are not always the answer due to cost and reliability. 
  • Business demand. The pipeline won’t allow IT to get through the workload.
  • Legacy IT Poor experience versus the cost of updating or replacing.

Any innovation must apply to those business goals and work across any part of the business. 


Low-code for utilities


A low-code approach fits neatly with these priorities. The Solution Architects were keen to use it but needed to prove that it could actually deliver and that the technology could stand up in such a safety critical and risk averse organisation. 

It was vital to demonstrate genuine business value and show this could be rolled out to other areas of the organisation. This is where Netcall came in and explained their low-code product, Create. Low-code is the easiest way to develop business applications, fast.


Test Case # 1 Managed Stations – Liverpool Street Station


Liverpool Street Station had a challenge which was causing genuine inconvenience. The process of booking maintenance engineers was so arduous that their customer-facing team were being prevented from spending as much time on platforms as they ideally would, helping passengers.

As a safety critical environment, all official visitors must be correctly booked, however it took four full-time staff up to six weeks to manage the process, involving a 40-page document being emailed between all the parties, before a contractor could get onsite. If the fault was crucial safety equipment, like a security barrier, a security guard was also needed. This meant incurring additional costs, plus the lost income for retailers (and in turn Network Rail). 

Inefficiencies were causing lost income.  

Anand Patel: “We said to Netcall ‘Here’s our process, build a prototype and show us what you can do. You’ve got two weeks.’ And they did! After two weeks of work, we went back to the station to demonstrate and found that we were 80% of the way towards solving the issue. More than just a presentation, something tangible that was working. That’s a unique experience in the IT industry.”


“We said to Netcall, ‘Here’s our process. Build a prototype and show us what you can do. You’ve got two weeks.’ And they did!”


— Anand Patel, Solution Architect


Test Case # 2 Replacing a legacy system


Network Rail needed to replace a legacy system built ten years ago, by a retiring employee. IT had searched for a viable replacement, but found nothing which made economic sense. It was a very niche application. 

Netcall Professional Services created something to replace the system and trained the Network Rail team. They now run, manage and maintain it themselves. 

Philippa Callcut: “It is amazing, it’s so agile. Within weeks you have something tangible. You can test, use and iterate in real time. It has now come out of IT and sits with the business partners. They are happy with this, rather than pushing back to IT every time they need a change.” 


“Using Create was a massive step change. It was an opportunity to empower our business partners to become the ‘change agents’. It was spot on.”


— Philippa Callcut, Solution Architect


Using low-code moving forward


Network Rail is all about efficiency. Low-code enables faster improvements and therefore drives down operational costs. This allows staff to be more time-efficient. The Solution Architects wanted to take Create forward to their business partners as a significant statement, empowering ownership by different teams to drive their own projects forward. 

Network Rail have centres of excellence, so Create offered an opportunity to empower business partners to own, maintain and drive forward their specific solutions. In roughly four months, five or six big business problems had been automated. These were being driven forward by the business users affected. Rather than becoming a problem for IT to solve, they can solve the issue themselves. Fast.

Learn more about Liberty Create.


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