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Guest Blogger

Article by Melania Sulak, Content Marketing Manager, Objectivity Ltd.

Greater Manchester is the first city-region in the United Kingdom to launch an innovative Early Years app, which was created to give young children in the area a better start in life.

The app was developed by Objectivity and launched as part of the Greater Manchester Digital Blueprint which seeks to leverage digital transformation capabilities to improve citizen outcomes.

At the beginning of this year, the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) launched the Greater Manchester Digital Blueprint, a Digital Strategy which places citizens at the heart of the city-region’s digital transformation efforts. Amongst other initiatives, they were looking to digitise paper-based assessments, which were being used to review the development of young children (up to the age of 2.5 years). To enable this, the GMCA wanted to create a system for data collection and management by digitising the forms, which were being used for the screening of the socio-emotional development of infants, toddlers, and kindergarteners.

Before the Early Years app was introduced, the childcare assessment process in Greater Manchester was conducted manually. The parents had to fill out forms by hand and send them to the appropriate city office for processing purposes.

New Technologies, Better Results

The GMCA wanted to change this process to make the childcare assessment process easier for parents and carers, as well as health care professionals to help improve efficiency. They planned to do this with the help of Objectivity, an experienced software outsourcing partner who would help them leverage the Mendix low-code platform.

True to its name, low-code employs visual development instead of traditional code, meaning that the amount of coding needed is, in fact, quite low. The Mendix low-code platform has been taking the IT world by storm, with more and more companies looking to leverage low-code’s speed of development, straightforward implementation, and cost-efficient maintenance.

Another unique benefit of low-code rests on the fact that so-called ‘citizen developers’ (non-IT business professionals) can independently carry out the development and maintenance of market-ready applications. Nonetheless, it’s quite common for organisations to first work with an experienced software partner on creating the initial product scope and infrastructure. This is a readily adopted approach, as combining low-code and traditional development offers all the benefits of visual development with the unmatched advantage of bespoke software.

The GMCA decided to have the Early Years app developed using low-code to enable it to be developed further and regularly maintained by citizen developers. The benefits of low-code extend much further than the ones attributed to citizen development. Employing this technological approach can also help organisations see a range of operational and business benefits:

Speed of Innovation

For organisations seeking to quickly adapt to changing market trends, low-code development can make a world of a difference. Without having to write complicated code, this type of development can generate changes exactly when and where they’re needed.

Reduced Costs

Low-code enables companies to build more applications in a shorter amount of time, which measurably decreases overall development costs. In the long run, it can also eliminate maintenance-related expenses, as this aspect can often be covered in-house by citizen developers.

Better User Experience

Organisations which take advantage of low-code can make adjustments to their products quickly—meaning that new functions and features can be supplemented as users’ needs grow and change.

Faster Time-to-Market

Applications created using low-code can reach the market as quickly as within 3 weeks of a project’s start date—a feat that’s virtually unachievable with the employment of traditional coding.

Helping Children Across Greater Manchester

The Early Years app was created to digitally transform a cumbersome paper-based children’s school readiness assessment process. As such, it allows health visitors to capture digital data and share it amongst the appropriate Early Years professionals as a given child moves through the different stages of the Early Years Delivery Model. It has also made it possible for the Greater Manchester region to analyse transient children’s data by enabling them to cross local authority boundaries.

The digital solution has enabled health and Early Years professionals to view the relevant information from other public sector organisations. They can now reach out with help when and where it’s needed most.

The Early Years Carer portal also helps enable the children’s caregivers to fill out digital assessments online from the comfort of their own homes, with the results being automatically made available to health workers. The digitisation of the child assessment process has made it faster and more convenient to fill out the forms, given access to authorised professionals, and enabled them to more accurately analyse the data.

The GMCA has already begun to affect real change in their city-region, thanks to having adopted innovative digital capabilities in their public sector processes and daily operations. Doing so has made it faster and more convenient for community members to interact with city offices, thereby also measurably improving citizen outcomes.

What’s in Store for the Future?

Statista reports that public expenditure on science and technology in the United Kingdom reached an all-time high in 2018/19, amounting to 6.4 billion British pounds. This is the greatest increase year-over-year since 2001—the total number rose by an unprecedented 1.4 billion British pounds since 2017/18.

These statistics come as no surprise given that technology increases efficiency and effectiveness like nothing else on the market. It helps ensure that citizens’ interactions are secure and offers more accommodating solutions to their particular needs. Automation can also help improve the lives of public sector employees, as it can eliminate the need to conduct certain menial daily tasks, while streamlining administrative processes. Whereas collected data insights can be leveraged to make smarter decisions both internally and in terms of the community.

Many public sector organisations are looking to private sector companies in this department, understanding that user and citizen centred solutions are a definite step in the right direction. Organisations today, more so than ever, are on a path towards digital transformation, looking to real-world, industry-specific case studies for inspiration on how to incorporate the use of new technologies can help organisations to gain a better understanding into how they can realise their own objectives.

Councillor Sean Fielding, Portfolio Lead for Digital, Education, Work and Skills said; ”The Early Years Application will see streamlined systems connect Greater Manchester professionals such as health visitors and school health services, enabling them to work together to better support families. The launch of this application has helped us get one step closer to achieving our digital ambitions for Greater Manchester.”

The Greater Manchester Digital Blueprint is a great example of an industry-leading digital transformation initiative. The Early Years app is just one of many planned as part of the region’s innovation strategy, which seeks to implement many more digital solutions across Greater Manchester in the coming year.

The region’s plan seeks to enable and empower community members and organisations by employing user-centred technological solutions to ensure integration and inclusion. The Early Years app will soon be followed by an application aimed at improving healthcare for people with dementia and the severely frail. The new initiative will be based on the Greater Manchester Digital Platform, the same platform as the Early Years app and will be led by the Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust (a Global Digital Exemplar NHS organisation) on behalf of the GMCA.

Looking towards the future, perhaps the work being done in Greater Manchester to digitise public services will inspire other UK public sector organisations to start their own mission-focused digital initiatives.

For more information on how Objectivity can accelerate your digital transformation journey, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

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