One of England’s newest unitaries, Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council, is supercharging the efficiency and reach of its services with a suite of Microsoft Power Apps. It is empowering colleagues to develop the tools they need to drive efficiencies and deliver more effective services to citizens.
BCP Council, which was formed in 2019 to bring together three separate councils, serves residents on the country’s south coast. It is using Power Apps to streamline labour-intensive administrative tasks, audit services, and broaden the digital skills of its teams. It will also share the Apps it develops with other Councils through GitHub — a programming resource used for codesharing — in the hope of driving more collaboration to bring further efficiencies.
Council workers began to see benefits soon after the first apps were developed and made available. When the coronavirus pandemic forced many to work from home, the apps helped them to keep vital services running smoothly. With 48 Power Apps now employed, BCP Council is saving time by digitising processes such as booking council facilities, tracking essential deliveries and reporting incidents, all tasks that previously tied up time that could be better deployed providing more critical citizen services.
“Power Apps are giving us the opportunity to improve our services and make people’s lives better,” says Neil Poulton, BCP Council’s Head of Development.
Councils up and down the country are looking for low-cost, innovative ways to digitise and improve their operations at a time when budgets are tight. As demands on their services rise, the council needed to free up colleagues for more citizen-facing activities.
“Power Apps are giving us the opportunity to improve our services and make people’s lives better.” – Neil Poulton, Head of Development, Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council
Power Apps offer drag-and-drop app-creation templates that can be adapted to suit specific business needs. And, because they are low-code, they are easily accessible by all teams working across a range of departments, no matter their digital skill level.
Three To One
Power Apps are a key element in BCP Council’s technological transformation. When the council formed three years ago from the amalgamation of Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole local authorities, it inherited multiple departments focused on the same functions, paper-based processes and some clunky legacy IT systems.
This gave Poulton and his team a unique opportunity to build an IT infrastructure on the latest technology that unified many of the old councils’ activities, from social services and street cleaning to human resources.
“We chose Power Apps because it offered a solution that we could quickly integrate into our current tech stack,” says Poulton. “We’ve taken the opportunity to rationalise some of our old IT systems and because Power Apps is low-code our team is empowered to developed apps that benefit their roles and they get to implement them.”
The apps have been deployed across the council’s services, including its “Our Stars” colleague recognition scheme and the ‘Fair Access Panel’, which supports the secure free flow of information between the council and schools, carers and pupils.
Quick to Market
One of BCP Council’s many Power Apps successes is its Facilities Management Request function. This saw a large department of 12 different business units move an unwieldy paper-based service, which also involved email and SharePoint requests, onto a single app in Microsoft Teams.
In the Mailroom Delivery/Tracking tool, BCP Council replaced third-party software and an internal paper-based system with a mobile app that tracks the delivery of incoming parcels to BCP Council’s different offices and plants. The Android-based technology can scan and record barcodes and uses the Power BI app to generate monthly audit reports to ensure high service standards.
The Space Bookings platform was crucial during the pandemic, enabling teams to safely pre-book rooms when they were required on-site. The customised app also has long-term relevance as a useful tool for colleague hot-desking arrangements.
To work well, digital transformations require a change in corporate mindset across the organisation. Fiona Hughes, BCP Council’s Head of Modern Workplace, says the council backed this by embracing Microsoft’s Change Agents programme, which helped BCP Council support workplace champions.
Microsoft’s Change Agents was a collaborative programme run with Socitm, the membership organisation of digital leaders. The scheme offered free training for local authority digital champions across a range of tools including Power Apps, Teams and SharePoint. It also encouraged the exploration of how technology can improve working practices and service delivery.
“We have 300 to 400 Microsoft champions that are supporting us to reach the digital business model we aspire to.” – Fiona Hughes, Head of Modern Workplace, Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council
These voluntary digital advocates are drawn from all parts of the council. They share their learnings with colleagues and act as first responders to queries that previously would have been raised with the IT department. They also ensure there is a constant flow of new ideas about how to improve workflows.
“We have 300-to-400 Microsoft champions that are supporting us to reach the digital business model we aspire to,” Hughes says. She said this council-wide approach has been more successful than a traditional top-down model in progressing BCP Council’s digitisation.
BCP Council is committed to sharing its best practices with councils that may not have the same resources or haven’t progressed as much on their digitisation journey. Poulton says he hopes to add BCP Council’s Power Apps to software development site GitHub so that other council’s can copy or adapt them to save money and time in their own processes.
“It is incredible to see how technology, like PowerApps, is giving BCP Council colleagues the empowerment to improve services and make peoples lives better,” says Alan Lewis, Microsoft UK Public Sector General Manager. “Seeing how BCP Council has taken a council-wide approach and deployed champions, putting the power to change and improve processes, in the hands of the people that run and deliver services to citizens, shows why this technology is so pivotal for their digitisation journey.”