The Organisational Challenges

With the current challenging economic environment, Organisations are continually being driven for ways to improve the levels of service provided to their citizens/customers whilst at the same time being pushed to reduce on-going operational costs of providing key organisational information simply and quickly to citizens & customers. For example, costs associated with answering and dealing with calls into Customer Service Centres.
 
Calls into call centres can cost around £2-£5 per call to administer and are often received for repetitive information, tying up precious staff resources from working on other organisational initiatives.
 
In addition, people want and expect to be able to access information while on the move, from wherever they are, not just from a static Desktop PC Browser.
 
An organisation's online presence is key to delivering their services and needs to be available 24x7, not just during working hours. Couple that with the fact that Information Internet usage on mobile devices is a massive growth area (but mobiles typically have smaller screens) and so organisations are being driven to consider how their online website(s) look and are experienced from the users'/customers' perspectives.
 
 
Whilst Microsoft SharePoint does provide an ‘out of the box’ solution that caters for collaboration sites, the user experience for publishing sites (intranet and public sites) is limited and lacks an engaging interface. This in turn increases the chance of the user/customer browsing away from the site.
 

The Customer Requirement

Based on the above challenges, Fuse Collaboration were engaged by Northamptonshire County Council (NCC) to create a secondary SharePoint Public-facing Mobile website which was in line with their main website, but tailored for mobile devices. Key Council information needed to be delivered in a simple, easy to read and rapid way to citizens.
 
The solution we were asked to provide needed to:
  1. redirect any mobile device users to a mobile version of their Public-facing Internet SharePoint website and replicate the content in a design that is consistent with NCC’s corporate branding, but formatted to target mobile devices.
  2. conform in design to the strict accessibility guidelines for public sector websites.
  3. be easy to navigate (home page) and be rendered top down.
  4. contain the relevant meta tags to force the browser to display it in the “mobile format”.
  5. enable all pages to link back to both the mobile home page, and the “main” website.
Other Key considerations we needed to factor in:
The data used throughout the project almost exclusively comes through web services provided by the client’s platform.
 
Reducing site size for mobiles
It was of great importance that the mobile site was as small as possible so it was fast on mobile devices, which may suffer from reduced bandwidth.
 
Consideration
A thorough testing model was required due to the plethora of popular mobile operating systems: iOS, Fennec Samsung bada, Android Opera Mobile.
 

Fuse Collaboration's Solution

We designed and built a Mobile SMARTPHONE friendly Public-facing website for Northamptonshire County Council in line with their requirements to make sure it was in always in sync with the main website and the way content would be continually updated.
 
This can be viewed via your smartphone at www.northamptonshire.gov.uk
 
We enable and convert (images below approximate to scale for an Apple iPhone4)
 
  THIS VIEW                                   into...    THIS VIEW                        
 
Normal website on smartphone 01.PNG                Smartphone Friendly Site 01.PNGSmartphone Friendly Site 02.PNG


Mobile Redirection
We implemented a method for detecting mobile devices and redirecting users to the new mobile website when applicable. This is deployed into the SharePoint internet site and is configurable in terms of enabling/disabling the URL to redirect to. We redirect users to a separate web application from the main website, running on the same web farm (though the solution could just as easily be hosted separately).
 
Graceful Degradation
A key benefit to the solution that we deployed is Graceful Degradation. This means that each mobile page degrades according to the functionality available on that user's/citizen's mobile device. So for newer devices the pages will utilise full functionality with, for example, transitions between pages and JavaScript driven menus, whereas older devices may render the text in simple HTML. The most important function is to deliver the content to as many devices as possible and that is exactly what our solution delivers. The solution also adapts the input and display of the page to suit the device, e.g. larger buttons for touch input.
 
Find Nearest Facility
Users select a type of location to search for and also enter a postcode or select a town/village. Upon hitting “Search” they are displayed a list of matching results. They have the option to amend their search criteria from this results page. Future planned work is to utilise the device’s GPS to lock an accurate location, enabling the site to deliver localised results according to the users requirements.
 

The Solution Outcome

Even before the new mobile smartphone-friendly website went officially live, it was put to the test.

In February 2012, the UK suffered severe bouts of snow and we saw the number of users/citizens using their mobile smartphone devices to access key council information to access information relating to road closures, traffic reports and school closures during certain days. There was a sudden 500% increase in what has become normal daily usage of mobile smartphones traffic to access key information.

Fuse Collaboration also setup, host, monitor and manage the normal and mobile public-facing websites for NCC - details of this solution can be found by clicking HERE

In the first 7.5 months, 209,000 users have accessed key Council information using this new site via their smartphones and we can also tell what devices they have used to access the information - delivering key insights back to the Council.

The Solution Benefits

There have been several benefits to Northamptonshire County Council for deploying this solution:
 

Improved service levels & provision to Taxpayers/Citizens:

Wider audience - with more and more people opting for mobile devices over more traditional hardware, the site allows NCC to reach this ever growing audience.

Easy User Navigation - users do not need to scroll around the page and 'pinch' zoom in and out to find the information they need. All they need to do is scroll up and down the page and use the menu options to go forward and backwards through the site.

Easy to read - text and images are automatically displayed in a much larger format making the website easier to read and find the information you need quickly.

Targeted Content This solution enables NCC to target mobile users with location centric services e.g. Bus Times, Nearest service, etc.

Reduction of direct and in-direct organisational costs

Reduced time and cost of calls to Customer Service Centres - We were advised that this project had the potential to generate great savings for the council every time the mobile website is used, instead of a call coming into the Customer Service Centre, saving between £2-£5 per inbound inquiry. This figure is based on the time and costs of the staff needed to answer calls and provide information that could not be accessed easily online.

One ‘App’ for all platforms - With all mobile platforms able to use this solution, the requirement to develop and provide on-going management and updates for expensive and multiple iPhone apps, Android apps etc. to cater for all types of mobile users is no longer necessary.

On-going Information updates - Updates flow quickly to both the main website and mobile friendly website reducing duplication of effort and reduction in wasted staff time and cost.

Management of Risks

Future Proof - Technology framework based development approach ensures this solution keeps pace with mobile technologies and new devices like the Blackberry Symbian and Palm webOS MeeGo.

Could we help you too? 

If you feel you are facing similar organisational challenges to the ones highlighted above and would like to explore how we could potentially benefit your organisation, please CONTACT US and we would be happy to speak with you to see how best we can help you.
 
The mobile solution is available for non-SharePoint public-facing websites  as well as ones built on SharePoint - subject to scoping and examination of how your website is currently setup.
 
 
 

Also Available! Mobile Solution for Internal Staff SharePoint Intranets

We can also provide a similar mobile solution for Internal Staff SharePoint Intranets.
 
This enables staff to:
  1. easily access key organisational information stored within SharePoint areas they have access to, securely, while they are on the move such as customer & partner information and document libraries.
  2. view Mobile SharePoint Business Intelligence (BI) from information stored within SharePoint e.g. latest sales or stock figures.
  3. initiate and action various SharePoint workflows which have the benefit of reducing wasted time and cost associated with filling in paperwork. The information can be entered directly onto the mobile and will update the back-end SharePoint information.
 
It is being used by companies to:
  • deliver key business insights to management teams to aid faster decision-making.
  • make sure remote staff workers still feel connected to the organisation for key updates, even when out of the office, by ensuring they receive the latest up-to-date organisational information.
  • replace filling in paperwork on site e.g. Housing Trust repair teams when they go on-site to check the houses and advise what needs sorting there.
  • make sure staff have access to information they need when seeing customers and partners e.g. sales teams
  • fill in expenses electronically and initiate the payment approval process.

Please click this link to see our information and video on our Mobile Solution for Internal Staff SharePoint Intranets (voice-over currently in our former company name - Citric Technology)