SFRS was created from the amalgamation of eight regional fire services on 1 April 2013. Since the services were combined, the number of FOI requests received has increased – from around 400 per annum for each regional service to 1,000 in the first few months of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service’s operation.
FOI requests range from the number of incidents attended and information about certain emergencies to board members' expenses and the number of employees at SFRS.
Stuart Chalmers, ICT business services manager at the Scottish Fire & Rescue Service, says the information used to be quite easy to get hold of when the service was broken down into regions because the FOIs were more localised.
Previously, the requests were documented on spreadsheets, but this increase in demand meant that was no longer feasible.
Agile CRM in the cloud
The organisation already had a limited number of staff, yet it had to abide by FOI compliance regulations, so it needed a Scotland-wide system to deal with the processes and increased workload.
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The organisation decided to implement Microsoft's Dynamics CRM system from public sector specialist Optevia. Dynamics CRM enables SFRS to track FOI requests from their point of enquiry through to completion, as well as mitigating any data breaches.
Looking for a cost-effective option, it used the G-Cloud to find its partner agency, which was willing to create the system in an agile way.
“We’ve used G-Cloud a number of times and found it relatively straightforward,” said Chalmers. “If you have a definite requirement and know what you have to do, it isn’t that difficult.”
He says G-Cloud made looking for a partner a very transparent process and showed SFRS how much it was going to cost from the outset.
Another reason Chalmers chose the cloud application was to keep costs down and for speed of deployment, although he says it might revisit the option of an on-premise system in the future, depending on how widely it would want to roll it out.
Digital processes and automation
Staff use a web portal to access the dashboard, which also has a built-in workflow so people can track different requests and ensure they meet the timeframe they must adhere to.
We've used G-Cloud a number of times and found it relatively straightforward
Stuart Chalmers, Scottish Fire & Rescue Service
“It’s taken a lot of manual processes out,” he says. "The product also allows staff to push out automated updates. The whole process is in the same place, easy to access and easy to see if any tweaks are needed.”
SFRS is handling its complaints process using the same tool, and other business processes could be included in the future.
“We’re working with a procurement team, and have a couple of processes in mind around promotions and development competencies. These could involve [the CRM system],” says Chalmers.
“We can build on it as we see the need,” he says. “This is a move to an end-to-end digital process, looking at following the government’s guidelines about digital by default.”