Task management tool for neighbourhood services staff


  1. Timeline

This project aimed to develop a platform that enables tasks and requests logged online by customers to route directly to officers in the field.

Their Beta tool was built via their Microsoft Power BI team and Colchester were able to work with two neighbouring authorities, Maldon and Tendring District Councils in order to rapidly test and potentially scale.

The team were faced with multiple challenges including how to locate rural incidents, uploading evidence to cases whilst out of 5G connectivity and how accessibility was impacted by weather and light conditions. Colchester were also reliant on their team to deliver this project against a deadline and were hit hard by illness caused by a spike in COVID-19 cases.

This didn’t stop the team developing, testing and launching the new features and they are now in the active stage of working with Microsoft to share this application across other local authority users.

Watch our video case study of Colchester’s Task Smart app:

Project timeline

November 2021

The project is awarded £286,000 of funding through Round 5 of the Local Digital Fund to conduct a beta phase.

February 2022

February 2022

May 2022

The team is now eight weeks away from delivering the first release of the Task Smart App. They are working hard on finishing off the location and mapping parts of the app and are excited to get them in front of users at the end of the month for the next round of user testing.

They have also worked with the partner consultants at Foundation SP to package the app using environment variables, so that organisations using the app will find it simple to set up the back-end in their own environments. This promises to make something complex and time-consuming much quicker and simpler.

They’re also making good progress on supporting the use of the app in places with no network connectivity. Their users will be using the app out in the field on their mobile devices and, as they cover a large geographical area, there will be times where they do not have signal.

The three local authorities working on this project — Colchester, Malden and Tendring — have designed and implemented a virtual centre of excellence, where all the developers across the authorities take part in specific training on MS products. This is proving effective in mitigating the effects of stretched resourcing, which is a common problem amongst local authority software development teams.

Using the MS suite for low code in development has many advantages but also some constrictions. The team are committed to documenting and sharing them at their regular Show and Tells. Watch the project’s latest Show and Tell video.

The new features of Task Smart app will be deployed over the summer.

June 2022

The team is working through one of the most challenging aspects of the project: overcoming issues raised by trying to balance the best possible features within the app, while keeping to an affordable licensing model.

It’s a critical time and everyone has an eye on the upcoming delivery date, considering what they can deliver for version one and what they can improve for version two after launch.

The team is keen to keep pushing the TaskSmart model to get the best possible experience for app users. They are still working on task filtering by keeping a flexible model and offering multiple choices to users to help users to get to the tasks they need quickly and without working through multiple app screens.

August 2022

As a fitting end to Local Digital Declaration Month, the project team proudly launched the Task Smart App.

September 2022

The Task Smart App has now been rolled out to most of the Neighbourhood Teams. Positive feedback has been received from services, with just a few issues identified around devices and user needs. The next step is to test ‘Response to Inspection of Trees and Dangerous Trees’ as these are time bound tasks.

Following the user acceptance testing (UAT), the aim is to roll-out the app to the Greening Team and also to complete internal testing. Once happy with the functionality, the Task Smart app will be released to pilot users. The team is aiming to start the pilot on 10 October.

October 2022

In September, Local Digital and Colchester Borough Council published a video case study on the Task Smart app. In the video, you can hear from users and developers at Colchester’s recycling centre following the app’s launch to neighbourhood teams.

There are also ongoing discussions to understand how Microsoft can amplify this Canvas App across their platform. The majority of local authorities use Microsoft and, if they have the right E3 licence, should be able to use this tool at no extra cost.