IEG4 Insights

Because Councils are Different: Blue Badge Flexible Workflow & No Code

Posted by Marcus Devaney on Oct 3, 2019 9:31:40 AM
Marcus Devaney
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A modern Blue Badge solution for a new era of Blue Badge processing.

The new GOV.UK Blue Badge system offers an effective central hub for applicants to request Blue Badges online.  It is clear and easy to use but it only goes so far.  Once the application is made centrally, without a well-designed local solution, it can disappear from the applicant’s view, leading to frustration and calls into their local council.

In IEG4’s first blog in our Blue Badge series, we gave an overview of how our Blue Badge Solution is delivering significantly improved customer service, whilst at the same time, reducing costs and increasing overall productivity.   

In one council, inbound payment-handling call volumes are down by 65% since the introduction of IEG4’s Blue Badge solution.  Clearly  the demand and readiness for effective digital services which can be completed digitally is there.

Our Local Government Blue Badge solution integrates with the central GOV.UK Blue Badge application.  Our intelligent design and focus on the end-user experience helps to exploit the benefits available in the central system. Central activity is merged seamlessly with local processing and digital ‘calls’ to central GOV.UK Verify and GOV.UK Pay are incorporated with local Blue Badge processing. 

Blue Badge applicants are invited to apply digitally via the central system.  Our Blue Badge system allows these digitally engaged applicants to complete the journey with their local council seamlessly.  Judging by positive applicant comments received so far, they love it. 

In this blog, we explain how we cater, not only for those councils that want to adhere to a standard approach, but also for those who need (or want) to process Blue Badges differently. 

In the ‘Real World’, there will always be local processing differences.

That’s a fact and we have had to deal with it; dealing with it effectively is tricky.  

Driven by our mission to ‘enable digital transformation that is simply effective for everyone’, we’ve set out to make life easier for all those involved with Blue Badge.  

One of the country’s biggest processors of Blue Badge applications, Kent County Council, identified 25 distinct stages of processing for a new application.  Within each stage, there could be a ‘x’ number of possible actions.  Combining these different possible stages and actions, one quickly reaches a hefty number of processing options, all of which have to be managed within the workflow.   The question is, ‘how?’

Remove the hurdles from ‘Low Code’ to ‘No Code’.

Some technologists and software providers have suggested using a ‘low code’ approach.  ‘Low code’ can provide a lot of flexibility for organisations, however, they have to have the technical resource at hand to build and maintain applications.   This is where ‘low code’ can fall down.

The public finances continue to be tightly squeezed and the luxury of skilled IT resources with the bandwidth to do this within Local Government is rare.

From the supply side, logic dictates that ‘low code’ solutions almost invariably have a user-base of one.  As a result, each ‘low code’ solution can become unique.  The supplier economics for upgrading multiple unique systems are challenging to say the least.   As each change is made, the complexity of testing and maintaining versions increases.   The result is that ‘low code’ solutions which require input from outside the council, often fall behind the pace. 

Councils are left with a solution which does what it did, not what it needs to do.

Our approach at IEG4 is to remove the technical hurdle of even ‘low code’ to transform it to ‘no code’.  Our focus on leveraging dynamic ‘no code’ components that are baked into workflow stages enables councils to mirror their operational workflows.  This intuitive design system completely removes the need and complexity of low code solutions, yet maintains the flexibility.

We enable business users in councils to manage their operations and change what their Blue Badge system does in its workflow, without the need for external involvement.  

Put council business owners in control of continuous improvement.

In theory, any council could have any number of stages in a workflow with any number of linked assessments and actions.  Kent’s solution to this challenge was to provide non-technical users with the means to adapt workflows and assessments, without reliance on external IT.  At the same time, the challenge was to avoid the creation of unique solutions which then cannot be supported. 

Our Blue Badge solution offers those councils which demand local flexibility over questions and assessments, a configurable platform from which to offer just that. Our Pro version of Blue Badge allows councils workers to:

  • modify the stages within a workflow
  • add actions to stages (including the automated issuing of GOV.UK Notify templates)
  • build assessments to capture additional questions that need to be asked
  • set which users could view/work on a stage

By taking the time to listen to our customers and doing the ‘tricky stuff, we have created a sophisticated solution that allows councils to process applications differently, offering the ability to have localised operations, whilst maximizing the benefits of standardisation.

Our Blue Badge system offers a seamless solution that allows an application to be made centrally. This is picked-up locally and processed in accordance with specific local rules, for those councils who need to.  As and when needed, ‘calls’ can be made to GOV.UK modules (e.g. for payment processing), all whilst keeping the applicant digitally informed of progress.    

Furthermore, this flexibility doesn’t only cater for the different ways councils wish to work now.  They can change workflows and make improvements based upon applicant feedback. For example, the recent changes to Blue Badges with the ‘Hidden Disabilities’ legislation,  our engineering team catered for these alterations to workflows immediately after the APIs were released, and in advance of the new applications that were to come in on the 30th August 2019.

As further changes to processing rules are forecast and introduced, councils who want to maintain control of how these are delivered in-house, can do so.

What if councils want to follow a standard process?

There is much to be said for adopting standard questions and approaches to Blue Badge processing. Maintaining the flexibility and ability to drive continuous improvement in-house has to be justified in a business case. Many councils will be able to make this case based on reducing costs and cutting down on misuse.

Some councils will not have the work volume or won’t feel the need to ask further questions of applicants locally to determine eligibility. Applicants will still be provided with a seamless and synchronised service spanning central and local government processing, no matter how complex local operations are with the Blue Badge service.

Finally, driving standardisation in Local Government is hard, as one needs to understand the challenging priorities between national government, local authorities, and their IT suppliers and create a lasting bridge across this divide. A one size fits all approach has its challenges often leading to failed IT, however we strive to standardise, yet add flexibility where it’s needed to increase adoption across the sector and greater experiences to citizens.

Topics: digital transformation, software, blue badge, hidden disabilities, channel shift

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