Delivering online services with electronic forms software
The 966.62 km² administered by Kennet District Council may be home to some of the most impressive ancient monuments in England, but the council is looking to the future when it comes to providing today's citizen's with online services.
Kennet is spearheading the use of Toplevel's OfficeForms in Wiltshire to give citizens a better experience when interacting with the council, while cutting the time, effort and cost of dealing with online requests for services.
"E-forms were already the backbone of our website, allowing the public to interact online with us. Thanks to Toplevel OfficeForms,
we will become more efficient in dealing with requests in the future," says Chris Franklin, Web Manager at Kennet District Council."
"The public will get an improved service, while we will be able to streamline internal processes for our staff, and make our operations even more cost-effective."
Kennet began looking for a new approach to delivering online services in 2005 after a review identified shortcomings in its existing solution. The three other district councils in Wiltshire – North Wiltshire, West Wiltshire and Salisbury – as well as Wiltshire County Council were all grappling with the same issues. Kennet District Council was asked to take the Procurement lead on behalf of the Participating Authorities.
“The successful outcome to this project was achieved by ensuring that the appropriate procurement route was adopted, building robust procurement documentation, giving advice and support to the partnership, using efficient and effective procurement practices that enabled the project to be brought to a successful conclusion on time by purchasing an excellent solution that met all the partners' expectations” says Sandra West, Procurement Manager at Kennet District Council.
One option would have been to integrate LotusNotes more closely with the various back-office applications in use at Kennet. However, this would have been difficult and costly
Instead, Kennet looked at what else was on the market, choosing Toplevel's OfficeForms from a shortlist of six.
“We had four main criteria in finding a package that would give us the best overall value for the services we provide,” Chris explains. “We were looking for something that allows us to develop forms that meet accessibility standards. We were looking for something that allows us to develop forms that meet accessibility standards.”
“We wanted a solution that would be easy to use: both for our own staff when creating forms, and for our citizens when completing forms. For instance, Toplevel OfficeForms allows users to save partially completed forms and return to them later; enables us to validate data while people are filling out forms, so they can easily correct errors; and lets us give help and advice to users tailored to their specific circumstances. We also wanted a solution that could be easily integrated with Lagan CRM and other back-office systems. And, of course, it had to be cost-effective.”
Not only did OfficeForms perform strongly in all these areas – Chris says it is “one of the best software products the council web team has ever bought” – but Kennet was impressed by Toplevel's attitude.
“Toplevel is approachable, very forthcoming with answers to our questions, and always has time for us,” says Chris. “Nothing has been too much bother for them, and they've been very quick to come back to us with responses to queries. We also like Toplevel's commitment to providing solutions that are future-proof, while keeping abreast of the latest technologies and ensuring their products move forward.”
He goes on to point out that, on top of all that,
“Toplevel's technical support both before we signed the contract and since has been very good. They made sure everyone involved from both sides knew what was expected of them, and the installation was one of the smoothest we've been through: on time, without any major headaches, and well documented. All that was backed up by excellent training, with Toplevel taking time to explain all areas of the software on both the design and technical side.”