Crawley Borough Council has implemented a joint content and document management system to meet a government deadline for enabling online planning applications.
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The council needed a new IT system to comply with the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister's Pendleton criteria for online development control and planning policy information on local authority websites.
Crawley's IT department was on target to launch the application in time for the government's original deadline in September 2005. When the ODPM pushed the deadline back to December, the IT department then embarked on managing the planning department's demands to increase system functionality.
The council's internet technology developer, Malcolm Telfer, said, "As soon as that stick [the September deadline] went away we started thinking we could add more features. We had to battle with the user department over the changes."
The new system, from supplier Stellent, replaces a legacy application from Tagish, and combines both content and document management. Crawley had to integrate it with the systems at a scanning house it had used to scan new documentation. The IT department wrote new business processes to integrate the document management half of the system with those at the scanning house.
Telfer said, "The software we wrote is taking all those status documents and checking them in automatically to the document management system, which is Stellent. All of these status documents get checked in and we wrote search and display elements for the public website."
The scanning house handles every document larger than A4. Images are stored using either scanners or cameras.
The IT department used the Prince 2 methodology to integrate with the business processes of the scanning house. It also adopted the principles of the Dynamic Systems Development Method.
Telfer said, "DSDM puts in the bits Prince 2 leaves out for software management, such as prototypes within fixed timeframes."
Crawley spent £55,000 implementing the Stellent system in its planning department. Of this, £37,000 was taken up by internal costs, and £18,000 was spent on the software licence.
The IT department originally used the system's content management functionality to display the minutes of Crawley Council's meetings online before it started on work with the planning department.
Crawley is planning to use more of the content management system's functionality.
Telfer said, "We are looking at putting planning enforcement online. At the moment, people phone in with illegal uses of property. Putting enforcement online is a very simple process because we can comply with the Pendleton criteria almost out of the box."