Dudley MBC has been an Agile customer for over 10 years; they’ve evolved with us and with the Agile Planning software over the years and, as such, they’re one of our most experienced, forward-thinking customers.
We spoke to Jane Lamine, Business Operations Manager at Dudley, to understand more about how Dudley have used our Planning software and how it has helped them grow.
“About 10 years ago, we weren’t very good at maintaining the system and there were lots of niggles where we thought the software wasn’t doing what it was supposed to be doing, but as it transpired, it was us not doing what we should’ve been doing from our side.”
“Once we updated the system fully, we realised it did 90% of what we wanted it to do. The 10% it didn’t do, over a period of time, you’ve developed for us.”
Agile software transformed the Planning department
Using the Agile Applications Planning software has changed how the Dudley MBC Planning department operates, transforming them into a paperless office. Jane comments: “We’ve won awards for being a paperless office; we were one of the first planning authorities to go paperless. That would’ve never happened without Agile.”
“We use a separate EDMS system, but Agile integrated the APAS software with this. Everything that comes through from the portal right the way through to the website is automated, and Agile has been with us every step of the way to achieve that.”
Workflows improve efficiency for planning officers
As well as becoming paperless through automation, Dudley MBC has also improved the efficiency of their Planning department by utilising the workflow feature in our Planning solution:
“We started off with some very, very basic workflows and then we’ve built on them as we’ve progressed. We’ve done that every step of the way with Agile, telling them what it was we wanted to do – and so they’ve helped us develop and get to where we are at the moment.”
“Workflows have had a huge impact on the planning department. Our principal officers used to allocate all the work, they allocate no work at all now as officers self-allocate. We’ve also got a system now where we don’t do any checks at the end of an application for officers that have delegated powers, instead they do their own checks and balances, so it’s saved enormous amounts of not only management time but staff time as well.”
“Officers are now in charge of their own caseloads, they determine their own work and they sign it off themselves and, as a result, we’ve also noticed that our planning percentages for government office have improved.”
“The fact that we’ve got everything on workflow now means when officers are onsite using iPads, they can just pick up any caseload they want, they can check where we are and what the status is; they can move that application forward while they’re standing outside that person’s property.”
Making changes in a local authority can be difficult, as Jane explains: “It was met with a lot of resistance with a view that a planning authority couldn’t work in a paperless way and it’s taken us a long time to get to where we are. In terms of our office though, it’s a lot tidier than it ever was, but more importantly, we never lose a case file these days because there’s no paper to lose, it’s all within an IT system. We’ve actually saved money because now the amount of printing we do is down to a bare minimum. And while we do work in a paperless way, we don’t actually stop anyone printing anything if they do need it, we just don’t encourage it because they have the technology: handheld, laptops, desktops, to view and review what they need as an officer.”
“Paperless working is amazing. It’s quite liberating when you get into it. It does take some time and a reprogramming of the mindset, but it’s well worth the effort, and it is a lot of effort, but when you’ve found the perfect workflow for you and you see it moving through your planning system it’s absolutely worthwhile.”