As in the wider digital economy, local authority staff are less tied to physical offices and increasingly work away from base, and with the almost limitless functionality of mobile tech in our home lives, many of us expect to use comparable tools at work.
Flexible, secure working on the move for time-pressed officers in “customer facing” departments such as Planning, Building Control, Public Protection and Waste is no longer a “nice to have” but an essential. That’s where Agile@WORK, our productivity app comes in.
Is Agile@WORK just another app? Yes, in that it’s very easy to use and easily implemented, but actually, no. True, Agile@WORK processes tasks and manages inspections and visits for mobile workers (even when there’s no internet connection available), but productivity is not just about improved automated processes. Communication and collaboration are equally important. Think of Agile@WORK as closing the loop between customers/residents, your organisation and service delivery – a more customer-friendly, teamwork approach to getting the job done.
Today, your residents can request services via the Agile Citizen Portal (or the Agile@HOME app). Requests are routed via your Agile back office system and delivered to Agile@WORK for action. Officers can create/update tasks, use voice input for speed and add photos and images to visit reports. When tasks are completed, updates synch automatically to the back office system. Efficient, time-saving and cost-effective modern service delivery with device communications such as FaceTime making it so much easier to problem solve on the go.
Back in 2013, SOCITM posed the question “Is flexible working going into reverse?” citing issues such as loss of management control and “presenteeism” but concluding that flexible working, afforded by technology, benefits both the employer and employee through increased productivity, lower staff turnover and a more motivated workforce. https://www.public-sector.co.uk/article/76646b4e05c00f3d1ec33d27a7179165
In 2019, aside from the fact that mobile phones are the only communications devices with near-universal reach in the UK (96% of households, https://www.ofcom.org.uk/research-and-data/multi-sector-research/cmr/cmr-2018/summary), mobile use at work is being fuelled by “”innovations in mobile technology such as biometric readers, wearables, voice control, and augmented reality (which) are enabling workers in completely new ways, increasing productivity by enhancing communications and business workflows” (Bryan Bassett, research analyst, mobile enterprise device solutions, www.IDC.com).
In the Built Environment, augmented and mixed reality has already taken hold, enabling architects and developers to visualise the end result far better than a 2D plan and “impose” an image in the landscape, benefits that planning and building control officers will appreciate.
This may seem beyond reach if you’re just setting out on a programme of mobile working with a limited budget, but this direction of travel worldwide means that the technologies to achieve it are increasingly affordable.
The way we work is changing
Many planning departments are overburdened and understaffed and the drive for more house building is likely to exacerbate the situation. Building Control inspectors are equally under pressure and are competing with private providers. Waste workers in some areas report that their rounds are simply too big to service efficiently. In these circumstances, employee retention can become an issue.
By helping officers to plan visits effectively with all the information they need to hand on their mobile, Agile@WORK users should see travel time reduced. When there’s no need to return to base to complete the day’s paperwork, some of the stresses of the job should be alleviated. And attaching images to rounds reports may help dealing with waste complaints that much faster.
According to a YouGov Poll “ Two thirds of employed Brits would prefer to start and end work earlier than the traditional 9 to 5” https://yougov.co.uk/topics/politics/articles-reports/2017/11/13/9-5-two-thirds-working-brits-would-prefer-work-day . Mobile working can help to give employees flexibility without affecting productivity and improve morale in the process. What’s more, smartphones are an essential life support for the next generation of workers (who may find current working practices positively archaic), so attracting talent in the future may depend on taking a new tack.
It’s unlikely that local authorities will become entirely virtual, but when staff can work from anywhere, they at least have the option to reduce office space and maintenance overheads. Adopting smartphone/device technology can be a route to protecting frontline services and perhaps to achieving a more environmentally sustainable approach to work in the process (less paper, less fuel, less energy consumption).
Not all apps are born equal
Agile@WORK is developed on Microsoft Xamarin, heralded by some as “the undisputed leader in cross-platform development”. Xamarin provides native-level (programs developed for use on a particular platform or device) app functions and eliminates hardware compatibility issues.
This means that Agile@WORK operates across a wider range of hardware platforms (standard Android, iOS and Windows devices, tablets and hybrids such as the Surface Pro), than some competitive apps and delivers the same quality experience for users, irrespective of platform.
Our choice of Xamarin allows us to both develop new functions for Agile@WORK at speed (and so at a competitive price) and to maximise the use of voice, video and new Microsoft innovations as they emerge.
You can see Agile@WORK at work (or anywhere else!) – let us know via our contact form https://agileapplications.co.uk/contact/ and join us on Microsoft Teams for a walk through.