Delivering new services with ArcGIS Server technology
When it merged with seven district councils to become a unitary authority, Durham County Council deployed Esri’s ArcGIS Server solution to help integrate dispersed data. Using GIS technology has improved both internal corporate services and online information services for citizens.
Durham County Council is a unitary authority in North East England. With around 22,000 employees and 126 elected councillors, it delivers services to over 219,000 households across an area of 223,260 hectares.
Durham County Council has integrated GIS with its customer relationship management (CRM) system, creating more efficient processes for responding to issues such as faulty street lighting
A new online GIS service called ‘My Durham’ makes it easy for members of the public to find service details and general information pertaining to their own addresses
ArcGIS Server gives the council the tools to quickly build and deploy new web apps, further enhancing the range of services available for citizens
When Durham merged with seven district councils to form a unitary authority, an enterprise Geographic Information System (GIS) was seen as a key enabler for its Corporate and Service Improvement Programmes.
Durham had used corporate Esri GIS for over 15 years: ArcGIS solutions for desktop, mobile and intranet, with GIS embedded in core applications, including traffic accident monitoring and property management. However, the former district councils used a range of GIS applications. “Our first challenge was to find a way to pull all of this data together and then serve it out in a way that would support the new council”, says Trevor Kirkup, senior ICT project leader. “Senior managers wanted to make an immediate, positive impression on citizens”, explains Kirkup. “Our challenge, therefore, is to use GIS to build innovative new services – and deliver them quickly.”
GIS is a key enabler in helping us to make efficiency improvements, and we plan to integrate it into many more business processes
Trevor Kirkup – Senior ICT Project Leader
While reorganising as a unitary authority, Durham migrated to ArcGIS Server. Secure and robust, it supported transitional work and service design, and enabled rapid delivery of new services and extending access to employees, partners and the public via the Internet, intranet and mobile solutions.
The Web Development and GIS teams used ArcGIS Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) to quickly integrate GIS into applications, notably, ‘My Durham’. This is an online service where citizens enter their address (verified against a local gazetteer) and then see a map and property-related service information, such as the local MP, bin collection days, nearest schools and library opening hours. “ArcGIS Server gave us the opportunity to fully embed GIS functionality within the web pages themselves to give users a better online experience”, explains Kirkup. The excellent map caching capabilities of ArcGIS Server were further exploited to develop an interactive Rights of Way map.
Delivering top quality customer services was at the heart of the reorganisation. For example, when a citizen phones to report a broken street light, the service agent enters the caller’s address and sees a web map of the property with street light locations overlaid. They click to identify the broken light, and the precise location and unique reference are automatically passed to back office systems via a customer relationship management (CRM) solution. This replaces manually processing textual descriptions.
ArcGIS Server has been further utilised to provide a “tactical” Web Portal for CRM requests: operational managers view CRM service requests in real time on a map. This type of mashup is a vital decision-making tool when demand is high.
“It is a powerful technology, and we are still only scratching the surface of its capabilities”, declares Kirkup.
ArcGIS Server gives us the ability to take data from a definitive source and publish through a wide range of services
Trevor Kirkup – Senior ICT Project Leader
- A single repository for spatial information
“ArcGIS Server gives us the ability to take data from a definitive source and publish through a wide range of services”, says Kirkup. “We only have to capture, store and manage once, but have the flexibility to use that data in many ways.”
- Easier access to information for citizens
‘My Durham’ is an innovative single point of access to service-related information, available any time. “This initiative reduces the impact on our Contact Centre and helps us meet our targets as outlined in National Indicator NI14”, says Kirkup.
- More efficient customer service
By integrating GIS and CRM, citizen reports are handled more quickly and the information passed on is more detailed and accurate, and mobile GIS has reduced response times of field engineers.
- Rapid delivery of new services
Following the success of ‘My Durham’ and the CRM project, further GIS-led enhancements are planned. These will harness APIs and other developer tools to design, build and deploy web services and embed GIS into applications. Kirkup says: “It is early days, but we envisage realising some huge time savings and efficiencies.” Rapid development also makes short-term applications viable, e.g. for consultations on development initiatives. “In the past, it would have taken too long and cost too much to make it worthwhile”, observes Kirkup. “Now we can use ArcGIS Server to quickly turn around information and publish it out.”
- Future potential
“In general, there is now an increasing recognition across the organisation of the power and role of GIS as an enterprise technology supporting the ongoing delivery of public services”, concludes Kirkup. “GIS continues to be a key corporate technology.”