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Worcestershire County Council turns to low code in coronavirus response effort

The county council of Worcestershire is using the OutSystems low-code platform to develop five apps to support internal staff and external volunteers during the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic

Worcestershire County Council has used the OutSystems low coding platform to enable developers to create five applications to support its Covid-19 coronavirus response efforts.

In mid-March, two developers were tasked with developing a range of apps for different departments across the authority in response to the developing pandemic, and were joined by two additional developers later in the month.

Initial forms for both the internal and external apps were developed within 24 hours and then refined to meet the rapidly evolving needs of the teams involved, including human resources (HR) and public health. The apps were designed, developed and deployed in just two weeks. 

Jo Hilditch, digital delivery team manager at Worcestershire County Council, said: “We’ve been able to get increasingly critical apps related to our Covid-19 response deployed in record time – some in under 24 hours. This has enabled us to help both vulnerable individuals across the county and our teams to get the help they need in this unprecedented situation.”

One example is the community response app, which has registered 1,445 volunteer offers and 1,623 requests for support. This matches requests for help from vulnerable residents with individuals, businesses, and volunteer organisations who have offered support.

The app was designed to bring together and streamline volunteer efforts that have been seen on local social media, as well as providing a channel to upload ID and Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) documentation to ensure safeguarding procedures are followed. 

“We’ve worked with OutSystems for a number of years, and its platform has allowed our developers to work in an incredibly agile way,” added Hilditch.

The second app is the volunteer redeployment app, which is being used internally by the council to understand employees’ previous experience and additional skills outside of their current roles to help the authority more effectively redeploy them into areas where support is needed as a result of coronavirus.

Another app has been developed to manage staff absences from work due to coronavirus. The fourth is an existing medical condition declaration app, which enables council employees to inform the HR team about any underlying medical conditions that could put them at an increased risk of complications as a result of coronavirus.

The fifth app is for care experience and is being used by the HR team to find out if employees have previous care experience to supplement existing care staff, should additional capacity be required.

The digital delivery team has also developed an additional two apps to enable non-NHS staff to request coronavirus tests and submit results.

Hilditch said the team has been able to continue to work effectively during lockdown. Team members have previously tended to split their working week between working from the council’s office and working from home. 

“The beauty of the OutSystems environment is that you don’t even need to be connected to the county network,” said Hilditch. From a business continuity perspective, she added this has made the application development work very resilient.

“We normally do demos in office and have an agile process working in two weekly sprints, with formal and informal demos. These are run online or face-to-face,” she said.

With the UK in full lockdown, there are no face-to-face demos. For user acceptance testing, she said the team have used a feature of OutSystems, which enables each widget or page in the application to provide user feedback.

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