Fusion of Next Generation Technology and Sector Expert Knowledge

Why a Fusion of Next Generation Technology and Sector Expert Knowledge are Set to Revolutionise Local Government Public Protection Services.

As our towns and cities have increased in size and density, the work of Public Protection (PP) services within local government has become more challenging. Hundreds of teams operate across the UK protecting the public, environment, and consumers against those who seek to exploit and harm them, often for profit.

However, the way this work has been managed and delivered has not substantially changed since its inception more than 150 years ago. Yes, services have mostly digitalised; however, the true potential of modern technology has not been harnessed to deliver the productivity gains on offer. Moreover, after a decade of public sector austerity and with more funding uncertainty ahead for local government, the need for meaningful productivity gains is vital if services are to be maintained.

Specialised PP teams are made up of individuals with specialist skills to manage a never-ending stream of proactive and reactive ‘cases’, including dangerous rented housing, unsafe food retailers, poor health and safety in the workplace, antisocial behaviour and other polluting activities.

Each case normally involves a well-worn path of office bureaucracy, site investigations, professional judgement and often a legal intervention and review phase before it can be satisfactorily resolved.

Currently cases are manually moved through a loosely defined bureaucratic process by team members and with each stage requiring human input, resulting in a costly exercise. There is also opportunity for human error which harms productivity further. A small number of PP services have been able to successfully apply lean thinking to their processes to extract large efficiency gains. One example of this approach is Newham’s Property Licensing Scheme (2012-2017), which managed and processed more than 50,000 property licences with less than 20 full time equivalent staff. This was achieved without access to intelligent integrated software.

So, can a combination of next generation technology and lean engineering by sector experts be harnessed to revolutionise productivity across the PP sector?

Metastreet have been working on a proof of concept solution to this problem over the last 3 years. We have developed the first phase of a new fusion of modern technology and sector knowledge to transform the private housing property licensing discipline. Robotics, cloud computing, integrated payments platform and mobile app have been fully integrated with expert sector knowledge and lean engineering principles. This has resulted in the first integrated regulatory software ecosystem that has been evidenced to increase service productivity and team outputs. This is no longer a concept; our customers are already receiving the benefits:

“Metastreet Property Licensing cloud software and Inspection app has totally transformed the way we work within the HMO Licensing Team.” & “The Metastreet system has allowed us to become more efficient, effective and professional. “ Lynn Sellar, Haringey Council

The fusion of technology and sector specific expert knowledge has enabled Metastreet to offer customers major productivity gains, for example by reducing the time is takes to process a licence from hours to 15 minutes. So, what are the technologies that have been used to enabled this leap forward?

Cloud software provides the platform to build a sophisticated and reliable software system that can be easily replicated. It helps lower the cost of software development, improves scalability, and enables a more frequent upgrade cycle, while retaining data security and software stability.

Users can access the system and the information they require from just about anywhere, if they have an internet connection. This adds flexibility and resilience to the service. Cloud also offers practically unlimited storage and processing power on demand to speed up complex processes that might be slow if completed on local devices.

By using a leading cloud provider, we all benefit from economies of scale and security offered by Amazon Web Services. This reduces costs associated with developing and maintaining our own infrastructure. Cloud also allows Metastreet to stay completely focused on innovating new features while staying responsive to our customer requirements.

Robotics are brilliant at completing simple business tasks efficiently and accurately and therefore are great for many PP tasks, plus robots do not need a holiday. Metastreet have used robotic process automation throughout our workflows to deliver sizable productivity gains. For example, 12 of the 18 tasks necessary to prepare a draft property licence are now completed by a robot. These are tasks that traditionally would have been completed by a human. This frees up time for officers to focus on more complex tasks. However, it’s important to keep robots under close observation and not allow them to make judgements about a case, humans are still way better at this.

Mobile apps are quickly becoming the most important inspection tool. Metastreet’s Inspector App offers users onsite support and notable productivity gains. It is fully integrated to allow seamless transfer of data including, notes, pictures, judgements, documents and video, without the need for any time-wasting manual updates.

The Inspector App can also be used even if the device does not have an internet connection, updating the home system when the device finds a connection.

Payment platform integration is vital for income focused PP services. It is not enough to simply be able to receive income, local government accounting rules require income reconciliation and financial records to satisfy government audits. The ability to make refunds and collect one off fees is crucial. Poorly integrated payment platforms harm productivity and create significant manual reconciliation costs for PP team to meet financial standards. Metastreet has focused on getting this right and our customers have noticed:

“The integrated payment platform has allowed us to reduce admin costs associated with chasing licensing fees, processing payments, creating receipts, and keeping financial records for audit and performance monitoring. “ & “Metastreet software provides reassurance to our landlords who now pay through the secure payment platform which can be monitored by staff in real time. “ Lynn Sellar, Haringey Council

Expert sector knowledge and lean engineering is the tissue that holds the integrated technologies together. It unlocks the technology productivity prize through careful process and workflow designed to maximise the available technologies.

Each software process is painstakingly pieced together in the most efficient way to deliver users, including members of the public, the most user friendly and efficient experience possible. Best practice software design principles and thorough testing help ensure user experience expectations are met, reducing frustration often encountered with online public services.

The benefits offered by Metastreet extend to external users where licence applicants are able to fully manage their portfolio of applications and licences, gain real-time insight into progress and access licence documentation digitally online through a single portal. Seamless integration ensures activities performed externally by the end user triggers workflows and interaction by the internal user, and vice versa.

For so many years, legacy providers of technology in the PP space have stood back from understanding the workflows and left it with each service to find its own way. This has held services back and also prevented PP technology from progressing.

“Metastreet software and app package provides a comprehensive cloud application, inspection and delivery process developed by experts.” Lynn Sellar, Haringey Council

So, what are the next steps?

The Metastreet team has now learnt how to design and integrate modern technology to deliver the next generation of PP productivity software. We have achieved our phase 1 objectives to fully integrate modern technology and expert knowledge to support the property licencing discipline. The next stage is applying this knowledge to other aspects of PP using a similar philosophy. Several customers have already expressed interest in working with us to develop new features and develop solutions for other PP services.

“We are very much looking forward to being a part of Metastreet’s software and app innovations to help continuously improve our important public protection services.” Lynn Sellar, Haringey Council

The opportunities are endless, but our motivation and focus are crystal clear. If we support PP services across the country to become more effective and productive, then we can genuinely help make the world a little bit better.

Russell Moffatt

Russel Moffatt

Chartered EHP and Co-founder of Metastreet

15th October 2020

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