In their own words...
Read on below for some quotes from the podcast.
[00:44] Sarah Holmes (FlowForma): Welcome to our Customer Spotlight, with James Morgan, the IT Manager of the A14 Integrated Delivery Team. Hi James, thanks for joining us today. So, James, let's start with the first question, can you tell us a little bit about the A14 Joint Venture and your role there?
[01:01] James Morgan (A14 Joint Venture): The A14 is a road scheme for Highways England, probably the biggest in the UK at the moment, at about 31km of road. Some of it it's brand new road, some of it is existing road that is going to be widened. I am the IT Manager on that, so responsible for bringing all the systems, management of the systems, enabling the guys to go to work and perform their day jobs basically.
[01:33] Sarah: Brilliant, thanks James. And can I ask, what were the main challenges you were facing before automating your processes?
[01:43] James: Construction industry is probably a little bit behind the curve when it comes to adoption of IT. One of the main challenges we had was the use of spreadsheets and paper-based processes. An example of that would be someone going out on site performing inspection - that would be very much paper-based: print document out take it out on site, fill it in, complete it, bring it back. Literally sitting up on top of the filing cabinets, so document control come along, pick them up and scan them. So it trying to remove that manual process, where stuff tends to go missing and have inaccuracies in data as well.
[01:57] James: Being able to demonstrate at inspections, that permits etc have been issued correctly, that data in that permit is correct, and in some cases we'll need to retain that info for 70+ years, so accuracy of data and being able to put your hands on something straight away, without shifting through a pile of paperwork is key to what we do.
[00:03:06] James: One of the main reason for choosing FlowForma was the simplicity of it and lack of coding. The first process probably took me around about a week and a half. But that was more getting my head around the logic, and how we need to transpose what has been a paper-based document into an electronic, automated system.
Since then, we've greatly improved and just to give you an example, the Business Analyst did one last week, which probably took around an hour and a half from start to finish to build.
[05:43] James: We probably have around 400 processes that exist at present (...) they are paper-based processes that exist that we don't try and automate. But also one of the other things that's come out of adaption of FlowForma is that it's given up the opportunity because we can do things quicker and without the constraints of IT.
[06:40] Sarah: What other processes are you using FlowForma for?
James: it's kind of broadening really to be honest. I think we were looking originally at the big hitters, like the Materials Requisition process, we ran a Recruitment process too. We got it right from the complex end down to quick forms, like allowing people to register visitors attending site, which then gets forwarded on to the gateman everyday, so that he knows who attending site.
So quite a broad spectrum, to be honest, from very very simple, a 5 minute job, up to more complex ones that need more analysis and structure before they're developed.
[08:02] Sarah: In the time that you've been using FlowForma, how many processes do you have live in the system?
James: We've got 24, but there's more coming on continual basis at present to be honest. (...) ultimately we'd love to automate all our processes on the management system, so that we can improve the consistency of data and reporting and auditing that we can achieve.
[08:57] Sarah: Did you create any of these flows yourself and did you find FlowForma easily to use?
James: Yeah, absolutely, I created probably around a dozen of them, really easy to do (...) very very straightforward, compared to trying to code. And I think the beauty of it is that you can have that almost immediate engagement with your end user or customer.
[09:52] We looked at quite a number of different systems. (...) we spent probably a good part of 12 months trying to find a no code solution.
[10:43] Sarah: Having selected FlowForma how do you find, in terms of time, how long it would take a create to flow? Depending on, obviously, the complexity of the process?
James: I'd say probably, man hours working time, we would probably be looking at a day for a medium complex one. (...) From start to finish, as long as the paper-based form exists and the customer has a reasonable understanding of the process they want to produce, I think within a day we could turn something around.
[12:47] Sarah: Could you explain in a little bit more detail maybe one of those specific processes and how you've used FlowForma to automate it?
James: Well, I mean probably one that is a medium complex one, doesn't sound particularly difficult but it does carry quite a bit of value, is Site Visits. We've got 5 sections on the job on the 31 km of road. We have a number of people that wish to come and visit whether that's from parent organizations or VIPs.
One of the things that the team is struggling with was having people arrive on the site that have booked visits by sending an email to someone, and obviously at site visits you've got briefings that need to be given, you need to make sure people have PPE, we need to understand what work's going on in that particular site at the given time.
And also we need to balance them out across the sections. (..) we've basically now got a process where using the Public Forms enables people from outside of the organization to book a site tour, they can also book them internally. It gives the guys the ability to go in and use PowerBI to look and see how many visits are going on on any given day, make sure we have enough resources and people etc. Although it sounds maybe trivial, it actually can have quite a big impact on the day-to-day operation. And it also streamlined the process and made it far more efficient.
[15:59] James: one of the things we're doing now, that we're more comfortable with FlowForma, rather than dealing with day to day requests, we're actually doing some analysis around processes that exist at the moment and what can we do to the high-value ones and give value into the business by doing this.
One of the early ones we've got was the Permit to Dig - to do any work on the site, the guys need to select a 3 meters space of land they're going to work on. So,one of the next things we're going to look at, ties in into our GIS platform so that they can actually go and draw the map of where they're going to dig, removing more paper.
[16:54] Sarah: How did using FlowForma benefit the A14?
James: It's enabling us to chose the mantra of 'one source of the truth', so getting that consistent view of data, being able to pull that data into the central data warehouse. We're very heavily into PowerBI, so using FlowForma means we have more consistency in that data. We were scanning several thousand paper-based records a week and our aim is to obviously reduce that down.
Now data comes in automatically, feeds up our doc control, and that means we can spend more time focusing on, rather than just housekeeping, actually understanding where we are on the job and achieving the goals and KPIs that were defined for the job.
[20:25] Sarah: Is offline capability a key piece for you as well?
James: The ability for the guys to go out and be able to complete a process, while out in the field, without any reliance on the connectivity makes a lot of difference. We did some surveys beforehand, we looked at 3G/4G point of view. In most cases in seems fine, but you can't guarantee it and it can be impacted by a number of factors. So just knowing that they can still complete the info regardless of what's going on around them, makes a world of difference.
[24:14] James: we looked at Nintex and K2, from our point of view they were cost prohibitive, plus we felt as a team that we weren't really going down that no code route, we would still need quite a lot of influence and support form IT as a team.
We looked at PowerApps, which again, it didn't really fit the bill. Yes, there were some features that were quite good, but once we dived down to a bit more, it became fairly evident that we would need skill around accessing APIs, and probably doing a bit of Java. We did look at a couple other solutions, that were to be no code, they seemed to be very much in their infancy and didn't have the features and requirements that we needed. I think we had around 60 requirement statements that we were looking to satisfy.