Flexibility is key for successful delivery of public services

Steve White explains why local authorities must move away from a siloed approach to connected asset management

For local authorities, the ability to effectively manage and maintain the condition of their public realm assets is key to delivering vital frontline services. Most service area managers use asset management tools to support their service delivery. Over time, these individual systems have become rich in functionality and service-specific information. Although some asset management providers have tried to move these solutions into a hosted environment, many still can’t share or connect data between different service areas - so information stays in departmental silos and there is no high-level overview that authorities need to streamline their service delivery, improve their citizen’s experience, or save money.

A siloed legacy infrastructure approach also limits the high levels of flexibility that councils need to quickly adapt to changes in service demand and delivery - both of which are evolving fast. For example, predicting the precise patterns of future service demand at a local level become all but impossible when working models changed from fully-office based to completely remote as organisations adapted to a world living with Covid.

The only certainty is that service demand will be high. Many people are spending more time in their local area, and are therefore more aware how nearby roads, pavements, parks, green spaces, and trees are managed as well as how waste and recycling collections are delivered. They want optimum levels of service and with rapid service delivery increasingly the norm in their everyday lives as consumers, they want it quickly.  

That can be a problem for local authorities with a siloed approach that suddenly have to deal with spikes in service demand. It is, after all, difficult to speedily re-deploy operational staff into high demand areas quickly and safely and with minimal additional training, if you have a different legacy solution for each separate service area.

At the same time, authorities increasingly have to think about broader issues around climate change and the need for sustainability.  For instance, the public expect local authorities to deliver environmentally-friendly services. Further, with many still working from home and the number of cyber-attacks growing, they need to seriously consider system and information security.

Putting a solution in place
Local authorities simply can’t afford to think in silos here. To contend with the large macro challenges, they must balance service demand with rapidly delivered solutions. In short, they need an overarching, connected approach to asset management across multiple service areas backed by connected technology. Indeed, a single embedded IT system is the foundation of a joined-up working approach and more streamlined operations, helping eliminate duplication of effort, and support unified operational services.

Such an approach will deliver operational efficiencies, helping councils provide a wide variety of services from emptying bins to filling potholes and keeping the streets clean and safe quickly and effectively. It also allows connectivity with other public-facing websites; CRM and mobile apps as well as helping the authorities gather information, ensure it gets to the right people and use it proactively to keep residents informed and engaged.

Operational staff can work from anywhere – their home, the office, or out on site in the field. They can use mobile capability to continue to work effectively without making unnecessary and time-consuming visits to the office, for example, to pick up the daily task lists or schedules.

Inspectors can be on site, logging issues in real time and that activity can be relayed to back office administrative teams. Workflows can be generated and communicated quickly to operational staff out in the field. They can be assigned new jobs or have projects changed without having to attend the depot. That improves both the visibility and progress of work as well as communication both within and between teams. Moreover, having a consistent user interface and user experience across all devices enables users to be quickly moved between service areas and get rapidly up to speed and up and running on them.

Not only can this technology deliver flexibility in terms of local authorities connecting different elements of their services, operatives in the field with back office administrative staff, for example. It can also help the public gain access to all the latest service information through the use of open application programming interfaces (APIs). After all, if council’s have systems with open APIs, it is easy for them to connect with other systems and through such an approach make key information publicly available and keep citizens informed through a variety of channels. It is yet another compelling reason why the age of local authorities relying on siloed asset management systems is nearing its end.

The benefits of a more connected approach to asset management are ever clearer. The pandemic has shone a light on them, and it is increasingly time for authorities to make that switch.   

Steve White is head of Business Development at Yotta.

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