Barnsley Council maximises adoption of mobile apps though staff consultation

Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council is rolling out SAP Fiori apps in HR initially, and learning how to adapt to user needs from surgeries and workshops

Barnsley Council has helped its frontline staff get to grips with business apps and technology for everyday work processes, such as leave requests.

This has been part of the Metropolitan Borough Council’s ongoing digital transformation. SAP software has featured in that, and Chantele Smith, ICT technical specialist at the council, is presenting on its use of Fiori apps for its human resources (HR) function at the 2016 SAP UK and Ireland user group conference in Birmingham on 20-22 November.

She will talk about Barnsley’s “Fiori journey” and the obstacles her team has overcome in improving user experience.

“The project has been to ‘Fiorify’ internal processes that have been paper based and manual,” says Smith.

HR and payroll processes were in the first phase of the programme, which began in 2014, starting with a customised version of the Fiori leave request app and an app for submitting overtime requests.

Phase two concerns more HR functionally, including a team calendar app and a custom app for banking flexible time, in addition to normal leave. A further app, called Arch, is being built with an external supplier to cover special leave, such as periods of sickness.

The Fiori apps building team at Barnsley has been learning how to improve the user experience (UX), both before and after going live.

“We faced challenges we did not anticipate in terms of employee take-up and their ability to use the apps,” says Smith. “A lot of users who deal with the public face-to-face on a day-to-day basis, such as care workers, don’t use digital technology. So they don’t have the skills required to go ‘digital by default’.”

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“So what we did to engage them was very important,” she says. “We had drop-in sessions initially, where employees could come along with any device they had. We would give instructions on how to install and use the apps. But that was not really capturing enough people. So we ran workshops on the various services.”

Spending a bit of time with users helped them to overcome some of the fears they had. “I am passionate about helping those who struggle with new technologies. It’s not that they don’t want to learn, it’s more that they fear they can’t do it,” she says.

That the users are able to use their own mobile phones and tablets is important for adoption, says Smith. “That’s how we want them to use the technology. People don’t always have their work device with them, so they can book leave when they are not in the office.”

Other benefits include improvements to the data collection process. “Previously, not everything was recorded on SAP since it was paper based,” she says. “That means improved reporting and reduced expenditure, with the saving on paper.”

Smith’s advice for her peers is to gain a clear understanding of users’ needs by talking to as many groups of people as possible before development starts, and to use as big a pilot group as possible.

“Don’t be afraid to give time,” she adds. “A lot of employees have appreciated the time we’ve given to bring them up to speed.”..... ... .. ....... ..... ..

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