Infrastructure > Devices

Fife moves to mobile working

Published 12 November 2013

Linda Robertson, programme manager for mobile and flexible working at Fife Council, on how mobile working has helped develop an entirely new working culture as well as make significant cost savings


The idea of flexible, remote and mobile working is not a new one in the public sector. I'm sure we've all been in meetings where these terms have been bandied around, yet in reality we have only really paid lip service to them. For some councils it has been a question of resource, for others a question of know-how. But whatever the reasons behind it, mobile or indeed flexible working in widest sense has not been as widespread or as effective as many envisioned.

But I've long been an advocate of working differently. Carried out properly, with the right tools and planning, the benefits can be huge. Staff are able to work more effectively and flexibly, councils can deliver an improved service to the public and in this time of austerity in the public sector, can save money.

Fife is Scotland's third largest local authority and we are three years into a five year programme intended to increase efficiency and improve service delivery. We were set a target of realising efficiencies of £20m over this period and I am delighted to say that we are very much on track to do this. But what has really stood out from our mobile and flexible working programme is the way that it is changing the way we all work at Fife and is also enabling us to improve the way we deliver services to our 366,000 citizens.

We began the delivery with an extensive procurement process, eventually choosing the TotalMobile App Platform. We purchased a solution which could be scaled to enterprise level and it is currently being implemented on a department by department basis, which we felt would yield the best return. It was first deployed by the Building Services department, with a staged roll-out across the rest of the council to follow, including Housing and Neighbourhood and Streets, Parks and Open Spaces.

The Building Services department was one of the teams within Fife that had a particularly obvious need for mobile working. The team were out on the road for much of the day, driven by paper based processes, delivering repairs to customers Fife-wide. The back office processing of the associated paper and updating of systems after each visit was unproductive and time consuming. The process changes and implementation of the new solution produced an immediate return in efficiency for Building Services, growing to an average of 22 per cent increased productivity from each employee in scope, and a consequent increase in the number of jobs carried out each day. Back office information was automatically updated via each employee's device, meaning that there was also a huge saving on paperwork and administration.

This implementation coincided with a restructuring at Fife Council, with some of our departments being realigned and others combined together. A situation familiar to councils all across the UK I am sure. What this meant was that we had a real need for a council-wide solution that could be scaled up according to need and could sit above our legacy applications. The early part of the implementation also involved a lot of infrastructure work to ensure the rest of the council could follow Building Services when required.

We've also been undergoing a massive programme of change within our council, which included improving services and providing new channels of communication for citizens. This also includes workforce transformation supporting a better work / life balance for Fife Council staff. The Mobile and Flexible working programme has helped focus and drive all of this change by knitting it together.

Most people now are familiar with using apps in their personal lives and the key to delivery for us is to provide our staff with an easy-to-use solution that wouldn't require extensive training. It had to be an interface that simplifies the ways in which our staff can access and use information which allows them to work on any device - a smartphone, tablet or laptop - and any operating system.

Like most local councils in the UK we have been under huge financial pressure these past few years, but the deployment of new ways of working and providing the right tools for the job has helped alleviate those pressures. At the same time we are delivering an improved service to the people of Fife.

User adoption was crucial to all of this and our Building Services staff were fantastic advocates, demonstrating to the rest of the organisation the clear benefits mobile working could bring to both staff and citizens.

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