The last two years have been a test for virtually every professional organisation, in terms of adapting to a new age of work from home and uprooting all forms of routine work practices, almost worldwide.

This has been no different for Cork City Council in terms of acclimatizing work processes to a new digital system, and attempting to leave the days of paper trails (and paper trays!) behind. We recently spoke with Ian O’ Sullivan, the ICT specialist at the council, to debrief about the work flow and how digitization has aided the approach in this new landscape. 

From the outset, it is clear that the Submit platform has been pivotal to the work procedures there, in terms of remaining flexible for the various commitments expected of the organisation.

The council had started digitization on a minor level pre-pandemic, and while nobody could have predicted the future, Ian notes that they had to move ‘from first to fifth gear’ with very little turnaround time. 

Remote working became the normality for most of the office-based staff, which meant new methods of collaboration and other aspects of practice revolving around key areas such as digital security and ease of convenience for customers.

From the point of view of the council being a public body, a certain expectation would have been anticipated in terms of leading this path to remote working and using a variety of applications to help save time.

This included ways to collaborate with staff within a variety of departments in the council, moving on from the days of public office queues around the corner for hours on end. Reacting to the emergency situation of the pandemic, it’s worth noting that in 2019, the council had accepted 1000 online applications-this promptly leapt to over 22,000 in 2020 (and would certainly be expected to rise again for 2022’s numbers). 

A Pilot programme was launched to organise the platform for the council, and the permits for parking was one of those departments trialed. 

Such an area would be a prime example of importance for documentation and reducing the number of forms, and the strength of Submit’s platform helped bring this new era of digitization up and running. While it may have appeared complex at first in relation to payments, uploading of any new materials and also the initial interactions with customers,  the strength of the new systems became apparent as these aspects were variously dealt with.

For example, parking has always been a challenge at the best of times, for all parties concerned. The queuing for permits, going back and forth with forms, as well as the time sensitive matter of the parking itself can all be frustrating at the best of times. Now, the immediacy is such that a mobile application process can be done from the customer’s own car, completely cutting out waiting times and saving on the forms as well as any unnecessary hassle.

You can view the conversation here

Ian notes that the ‘Cork lifelong learning awards’ scheme was the first time the platform would have been used to something approaching a full usage of all the application’s features. 

Within a few weeks, applications and nominations were run through the platform, along with video links, attachments and other content. 

This ensured that a panel of judges were able to collaborate remotely, where previously all would have had to be in the same rooms or communicate over a seemingly never-ending chain of emails. By using different folders, and various application categories, 23 external judges were set up as reviewers.

 Thanks to the strong security policy and data protection provided, each of these were then given specific permissions in terms of allocated folders and access to the relevant material which they would use for their own work. 

Throughout this, the staff were able to see the overall score and pattern of the larger picture, meaning application scores and assessments remained coherent throughout the process. Once again, staff and customers alike were able to experience the benefits of a system which allowed so much free collaboration. 

The council itself counts nearly 1,300 employees among staff working in very different departments, with diverse work practices and challenges across all of those.  In relation to suggestions and future developments being planned in some of those departments, one aspect mentioned was that of an all-encompassing application across the platform. Having such a standardized app to use across the board does present some challenges in that regard, particularly as the council is not a business in the traditional sense.

The Pandemic has opened the eyes of various departments to cost savings, efficiency of tasks, while at the same time freeing staff up for other matters.

Looking to the future and the potential to expand in other departments, one aspect that Ian has mentioned is that of Housing and the massive demands in that area. 

Given the national emergency faced in the county and country as a whole, reducing backlogs and making this more coherent going forward would be an essential asset to a controversial area, particularly in the country’s present situation.

With the changes in the cork city boundaries extending to areas like Ballincollig and Douglas in recent years, the council would also have seen an extension of queues and backlogs for various forms of paper-based applications for other city matters. 

Those potential customers can now access permits from the comfort of their own homes, while continuously interacting with staff through the platform. With this availability, it has become easier to upload the additional documents through web spaces which includes such examples as photographs, insurance documentation and other criteria using authenticated signatures.

While at the same time keeping in mind the importance of digital security. Allocating permissions and managing the process is something which is taken seriously and important for departments in a company to specify who should have access, and to which specific material.

When those examples are listed out in this manner, it’s clear to see how massive stacks of paper surrounded by bulging office trays are not the answer for anyone going forward. 

Submit has made the procedures for handling this level of detail as coherent and concise as possible, with the authentication being used to facilitate multiple sign-on systems for staff. This ease of access also extends to the customers for their point of view, all pushing towards the evolving digital future that Submit is such a huge part of.

If your company is looking to streamline business, workflow or review process, please talk to one of our solutions specialists today. There you’ll find the offer of a free trial and other information to progress forward, so please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our team who are ready to help at all times!

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