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Fife Council saves £20m through flexible mobile working solution

Caroline Baldwin

Fife Council has implemented a mobile flexible working programme that allows employees to use mobile devices to simplify business processes.

Scotland’s third largest council is on course to save £20m by fundamentally changing how people work in the council.

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The mobile flexible working programme has seen the council save on costs, and improve its efficiency.

The programme has also enabled flexible, home and mobile working, which has reduced the number of buildings the council works out of in Fife.

TotalMobile

One part of the programme was the implementation of TotalMobile, an application for tablets and smartphones used by employees. The application allows the council to send forms to employees in different departments. Employees in the field will receive information about jobs, and forms to complete, the details on which can then be electronically sent back to the council and fed into central systems.

“The tech is the icing on the cake,” says Fife Council, programme manager for mobile and flexible working, Linda Robertson. “It can scale this whole thing up and change how people work.”

The building services group was the first department to adopt the solution. The employee begins their day at home, and signs on to the device to receive the first job, which is always the one closest to their home. 

Jobs are completed one at a time, as is the paperwork, which is electronically sent back to the council and fed into the systems. Jobs are also prioritised based on location, allowing the worker to go to a job that may be a few streets away rather than on the other side of Fife.

The solution also reduces the piles of paperwork sitting on the dashboard of the vehicle, but it speeds up jobs due to the location detection, and therefore reduces the need to depend on other third-party tradesman to help with the workload.

“Lots of people familiar with apps,” says Robertson. “And what we can do is use it as a standard tool.”

The application sits on the council device, which may be an iPad, an Android tablet, or a smartphone, and these devices are secured through a mobile device management (MDM) platform called Sorti.

Another benefit of the system is that it doesn’t depend on a network connection, which is important in the rural areas of Fife, which may have no signal. The app waits for connectivity and then sends the forms back to the council.

We're trying to deliver a whole end-to-end business change process

Other departments are also beginning to use the solution. Park inspectors who check playground equipment are benefitting from the reduced paperwork. Housing maintenance officers who are also able to electronically attach photos and annotate diagrams. This department in particular benefits from the quick turnaround of the forms – the quicker the house is inspected, the quicker it can be rented out again.

The council is also rolling out the solution to its waste disposal units in the next two to three weeks. The app can then be used for on-route feedback of collections, such as contaminated bins. A citizen who mixes their recycling would come home to find their bin hasn’t been collected and angrily phone up the council. But now the call centre will have the information as to why on hand, rather than having to wait a couple of days for forms to feed back into the central system.

Robertson says she is hoping for 90% of the council’s departments to be using this solution within the next 12-18 months.

Native application

“One of the real benefits is it works on any device,” she says. “It uses the native format of the device, so we don’t have to worry about complex training programmes for users.”

Behind the scenes is a small team of 8-10 people who can put together fairly sophisticated forms in a couple of hours.

“It’s a multi-disciplinary team, not an IT team, but a business team,” says Robertson, noting a mixture of skills. “We’re not trying to deliver just an IT tool, but a whole end-to-end business change process. We want to transform the way the council does its business.”

Sensitive data

The council does not have a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) scheme, and the devices using this application are council owned and attached to the MDM solution.

“We’re not pushing sensitive information out on this platform,” says Robertson. “Everything is working within a secure environment because security is obviously the council’s number one priority.”

She says there is a possibility the application could be pushed out to employee’s own devices for non-sensitive data, such as holiday request forms, which individuals could populate on their own smartphones.

“It’s scalable as we move forward,” she says.

Cost savings

The council estimates it is on course to save £20m due to streamlining processes. Savings are coming from electronic additions to back office, as well as managing to conduct more jobs in a day.

The whole flexible mobile working programme had a set budget, and Robertson says even with multiple solutions they are implementing - which include TotalMobile – the programme is being successfully followed in under half the budget.

The next challenge is reducing the existing legacy IT systems and standardising the tools employees need to do their jobs.

“The council has always been information rich, gathering information sometimes just because we always have, and sometimes we’ve been knowledge poor.”

Roberston says this can be addressed by cutting down what is needed to deliver the job, which in turn will be a huge benefit to improving customer service as well.


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