Agenda item

Digital East Devon - Firmstep presentation

As part of the Digital Strategy, the Council will be implementing new software to provide a step change in the delivery of digital services – Firmstep.  The Service Lead for Organisational Development and Transformation will give an introduction, before a demonstration of the customer experience through Firmstep is provided by Hilary Jones.  Hilary will also talk through her own experience of implementation at Scarborough District Council.



The Chairman welcomed the Service Lead for Organisational Development and Transformation, Karen Jenkins.


She outlined steps the Council will be implementing as part of the Digital Strategy.  This included a step change in the delivery of digital services, by introducing new software – Firmstep.  The outcome would be to meet the growing customer demand for the choice to transact online, with better customer journeys – both in completing the transaction, but also kept informed of progress in getting to completion.


The committee received a presentation from Firmstep Customer Ambassador, Hilary Jones and colleague Tamsin Cooper.  Hilary explained her own experience of implementation at Scarborough Borough Council, and gave practical examples of what customers can expect from the changes.


Tamsin Cooper took the committee through some specific examples of transactions that a customer could complete in one place, through their own customer account.  This meant that a customer didn’t need to search for each individual service they required, or had to complete information for each of those services required.  Logging into their customer account provided access to all the relevant information to that customer.


Other benefits of the new software included:

·         Tailoring ability to provide the right questions and validate the responses, streamlining the process to what the customer needs;

·         Ability to transact on behalf of others, such adult with mature parent who is not confident in transacting online;

·         Transactions working across smartphones, tablets and other devices;

·         Feedback built in to keep customer updated on progress and provide reminders;

·         Frees up frontline staff to help with customers who do need personal interaction in order to transact, because much of the administration will have been dealt with by the software.


Developers from Strata – John Williams and Roy Podbery – were also present.  They would be working on moving the existing online transactions to the new software, and creating new ones, working closely with officers delivering the service.


Councillors raised several questions on service delivery to understand how the changes would benefit residents of East Devon.


Debate on the issue covered:

·         Helping digital inclusion for all sectors of the community, through front line staff helping people to become more confident in transacting online, and Councillors championing that support;

·         Recognition that not all transactions can be offered online, because of their complexity;

·         Frontline staff helping customers complete information online was already happening, and this would extend that further, to other transactions;

·         Using a wide range of means to help people, including community groups and family members, as well as frontline staff;

·         Expected take-up was high, based on experience both with existing LAGAN (current software) transactions at the Council, and with authorities across the country using Firmstep;

·         Firmstep was compliant with data protection regulation, working with a secure workflow and on a permissions basis;

·         The Digital Strategy was clear that this was not a channel shift to all transactions being online – but to offer the choice, accepting that some services, such as homelessness triage cases, needed personal interaction;

·         Positive approach to providing a solution to customers that can signpost to what they need, regardless of who is providing it - such as other authorities or voluntary bodies that can provide help and advice.


The committee were advised to look specifically at Scarborough Borough Council’s website, as a working example of the range of services available to residents to transact with online.  A customer network also existed to provide lots of case examples and shared good practice.


In response to a question about timeframe for implantation, the committee were informed that Phase 1, covering existing transactions that the Council offers online, would take between 12 and 18 months, before moving onto Phase 2 for new transactions.  There would be continual improvement to keep developing what was available, to meet demand.  Development for the Cloud 9 based East Devon App was also planned, to include voice recognition.


The Chairman welcomed the development in online services and agreed that it was an exciting time for improving service delivery further.  He thanked the representatives for their extensive presentation and helpful examples.