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Local authority software applications case study

RH Environmental (RHE) is a specialist UK consultancy providing local and central government professionals worldwide with information tools to support their regulatory and compliance requirements.

Chief among its toolset is a software-based document management capability which helps professionals manage otherwise highly complex compliance enforcement processes as simply and efficiently as possible. RHE had a clear vision in mind for how to maximise the value of this capability and achieve a differentiated and compelling proposition in its market. Working with Helastel they were able to identify and overcome the many challenges associated with making this a reality.

The Situation

RHE’s legacy document management system (EHMS) had been successfully deployed several years previously and was in live use among 3,300 existing customers. However, despite its popularity, RHE was keenly aware of the potential to improve the customer experience, and of the competitive risks from generic document management platforms such as Microsoft Sharepoint and Google Docs.

Not only would a new world class document management system need to be designed and created, but existing customers would need to be migrated from the old system with minimal disruption.

The Opportunity

“We had software; it wasn’t working very well and we were unable to realise our objectives,” recalls RHE managing director, Robert Halford. “Our vision was to bring more intelligent ways of working to our customer base. We’ve now become unique in the marketplace because we’ve taken technological innovation with the web to deliver more accurate and more timely information to professionals.”

Working closely with Helastel to undertake a comprehensive project scoping exercise for a new software project (RIAMS), RHE was able to define a project plan focused on three key objectives:

1. Upgraded and extended functionality to reflect the actual needs of key user groups:

Helastel conducted extensive primary research with RHE customers, identifying the typical customer user groups (or ‘personas’) that would adopt the software. This included the execution of over 150 use tests and 20 prototype iterations. Features included a sophisticated search mechanism for not only document titles and meta-data but also the body of documents - some of which are in a proprietary format.

2. A greater processing capability to accommodate large amounts of data in simultaneous use on the platform at any given time:

Helastel designed the software to deal with over 1m document revision updates on a daily basis, and cope with servicing users across the world in real-time with zero downtime tolerance. Future scale requirements were also considered so as to ensure success could be accommodated sustainably, and not be restricted by a lack of capacity.

3. A new delivery model enabling the application to be used 24/7 from any web browser, without the need for customer-site hardware or software installs:

To better satisfy customer preferences, RHE wanted to move away from the traditional licensing approach employed with its legacy EHMS software. The composition of RIAMS would need to reflect RHE’s objective to profitably deliver a flat cost of change as the software grows. RIAMS would need to demonstrably outstrip highly flexible, web-based software alternatives including Microsoft Sharepoint and Google Docs.

Remaining requirements included:

  • Advice and consultancy on positioning, launching and marketing the product to new and existing customers; primarily RHE’s core market opportunity of UK local authorities; secondarily broader international markets
  • Full training and support for RHE administrators
  • An implementation plan culminating in an overnight go-live date for the product’s first full release, replacing EHMS with no disruption to the 3,300 users accessing it on daily basis.
  • An agreed, costed roadmap of subsequent releases to supplement core functionality over time

The Outcome

Helastel successfully converted RHE’s big vision into a realistic software strategy that has reaped greater than expected commercial benefits within months of its deployment. The RIAMS software developed by Helastel is helping RHE remain ahead of its competition as a true market leader in environment health consultancy, substantially expanding its market share of UK local authorities, and addressing new international opportunities on three continents at low marginal cost.

The project rolled out on spec and on budget, without downtime or a single hiccup to over 3,300 users overnight. The fully bespoke solution included all hardware and hybrid cloud facilities to deal with the world-wide user demand.

The customer feedback received since launch has been positive, with many users remarking on how much more confident they are in relying upon and trusting the solution to deliver for them. RHE’s software is now recognised as the de facto standard in document management for environmental and business compliance in the UK.

The Future

Helastel continues to provide ongoing support and development, working closely with RHE to define and execute projects in line with business strategy.

"The future with Helastel is confident,” added Robert. “We know we can work with them going forward because they’ve got the capacity and the ability to help us realise our ambitions."
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