Digital by Choice, Agile by Design



Digital Design
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Redcar and Cleveland Council in the Tees Valley, is a relatively small council with big plans to improve services through digital. In common with most councils planning for the future, Redcar and Cleveland Council faced a number of challenges. The most pressing of these was the cost of producing and maintaining apps, but also the low level of digital skills within the council, and issues around security, threat management and protection. In order to overcome those challenges, Redcar and Cleveland Council worked with Alpine to ensure that they could implement ‘digital by choice’ to its fullest potential.

Previously the council had used a traditional technical development approach for building one-off apps, which had proved arduous, lengthy and expensive. Under this approach it took three months with a team of two to develop one app at a cost of around £25,000. Multiplied across a range of apps, this would easily amount to a significant investment. It became clear that even with a skilled team of specialists, achieving its ‘digital-by-choice’ objectives would be cost prohibitive for the council.

This is where Alpine came in. Part of Alpine’s thought leadership and innovation role is to see what is on the horizon and where old approaches are being disrupted by new ways of thinking and doing. By accessing a strategic digital partner Fliplet, Alpine asked them to create a platform that enables councils such as Redcar and Cleveland, to develop bespoke apps at a fraction of the time, cost and officer time normally spent on mobile apps.

So how is it different? Well, it enables non-technical specialists – such as staff closest to the customers in front-line services – to create apps without having to learn to code. All they need to do to develop the app is use a ‘drag and drop’ tool through a PowerPoint style browser interface. Absolutely anyone familiar with an Office interface and basic computer skills can create and publish functionally usable apps for internal or external users ready to use within hours – rather than months, and at a fraction of the costs. Using this approach, Fliplet and Alpine supported the council to produce its first app – for waste management services.

As Gary Flynn of Redcar and Cleveland explains, “initially we reviewed products in the marketplace looking at criteria such as functionality, control, ease and speed of deployment, skills required. And of course the cost of upgrades and on-going support can be prohibitive, so it quickly became clear that the apps development partnership approach with Alpine and Fliplet would be of benefit.”

Now the council is using the platform to create apps across its services. These include case management services, auditing, HR and payroll, and food hygiene inspections – to name a few. And the major advantage is that because they are so cheap and easy to develop, and the council is in control of its own creations, it can experiment with different services. The council has found that if a key local issue emerges – such as steel plant closures in Redcar– it now has the agility to respond to citizen needs. And for innovative councils looking to disrupt their own services, the platform is a great tool for intrapreneurs to prototype apps in a controlled learning environment.

With the imperative to transform services against a backdrop of limited resources, and the proliferation of mobile devices driving up citizen expectations of mobile access, this is a very compelling proposition. It will save most authorities tens of thousands of pounds whilst allowing many more citizens who are digitally ready to self-service.

For more information on any of the above, please email Ruby Dixon at rdixon@alpine.eu.com or Gary Flynn at gary.flynn@redcar-cleveland.gov.uk. Alternatively you can visit the Alpine website.

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