It seems crazy that only a few years ago local authorities were still drowning in paper, spreadsheets and a constant barrage of questions around complicated systems. To solve these issues, in 2013 one Local Authority successfully adopted our KaarbonTech software to manage their network – a service based on responsiveness, proactive working and knowledge-based decisions.
However this good news story was short-lived, as five years later a corporate decision was taken to cease all contracts with specialist software suppliers in favour of a single Highways Infrastructure Asset Management System (HIAMS) that could manage their entire operation.
In theory, this all sounded wonderful – a single system to manage the entire Highways asset, however even before the switch over, alarm bells started ringing with the team.
The gully cleaning service was a top priority service for the council, sitting high on the list to adopt the new HIAMS software ahead of the switch off from KaarbonTech. Although integration was achievable between the two systems, it was decided to start again with the new software. But questions, doubts and challenges were beginning to filter through from operational managers across different disciplines around whether this new system was fit for purpose. The same response met them, however – that until the HIAMS was proven to fail, it was to be used. Sound familiar?
As ‘switch-over day’ rolled around, the HIAMS was not ready for deployment in drainage. There appeared to be an underestimation of the intrinsic differences between workstreams and the staffing levels required for the new system. Had the cost and demand of staff been overlooked through the procurement process?
Bridging the gap
Not wanting to lose all the hard work and progress made over the five years, the drainage service manager made a decision to continue accessing KaarbonTech to bridge the gap, until the new system could offer the same level of service. Corporately, he was not allowed to collect new data, it was made clear this was a stop-gap, until the new HIAMS was ready. The contractor used their own system to generate a spreadsheet, so the discipline manger had to duplicate work to answer the usual questions. The management time required to deliver the service rose dramatically, but there was no capacity for this; deploying KaarbonTech Gully SMART had saved the best part of a full-time operational manager’s role which had since been filled with other activities.
Numerous meetings and requests followed and a year after the initial HIAMS go live date, the council asked for another extension to the KaarbonTech software access – just a couple of months. Paying to access information that was already a year out of date was still a much more favourable route than navigating the unfinished alternative.
A new request
After about 18 months, KaarbonTech received an unrelated enquiry from the tree department at the council. A member of staff there had used KaarbonTech’s Tree SMART software in another authority and wanted to get it deployed as they were struggling to manage the tree service. Having queried the restrictions around the corporate policy, we were met with a frustrated reply that the HIAMS was not fit for purpose, and after trying to bridge the shortfalls of the system, their line manager had agreed that they could explore the market for an alternative. However after several meetings and development of a business case, a familiar response was received – corporate policy demanded a single system.
The issues continue
Two years have now passed and there is still no deployed system for the drainage team. Teams cannot prioritise efficiently, money has been wasted with these restrictions and the service to the public is slow as reactive work cannot be actioned quickly due to the lack of current data.
It’s very easy to think a ‘one-size-fits-all’ system will do just that, without proper consultation with the teams who deliver critical highway maintenance services. We’ve seen local authorities move from one system to another, hoping that the next will be the ultimate saviour. But we think that the answer is to spend time with the people who use the systems. Look at how the people work, the problems they need to solve, and the tools and efficiencies they require, and match a system to their specific needs.
Contact US if you would like to discuss how KaarbonTech may be able to help you.