Application Development Example - Online Data Collection.

This application was custom-developed by Fuse in 2007, and has been hosted and maintained by us since, processing over nine million responses.

Introduction

Fuse Collaboration has developed a Secure Online Data Collection solution which is successfully being used by Councils such as Leicestershire County Council and Northamptonshire County Council to provide a FAST, SECURE and RELIABLE link between the Family Information Services / Early Years & Childcare Services and the childcare providers / minders they support.

With budgets forever being squeezed, and time being precious, Councils are looking for more efficient and effective ways to securely obtain, retain and manage key statutory and financial information - for example for Nursery Education Funding (NEF) Administration- and also provide regular updates to providers and reduce their time they have to spend completing and returning documents.

Our very cost-effective Managed Service solution has been described as easy to use, time-saving and an excellent administration tool for NEF administration.

Our solution reduces organisational costs, increases staff productivity, delivers a better service to council suppliers/providers and reduces organisational risk.

The service can pay for itself in less than 12 months and then provides on-going benefits year after year from then on. One of our customers was able to reduce organisational costs by £40,000 per annum whilst delivering a better council service and reducing their risks.

The Organisational Challenges our Solution Overcomes

Our solution has overcome a number of challenges the Family Information Services / Early Years & Childcare Services and childcare providers were having plus improved the service between them - these include the following:

  • Collection of key sensitive data, such as the headcount (names/ages) of children at Childcare Providers on an on-going basis via regular audits throughout the year, is an important statutory and financial task in order to keep data up-to-date which is very valuable to Local Authorities and can store information relating to funding worth hundreds of thousands and in some cases millions of pounds.
  • Traditionally this has been done via the sending out of paper-based forms and questionnaires by email/post or asking providers to download information e.g. spreadsheets who then have to complete the information and email/post the information back to the Local Authority.
  • Once the completed forms are received back to the Local Authority, people are employed to manually enter the information into the relevant system(s) to keep them updated - this can happen many times a year.
  • How to keep track of who has and who has not completed the key audits/questionnaires.
  • How to retain the information to make providing updates quick and easy for both the Council and Providers.
  • How to keep in touch securely with childcare providers on a regular basis with the time and cost overhead for both the Local Authority and providers to complete required information.
  • Producing reporting for Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and also extracting data for use in other key systems.

The above points can present a number of organisational challenges for the Childcare Providers, Local Authority and the Environment which include one or more of the following:

  1. Local Authority staff time taken to prepare and send out the questionnaires.
    • The use and cost of paper - which does not help with 'Go Green' and 'Help the Environment' initiatives
    • The time and cost of printing forms/questionnaires and then mailing them to childcare providers.
  2. The time taken (often many times a year) for Childcare Providers to fill in the forms and return them to the Local Authority.
  3. There is a risk that completed Forms containing sensitive information can be lost in the post or via email or mislaid and never make it back to the Local Authority.
  4. The staff time and cost to re-key the information from the completed Forms into the relevant Local Authority system(s) to keep them up-to-date.
  5. The handwritten completed Forms can be difficult to read, once they are received back by the Local Authority leading to errors during the manual data entry process - so the data is not necessarily correct when entered into the systems - causing problems later on.
  6. Having a secure, cost-effective and easy way to communicate with Childcare Providers on an on-going basis if everything is paper-based.

In summary the business impacts are:

  1. High organisational costs (staff time, paper & postage costs) to prepare and send out the questionnaires.
  2. Lost staff productivity (manually entering the data, checking and re-entering data) - when questionnaires were received back in.
  3. Increased organisational risks (key data going missing in the post/emails/mislaid or being entered into the systems incorrectly).
  4. Reduced service to council suppliers/providers - slow way to complete the audits/questionnaires and not a secure way to update providers on key developments throughout the year.

How our Solution Overcomes the Organisational Challenges

Our secure data collection application is designed to replace paper-based forms which are sent to council suppliers/providers for the collection of statutory/financial information, by collecting the information through a secure website.

For example, the application's first use was for the regular collection of childcare provider information and the solution can be expanded as required for other uses.

The application has the following features:

  1. The Facility to create and administer bespoke forms. These forms can consist of any amounts of pages, on which there can be any type of input field - from a simple text box, to sophisticated multi-row/multi-control tables.
  2. The forms are simple to fill in and designed to be compatible with different Internet browsers.
  3. The forms can be pre-populated with previously submitted answers if required, for cases where existing data requires verification or updating by end-users.
  4. Users log in over a secure Internet connection to complete the forms. They can save their progress at any point and revise existing responses. Opening and closing dates for responding can be set and enforced.
  5. When the forms have been completed and submitted, the response data can be reviewed/edited online by the administrators assigned by the local authority, and exported to other systems for further analysis or data transfer.
  6. Data stays in the system, so it is easy to add or remove headcount information.
  7. Councils can track easily who has and who has not completed questionnaires.
  8. Historical information by childcare provider is available stating which audits and questionnaires were completed by which providers on which dates, by which username and IP address.
  9. Multiple Reports can be generated to provide for KPIs for management.
  10. Data is held securely and kept within the UK.
  11. The Local Authority can easily and securely update council suppliers/providers at a reduced cost.

The complete application is securely hosted by Fuse Collaboration and provided as a complete Managed Service solution.

We can also customise the application, as required, to fulfil your exact requirements for Data collection to give you the look, feel and functionality your require.

Solution benefits summary

Our solution reduces organisational costs, increases staff productivity, delivers a better service to both the council and to childcare providers and reduces organisational risk. It also frees staff to work more closely with childcare providers on improving the service offered:

 

  • The service has paid for itself in less than 12 months and then provides on-going benefits year after year from then on.
  • The solution can be deployed very swiftly, so you can start reaping the benefits very quickly.
  • We can customise the solution to your specific requirements and it can replace multiple organisational areas where paper-based collection and manual entry of data are used.

Customer Video Case Study

This YouTube video was produced by Leicestershire County Council as an introduction to their version of our solution called "INFORM", and highlights the benefits to end-users of the application.

 YouTube - Introduction to Inform

 

Next Steps?

If you are experiencing any of the above organisational challenges and would like to discuss in more detail how our solution might help your organisation, please contact us today to discuss how this application can be tailored to your unique requirements.