Category: Services and Customers

Switching on Synergy for our children’s centres

On 5 November, Hounslow Children’s Centres bade farewell to EStart – a database that we had been using for over 10 years – and switched on Synergy.  Given that this was such a significant change, it is not surprising that the seeds were first sown about two years ago, when we began looking for an alternative to eStart.  This eventually grew into a much larger project, with several other services such as the Family Services Directory and Primary Admissions also joining.

The timetable for the implementation of Synergy took account of each service’s key dates and as a result, Children’s Centres were the first to go live.  This was the culmination of many hours of work with Synergy and the ICT team, which  took us through a number of different processes.  These covered service design; customising the system to meet the needs of our business; the migration of over 10 years of data from eStart and training. 

One of the main advantages of Synergy for our service, is that it will enable us to digitalise many of our processes that were paper-based.  As it is a case management system, it will also enable us to review all of our existing systems, so that they  provide a better service for our families, partner organisations and other teams within the Council.  Looking forward, the real potential of Synergy lies in the benefits that could result from the use of the system by a number of teams within the Council and its integration with other systems such as LCS and EHM.  This is a really exciting prospect and makes all of the hard work completely worthwhile.

I would like to thank Hannah, Shireen, Jo, Joy, Louise, Srwa, Hovik and Kate from Digital & ICT for everything that they have done to help us go live with Synergy.  They have devoted a huge amount of time to the project, with many of them working beyond ‘normal’ working hours to get the work done.  All of this was done with endless amounts of patience and good humour.  I have promised them that they can come and visit a children’s centre, once things return to normal.

Sandra Jones
Strategic Lead for Children’s Centres

Customer service in Digital

Listening to our customer views is so important – the teams have done a fantastic job during the crisis and informal feedback has been great, but it is so valuable to get feedback from all areas of the council so that we can showcase all the work done and continue to improve Digital in all teams. 

We used the Socitm user satisfaction survey as we did last year – this allows us the opportunity to compare where we were in 2019, and with other organisations. It is key given the Digital Strategy for Hounslow was approved in March 2020 so we can show the outcomes for the organisation from this investment. 

We have just started to work on a service improvement plan to follow up on all feedback received – some headline figures so far: 

  • Customer satisfaction has increased by 10% and we compare very well to other similar organisations. 
  • The view of whether Digital provides innovative solutions for the Council has increased by 14%. 
  • Our score on whether we allow staff to work flexibly is in the top 25% now –this is great to see, given the pandemic and there is so much more we can do. 

Next steps

There are many improvements we can make based on feedback and below is our initial list some of which build on existing programmes: 

  • Further accelerate our device refresh programme so more of our colleagues continue to have the best devices to deliver front line services in their role. 
  • Customer service training for all Digital staff to ensure we all continue to improve our skills in this area. 
  • Continued improvement in communications   – we have launched a new self-service portal which we can continue to adapt and improve in response to the organisation needs including more automation of routine work to allow teams to focus on value added work. 

We will publish more information on the work we do in response to the survey as part of our relentless focus on improving services for our residents as we deliver more excellent services as part of the Digital Strategy and our One Hounslow programme approach continues to improve services across the Council. 

Throughout the pandemic we have had help at our main building to ensure we keep our customers safe and bring something different to our customer service “Nice 2 metre, 2 metre nice”

Children’s Safeguarding project – a new way of working

The Children’s Safeguarding project is a new way of working for Hounslow, supporting our One Hounslow transformation. Martin Forshaw, the service Assistant Director, was the first ‘service owner’ to bring an outline business case to the Council’s Digital Design Authority, a new group comprising disciplines from across the council to review all key digital projects.

We have started with an 8-week discovery phase, working with FutureGov as our partners, aiming ultimately to deliver a redesigned Safeguarding service which is customer-focused, employee-friendly and digitally optimised.

A key aspect of this is the data and as a joined-up part of this project we have also brought in some specialist help to redesign and improve the management reporting for this Service.

We are working collaboratively as a blended Hounslow and FutureGov team in an agile way to understand how we can best redesign the service to improve the user experience for clients, professional partners and staff; and where we can improve efficiency and ultimately enable social workers spend more time with their client families.

Getting started

We used the first week of the project as our planning week to get the project set up for success. We had a team kickoff workshop where we were able to:

  • Establish the team and define roles and responsibilities within it.
  • Set up the project communications and rhythms, particularly how we are going to work together remotely throughout the project.
  • Plan the project work and what we would like to achieve in each sprint.
  • Started identifying user groups that we wanted to engage with going forward.

Research planning session

We kicked off the actual project work with a research planning session. Using Microsoft teams and the collaborative online tool called Miro, the team started off with an introduction to design research from FutureGov and then worked together to map out the research plan for the project.

The research plan covered the key research areas (what we want to find out), the key user groups (who do we need to speak to and how many people) as well as the methodologies we want to use (how best can we speak to these people to get the information we need).

Next steps

Having a draft research plan in place, the next phase of the project includes recruiting the users and actually conducting some of this research to learn more about the current service, uncovering the main pain points and opportunities within it.

Alongside this, we are mapping out the current end-to-end user journey within the Safeguarding service. This way will help us identify potential pain points within the service as well as opportunity areas where digital improvements can be made which will lead to more efficient ways of working.

Keep in touch If you would like to contribute or talk about any of the work, you can get in touch with Franco Degan, Barbara Munden or Priscilla Kurewa.

Hounslow’s new Community Hub call centre

As part of the Council’s response to the coronavirus we had to set up a new call centre for the Community Hub. The aim of the hub is to ensure that assistance is directed to the most vulnerable in the Borough. Whilst we were trying to estimate the volume of phone calls we might receive into the centre, it quickly became apparent that we may fall short of the capacity required. 

We discussed the issue with our Amazon Web Services account manager, Katie Blunt and by the next morning we’d had a call with AWS and VoiceFoundry.com along with an offer to stand up a dedicated call centre solution for us overnight. 

Our team were able to quickly pull together the details such as call routing design and estimates of call volumes and agents and began working with VoiceFoundry on implementing the solution. 

Amazon Web Services have provided the infrastructure for free and VoiceFoundry’s excellent team provided the commissioning work for free too. 

The solution is built on Amazon Connect and the call centre agent interface is browser based and extremely simple to use with nothing to install. 

We’ve received fantastic support from both AWS and VoiceFoundry.com to get this up and running and today we’ve gone live with the solution taking calls from the public.  Our sincere thanks to Katie at Amazon Web Services and to Daniel and Asad at VoiceFoundry.com for their support at this challenging time. 

We’ll also be looking next at integrating automated call answering using Amazon Lex conversational voice and text interfaces to further develop the solution and expand the capacity of the call centre team and extend the contact centre capabilities into the web. 

All part of our approach to the Digital Strategy.