If you are a regular reader of this column you are undoubtedly aware that PDMS is in the business of creating tailor-made IT systems, websites and services for our clients. This enables our customers to "do their business" better (as it were).
Our new company strapline is "PDMS do it right". We help our customers to "do technology right" so that they get the maximum value from their investment. Our teams conduct themselves in the "right way" - if a job is worth doing then it's worth doing well. They care about the quality of their work, and they design and build systems that last.
This new strapline has led me to ponder the quality management concept of "right first time", and how it applies in our line of work for the benefit our clients and the users of the systems we create.
Right First Time
PDMS is certified to a number of international "ISO" standards (in relation to our quality management, information security and environmental policies and procedures). At the heart of these is a commitment to continuous improvement, and by implication an appreciation that you can't be right all the time. Nevertheless, you should endeavour to get 'it' right first time most of the time; and if you don't succeed, provided that you recognise your mistakes, correct them and learn from them, then you're more likely to get it right next time.
We all know that if you get it right at the outset, you're less likely to waste time fixing your mistakes. There is a lot of merit, and money to be saved, in aiming for high quality the first time, and every subsequent time too. This principle is at the heart of PDMS's approach to software development. Our tried and tested FoundationsTM platform provides us with the key building blocks for each new IT system, and enables us to get our projects off the ground quickly and with high quality code.
But how 'right' do you really need to be the 'first time'? As a perfectionist at heart this is something that I've often struggled with; until a sensible colleague suggested that sometimes 'good enough, is good enough'. Often it is worth taking a punt - on getting something done and out there sooner rather than later, enabling it to subsequently be improved and evolve as and when time, budgets and priorities allow. This kind of flexibility is fundamental to the PDMS approach to software development, as all our systems are built to allow for future adaptation and extension. This also suits our clients, whose lists of 'nice to haves' usually exceed the initial limits of their allocated budget.
Our clients and IT projects generally share a series of common goals: Improve efficiency. Reduce admin. Increase productivity. Enable more fulfilling tasks. Save time. Save money. Increase profitability. Enhance quality. Improve customer service. The list goes on… But like most projects, there is usually an inevitable conflict between time, money and quality. So this is where a mutual understanding of priorities and objectives really comes into play. If you can get the 'people' part of a project right, then this really helps with shaping the delivery of the right technical solutions, outcomes and results.
Getting it right is all about conversation, collaboration and the long term perspective.
So, what does this actually mean in reality? Let me share some examples.
Police National Legal Database (PNLD)
A key public sector client of PDMS is PNLD - the team responsible for the Police National Legal Database and other services which support Police forces across the UK. As their technical partner for over 10 years, PDMS has been actively involved in helping PNLD to design, deliver and sustain a number of innovative IT systems which save the Police millions of pounds per year.
These systems include the:
- Police National Legal Database - used by police officers and the criminal justice sector to access up-to-date legal information, case law and standard offense wording, and accessed by 200,000 users with 2.5 million visits in 2013/14.
- Police National Statistics Database - which revolutionised access to crime and user satisfaction data, making significant efficiency savings for 40 police forces in England and Wales.
- Ask the Police Websites (www.askthe.police.uk and www.askthe.Scottish.police.uk) and Mobile Apps - these question and answer sites have slashed the number of non-emergency phone calls to the Police, and the
- Help for Victims Website - to provide support for the victims and witnesses of crime (due for release in October 2014).
Each of these systems has undergone a series of evolutionary changes over the years, a key example being the Ask the Police website. At its core, this website is a database of frequently asked questions and answers. It was launched with its key features (commonly asked questions and answers at national and local levels, and ask a question facilities) in 2004. The service was so successful in the UK that it was extended to Scotland in 2010; and into mobile apps in 2012. The underlying technology is currently being enhanced further to create a Help for Victims website, which enables questions and answers to be provided in a number of alternative languages (including some which are read from right to left across the screen).
It is a long term perspective, open discussions and shared understandings which have enabled PDMS and PNLD to get this collaborative relationship right. The result is the delivery of technical solutions which are right for their users and sponsors for both the short term and the long term.
Another example of PDMS' commitment to the long term potential and gradual advancement of an initiative is employed.im.
Employed.im began life in 2008 as Manx Graduates, a portal created for the Isle of Man Government to encourage Manx students graduating from university to return to the Island to work, and in 2010 it was a finalist at the National Graduate Recruitment Awards.
Given changing economic priorities and the actual user base of the website, Manx Graduates was re-launched in 2013 as employed.im, the Isle of Man jobs and careers portal. Its purpose: to connect all those interested in skills and employment on the Island.
Employed.im now features:
- useful information, resources and links regarding careers, personal development and training,
- search facilities - for jobs, candidates and employers,
- job vacancy listings,
- individual CVs (with video profiles and export to word and pdf features),
- employer profiles,
- notification emails and
- online application forms.
And it is currently undergoing a bit of a makeover. The new homepage (to be launched later this year) will feature the latest jobs, news and Twitter feeds, a quick job search and easier to navigate information (see below image).
Given that unemployment is so low on the Isle of Man, the employed.im site is not just about enabling the unemployed to find work, it is about career development for the individual for the long term, and the provision of joined up information and services for our community now and into the future.
For example, since individuals can use the site to create and update their CV, the forthcoming "Get a Job" Initiative by Junior Achievement will use employed.im to support their CV writing training for school pupils across the island. Employers can post their job advertisements in employed.im and search for potential candidates - and they could also sign up to receive completed job application forms through the portal.
Further enhancements and integrations could also include: the bulk uploading of multiple jobs, integration with other job vacancy lists, professional bodies members administration, sign in with Facebook credentials, instant chat for online mentoring and careers advice, job seeker/ benefits processes, work permit applications and 'open badges' integration.
The site could also be used to manage work experience placements, apprenticeships and traineeships, plus training courses and volunteering opportunities. It could include directories of supply teachers, contractors, carers, personal assistants or healthcare bank staff. It could be used to publish and manage tender opportunities, and useful content and feeds (such as vacancies) could be provided as services for re-use within other websites, or to support specific promotional campaigns (like the recruitment of teachers or engineers).
Given that there are so many potential uses and enhancements for employed.im, the 'right' direction will depend on identified needs, budgets and priorities over the long long-term. Collaboration will be key to getting it right, and getting it right 'first time' is perhaps less important than getting it right 'for now'.
This is true for employed.im, PNLD and all our clients and projects. Since absolute perfection is quite simply unachievable; then 'right for now' if not 'right first time' is usually the right way to go.
If you would like to chat with PDMS about any of the items highlighted in this article, we'd love to hear from you. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 01624 664000.