As part of efforts to comply with the Government's 2005 deadline for providing services online, Buckinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service is using business management software to help streamline its processes.
The fire service started looking at improving its IT strategy 18 months ago. At that point the service was "still in its infancy" regarding maximising the use of new technology, says Buckinghamshire's deputy chief fire officer Damian Smith, who is head of the fire service's IT department.
Smith is also chairman of the Fire Services National Committee for ICT Managers, and it was at last year's conference that he came across Metastorm's business process management software E-Works. What separated E-Works from other products that Smith looked at was the level of support offered by Metastorm. "The first thing they tried to do was understand the nature of our business," he explains.
Buckinghamshire Fire and Rescue received the software at the beginning of this year and has been implementing it since then. Unfortunately, this process has taken longer than expected. Smith says this was because the service tried to include some of the more complex processes from the outset instead of cutting its teeth on the simpler ones and growing it from there.
However, E-Works has already helped the service to reduce the length of time it takes to issue organisations with fire safety certificates from two months to one month by replacing the previous paper-based system.
Smith says that because the software is so user-friendly any training needed has been carried out in-house in an informal manner. An added benefit is that the in-built system of checks and balances makes users act more proactively, he says.
Smith describes the relationship with Metastorm as on-going and "robust".
"They didn't plonk a piece of software in our lap and disappear into the ether," he says. In fact, the company began by sitting down with the fire service's staff and spending three days going through the fire certification process.
For the future, Buckinghamshire Fire and Rescue has wider plans for E-Works. "The most important goal is to create more robust administrative processes that will reduce the paper chase," says Smith. It also wants to make its service "more public-centric" by using Web technology and harmonise its back-end legacy systems.
"We are just starting that process, but in 12 months' time we will hopefully be more efficient and using it far more effectively," says Smith.