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Intelligent updating of live systems

NLPG Exemplar Award Highly Commended – Best Business Process Transformation 2009: Exeter City Council.

Local authorities use numerous systems for departments such as Council Tax, Planning, Refuse and Recycling, CRM etc. The concept behind the NLPG is that these systems use a common, locally administered address gazetteer, the LLPG. In reality, some of these systems use a version of the gazetteer, downloaded daily, weekly or monthly rather than being fully integrated, or having a direct live connection.

Exeter City Council’s GIS/LLPG Officer, together with one of his software suppliers, came up with an idea for a new and original software solution. In a nutshell, this solution would enable Local Land and Property Gazetteer custodians to be notified as soon as a new entry is created in an external system in order to maintain and update the LLPG. The system would also work to ensure that the new system cross references were appended to individual records in the LLPG. This simple idea is fast becoming a reality at Exeter City Council, and now has a name: DataWatcher.

DataWatcher monitors multiple property based databases held in other systems and compares those data with an up-todate copy of the LLPG on a daily basis. It even maintains a table of cross references held in the LLPG so when new cross references are created they are appended to records in the LLPG. When DataWatcher spots a difference, it will automatically create an email, including all the relevant details, which is sent directly to the gazetteer team. From here the team can investigate each instance, and check to see if there is a valid entry in the existing gazetteer to match to the address, or whether to create a new Unique Property Reference Number (UPRN) to update the LLPG. The outcome of each enquiry can then be communicated to the person responsible for the system involved.

At Exeter City Council, there is an initial deployment of DataWatcher which is currently monitoring three systems: Council Tax, Planning and CRM, and it is already generating a steady stream of queries. Currently, this amounts to about 10 per day from Council Tax and Planning, and 70 per week via the CRM which ‘fronts’ a number of different systems. Eventually, it will be linked to somewhere in the region of 30 different systems used by the Council.

Outcomes

DataWatcher is a simple, easily deployed and cost effective software solution that ensures that the LLPG team are made aware of changes in other systems in order to maintain an up-to-date gazetteer.

Until recently, maintaining the LLPG at Exeter City Council was reliant on inter-departmental communications and frequent data matching exercises which were both time consuming and costly to undertake. Based on typical time estimates for data capture officers and gazetteer work, the savings delivered by DataWatcher could amount to many thousands of pounds per year for each authority that deploys it.

Exeter City Council has been so taken with the idea that it has decided, with the developers’ agreement, to make the source code of the solution open to all. The main component of DataWatcher is already Open Source so this means that the solution will be available to all Local Authorities across England and Wales for very little cost.

Key benefits

  • Open Source solution
  • Simple to install and deploy
  • Minimal cost
  • Can be maintained in-house
  • Will deliver a joined up process to improve both the LLPG and by extension the NLPG
  • Savings, through less time spent data matching
  • Improved communications between the Gazetteer Custodian and other departments
  • Improved Gazetteer quality improves service delivery, authority wide.
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