Offline data input tool for field working council staff

Contents:

  1. Time

The aim of this Beta project was to develop a platform that enables field workers, including Caretakers and Rent Collection Officers, to capture data to present casework in a consistent format, and the ability to assign ‘risk markers’ to people or places.

Birmingham has over 3000 staff who can be categorised as field workers, whose duties involve meeting residents and managing council properties and services. Each planned visit requires access to sensitive information held on a variety of databases, such as Northgate Housing. Being able to access this information securely on a mobile device enables an efficient use of staff time.

This project also sought to address another key concern for managers and field workers, risk and risk marking. To ensure the risk marking worked effectively, it needed to be contextualised, location specific, up-to-date and accessible in the field, with the ability to update it in real time.
After extensive user acceptance testing in December 2022, myself (Tom Lowndes) and Dan Jones, Local Digital’s Digital Content Producer, visited Birmingham to document the delivery of these new features. A video case study will be made available in February.

2023 sees the team roll the application out across other business lines in Birmingham City Council and promote the tool in the Microsoft application repository. They are now considering an application for public Beta funding via the Continuous Funding Model to continue the progress of this project.

Project timeline

November 2021

The project, led by Birmingham City Council, is awarded £350,000 of funding through Round 5 of the Local Digital Fund to conduct a beta phase.

December 2021

The whole project team from Birmingham City Council joined members of the Local Digital team to talk through their journey to beta development, and their progress in the development of a ‘Guardian App’.

January 2022

February 2022

May 2022

The project team presented the latest feature of the Birmingham Guardian application as part of the Local Digital Midlands Roadshow in Birmingham on Thursday 12 May.

This feature allows one of the key users — caretakers — to take an image of a task and upload it to the platform. This means that a clear record of the task assessment or task completions can be captured and allows managers to make better, faster decisions on the deployment of resources with quality data.

June will see the roll-out of the new app features, ready for testing with the 300-odd caretaker team.

July 2022

This sprint the team has been conducting user testing of the Birmingham Guardian app with field workers, which will continue throughout July and into August. While out testing with neighbourhood caretakers, James Gregory (Head of Delivery at Birmingham City Council) tweeted:

“Out and about today with neighbourhood caretakers testing our new Field Worker app. These folk do such a worthy job with little thanks and it’s rewarding to see how much value our app will deliver for them. It worked well in test too. Phew! Testament to the dedicated team”

September 2022

The project team has planned a final Show and Tell for the start of October which will provide an opportunity to discuss how the process of business change, upskilling and product development shaped service development.

Within the West Midlands region, Solihull, Wolverhampton and Shropshire have expressed a need for this product with implementation via Microsoft (MS). The project team is also looking to connect with MS representatives to promote and amplify the sharing of the product/service on MS Power BI/Canvas platform.

October 2022

The final Show and Tell for the team and the CFM funded Beta project will take place in November. The application will also go live with one of the Birmingham City Council business teams on the same date. This will provide a demonstration of the application and a testimony from a field worker.

This also presents the opportunity for the team to review the metrics associated with the project funding, council worker time saved, management of risk scoring and costs saved (as they will not have to buy proprietary systems).

In other news, the team is excited to hear how Microsoft can help share the use of this Canvas App across their regional network in the next couple of weeks. Keep an eye on our Sprint Notes and other Local Digital channels for the latest updates.

November 2022

Using Microsoft’s new Collaboration Forum, the team have been able to identify that this tool meets the needs of other councils. Being able to share across the MS community is vital to the project success.