Norwich City Council

Verifying and synchronising data across multiple systems as part of a first alert service

The Challenge

Norwich City Council wanted to introduce SMS alerts but was prevented from doing this by inconsistent data across back office systems and the CRM. It decided to use Automate, NDL’s RPA toolkit to verify and synchronise mobile telephone numbers across all systems, enabling it to implement its first alert service. This integration programme is now being extended to cover other key data across the Council, resulting in significantly improved data and reducing wasteful manual look-ups and data entry.

Norwich City Council has a number of legacy systems running across different service areas as well as a front-office CRM system. All of these were operating independently: in particular, they were updated in isolation by individual departments, which resulted in a disparity of data across the Council.

Any checks to verify or change data across different systems had to be carried out manually, which was time-intensive and a waste of administrative resource, so in many non-critical areas it simply did not happen. Norwich had investigated integrating systems to avoid inconsistent information and to reduce wasteful data entry but had not been able to find a cost-effective and appropriate solution.

The need for something to happen became even more apparent when the Council wanted to launch a customer SMS alert service. To do this, it needed a valid database of mobile telephone numbers. However, this did not exist because of the lack of consistent data. Therefore the Council and its IT Partners, LGSS, needed to find a way of synchronising changes to mobile phone numbers across all systems when entered in one.

The Solution

Automate is a cost-effective, flexible and versatile alternative for integration which avoids the need to use individual vendor APIs or adaptors. It links to and from the front office or joins back-office applications together, dramatically improving business processes and workflows.

The Benefits

Now, using Automate, whenever a telephone number is updated in one system, it is automatically updated across all relevant systems, including the Civica CRM, Capita housing, and Northgate revenues and benefits. Using this validated and synchronised database, the Council has now been able to introduce text alerts: the first is for the housing department, sending out reminders about rents and arrears: “This simply wouldn’t have been possible to do without synchronising the phone numbers in the first place.” Once the Council had implemented this first integration using Automate, it realised it would be relatively simple to extend it to include other data fields, such as ethnicity and disability.

In addition, it is using Automate to update customer warnings and information flags across all systems: this is such a critical element that previously these updates had been carried out manually, taking up significant administrative time. 

What's Next?

Norwich is now intending to extend its programme of integration to encompass notifications of deaths. Currently when a notification is received, 17 emails are sent from the CRM to all departments which could be affected. Using Automate will radically change this: each system will be looked up remotely to see if the person concerned is on the system and emails will then be sent only to relevant departments. Thus any department receiving an email will know definitively that they need to update their systems, removing the need for wasted manual checks.

“Automate takes out all the manual donkey work – the boring look-up-and-find routines. It verifies data and removes the need for an officer to duplicate their work by having to go through several different systems. Even more than that, it removes the requirement for training on all the various systems that every officer would require to be able to confidently perform the updates. And what’s great is that, if you don’t like what you’ve done, you can change it. It’s a piece of software which allows you to change it at will, which is almost unheard of.”

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“We did a lot of research around integration but kept coming back to Automate as the one for us. Cost was a factor, but it would also give LGSS the ability to develop it themselves and allow us to choose our own way of doing it, without the need to use third parties or to keep going back to NDL.

Dan Badham-Browne, Contact Development Manager, Norwich City Council