Adur & Worthing Environmental Services (AWES) deal with all the waste care and collection services provided by the Councils. This includes collecting bins and specialist waste (like hazardous or bulky waste), as well as maintaining our streets (like removing fly tipping or graffitti).
AWES Phase 2 was my first project with the Councils, and sought to deliver digital solutions for our customers’ waste services. Phase 1 had delivered a new IT solution for our internal teams to organise their work and answer customer queries, and now we wanted to provide the customer with the direct means to book services themselves.
We had four months, the shortest project I have ever worked on, and it seemed like a very, very tall order. Luckily, I was not alone and I am proud to say it’s been a success.
So this is the story of AWES 2.
Forming the Project Team
The project team consisted of members from the DigITal Development, Insight, Contact Centre and Environmental Services Teams. Everyone came together and consistently showed up for meetings, demonstrations and every opportunity afforded to progress. It meant the solution was not built in isolation. It was a collaboration with everyone sharing their perspective on the process, their requirements and giving honest useful feedback to improve the solution as it was built. Being based at at our Commerce Way offices was also a real boost. By working where the end user operates we got real understanding of what they do, and they in turn got to see the project work in progress.
Aligning our goals
Right at the start we asked the main stakeholders ‘what do you want to get out of this?’ and set clear goals which we regularly referred back to. Staying focused on the customer experience, we gathered customer requirements as ‘user stories’. Literally everything had to be defined by what it meant to the customer. No gadgets or gizmos no one will ever use: just core content everyone needs. We spoke to all customers using the system (both internal users of the system and external customers too) to make sure we understood and included their perspective in our design.
Being flexible to get it done
In project management jargon we used an ‘Agile’ approach to running this project. I say approach because you learn fast with all these methodologies; they’re more what you'd call "guidelines" than actual rules (and yes that is a Pirates of the Caribbean quote!). What this means is we broke everything down into small bite size pieces of delivery. Although we had a long to do list, we knew we could only achieve so much in the time we had. When something was too big, or there was something more important to do, we were able to adjust the focus to keep delivering for the customer. We held regular meetings to go through the work done, the work planned and, crucially, to get constant feedback on how everyone thought it was going.
Building the solution
For some time now the DigITal team has been using MATS, the low code platform that allows our developers to build much more quickly and in a workflow-driven way. Everything is done from the end users’ experience. We start with the process, with the journey the user will go on.
The solutions for AWES 2 were for external customers. These online services were developed off the back of the internal solution built in AWES 1. This meant that much of the initial MATS infrastructure for data and process was already built. So the design was drawn outside of MATS (the process, pages, and rules behind the scenes) and then applied to the existing data.
I am consistently underestimating the team and what they can deliver. Low code may sound simple, but it’s not. Just as I look to understand how people work together and what they need, the developers are able to do the same with the data, the system and all the other systems involved too. In total we built:
- An online solution to create, edit, pause, cancel a clinical waste collection
- An online solution to look up and raise a dispute for a missed bin collection
- An online solution to report a street scene incident (graffiti, dead animals, fly tipping, fly posting, spillage, dirty street, dangerous/hazardous waste as well as record a damaged /overspilling bin.)
- An online solution to request the removal of bulky waste, raising a quote and making paymentEducation videos to improve awareness of clinical waste, bin services, bulky waste and street scene services.
- Initiated a trial automated phone solution using AWS Lex & Polly for clinical calls.
Successful go live
Phased delivery means the phased go live of services. This is a real boon for supporting the teams getting used to a new piece of kit. We did not simply go: “Here’s your shiny new system; bye” and disappear; quite the reverse.
We were there to help people, and pick up on all the little things that needed tweaking because, no matter how much you test something, you don’t know what’s going to happen until you have used the system in anger. And use it the customers did. Within 3 minutes of the Clinical online solution being added to our website someone was using it. I cannot describe the elation felt to see your hard work being so well received. And we did it together, as a team. Magic.