The UK Council of the Year's adaptable approach to COVID testing

Frontline Stories: How Wigan Council achieved better COVID-19 testing for its residents with an adaptable approach

When it comes to facing challenges, adaptability is a core value across the public sector. As those providing essential services to the general population, it’s no surprise that remaining flexible to demand is one of the best ways to remain effective. But, in times of crisis, it can be difficult to apply that same adaptable attitude to processes involving data. With security, tight resourcing, and public facing work to take priority - there are plenty of barriers to contend with.

As the first pilot to successfully implement an end-to-end COVID-19 test booking system, here’s how IESE ‘UK Council of the Year 2021’ award winners Wigan Metropolitan Borough Council used low-code eForms to remain adaptable throughout the pandemic.

Why is adaptability important?

Since the pandemic started, organisations in every industry have had to learn how to adapt on a large scale, and how to do it quicky. From implementing home and mobile working, to providing face-to-face services under social distancing restrictions – change has made its way into every corner of working life in the UK public sector.

In terms of those changes, Wigan Council was no exception. At the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, back in early 2020, Wigan was selected as one of the 10 local authorities to pilot local PCR COVID-19 testing - and were required to deploy a digital solution in a very short timeframe. 

After releasing its interim “quick fix” process, Wigan collaborated with NDL on an FX eForm project in order to craft a more suitable, digitised approach – you can watch the team talk through this project, and read more about the process in detail, here.

Unsurprisingly, there were many changes and adjustments to the project along the way. With the unpredictable nature of the pandemic - as well as a rapidly changing central government policy - any solution Wigan adopted needed to be highly versatile. Without adaptability, the team wouldn’t be able to efficiently manage their resources, leading to less testing capacity for the public. In order to reduce the spread of the virus, optimal COVID-19 testing was essential.

How low-code enables adaptability

As previously mentioned, Wigan Council faced several requirement changes throughout its COVID-19 testing FX project. Not only did the pandemic create the need for this complex project, but it also affected its delivery at every step of the process:

  • As infection rates accelerated, Wigan needed to accommodate walk-in testing, with no prior appointment booking required. The adaptability of FX allowed a multitude of data entry methods, enabling Wigan to craft a QR code check-in process for residents who required an immediate test. Each feature applied within Wigan’s solution was easily applied across a range of devices, and this usability allowed for additions to be onboarded quickly.
  • At the peak of the pandemic, 4 testing centres were in operation, alongside numerous pop-up and walk-in sites – scaling back to 2 centres with the introduction of home testing kits. Available testing centres were constantly changing, which meant adaptability and scalability was paramount with any process Wigan pursued. With the FX toolkit, Wigan could easily add and remove sites for testing, without having to start again from scratch.
  • Mid-way through the project, PCR testing at these sites was replaced by the lateral flow method, capturing immediate results. The way residents received their results had to remain adaptable, in order to ensure positive results were quickly communicated. FX allowed Wigan to utilise digital data capture in a live environment, allowing for easy adjustments and paperless processing.

The low-code nature of the FX tool allowed Wigan Council to keep up with each unexpected change throughout development. Utilising a drag-and-drop studio, rather than a traditional coding-based approach, allowed multiple stakeholders to get to grips with the software.

How to prepare for the unexpected

Always looking for ways to improve your own team’s adaptability? While uncertain times can be challenging, they can often have lasting positive effects on our ways of working – as they force us to question if our current method really is the best way. Here’s a few quick tips we can take away from Wigan’s COVID-19 testing digital solution:

  1. Plan and prioritise flexibility. Scalability and agility should stay at the top of the list when it comes to improving adaptability in any area of an organisation.
  2. Challenge and optimise processes. Ensure every process is streamlined – troublesome admin and repetitive processes often slow down operations and create more room for error.
  3. Identify areas of weakness. Find the most troublesome process in your operation and troubleshoot it.
  4. Understand your true capacity. Ensure your team stays ready for new responsibilities when it’s time for “all-hands-on-deck” – and don’t forget to make the most of all resources available, including third party suppliers such as NDL.
  5. Invest in digital transformation. Digital transformations are often at the forefront of effective resourcing, making it easier to adapt to new challenges. Consider ROIs – a small investment can create significant capacity and capability
  6. Reduce manual tasks where possible. Digital solutions - such as Robotic Process Automation (RPA), low-code mobile apps and eForms – take focus away from repetitive menial tasks, so more time can be spent on the important jobs.
  7. Improve usability. Low-code development is a great example of how simplifying and speeding up complex solutions delivery can unlock better potential.
  8. Ask for feedback. Ensure end users can contribute to the conversation about their day-to-day tasks, roles, and duties. This is key to building a solution that really works.
  9. Welcome change. It can be difficult to cultivate change in an environment that has been uninterrupted for some time – foster a positive attitude to improvement and demonstrate its value.
  10. Reassess regularly. Improve and optimise your processes regularly to avoid building and becoming reliant on suboptimal procedures.

For further information about Wigan Council’s COVID-19 testing and recording service, you can read about their success and watch their FX solution in action here – or, to keep up with the latest news in UK public sector digital transformation, don’t forget to visit our blog. Want to know more about how eForms, low-code mobile apps or RPA could help your team remain adaptable? Why not get in touch with a member of our team?