Editorial

The next challenge: turning a safe Lockdown into a successful Recovery. What can local government do to get ready?

Local government software supplier Tillr says it has a set of templates based on the most accurate forecasting we have as to what activity and measures will need to be in place when Boris says ‘Go!’

Posted 7 May 2020 by Gary Flood


As soon as this Sunday, early guidance may be offered as to how UK Plc will start to exit the COVID-19 Lockdown. The public sector will be at the very centre of Recovery work, so today we are talking with Paul Romer-Ormiston, Founder of London-based Tillr Technology Ltd, a five year old UK tech SME that specialises in the rapid digitalisation of operational and regulatory processes for UK local government off its “enterprise-grade” cloud platform. The reason for our chat: Tillr says it’s already built a platform to help you do just that—so we had to know more.

Can you explain a bit about Tillr and your role there please, Mr Romer-Ormiston?

Thanks. My day-to-day focus is as the company’s Digital Product Director: that means I oversee the configuration and delivery of each implementation of the platform into the public sector. In terms of the company, in just under five years I’m delighted to say Tillr has grown to be a specialist software vendor to almost half of London’s Borough Councils, a fair few in the Home Counties, and more recently a couple of County Councils. Westminster City Council, Royal Borough of Kingston, Ealing and West Berkshire Council were all customers within months of the company being incorporated, and continue to be so. We also supply solutions to Police Forces, and are endorsed by Central Government organisations including the Home Office and GCHQ.

We use our online platform to rapidly digitise council operations spanning departments such as Sports & Leisure, Waste Management, Parks & Open Spaces and Highways. The aim is that the authority soon starts to see an increase in efficiency and an immediate reduction in administrative tasks, accompanied by a gradual, but significant, improvement in their understanding of their own data through reporting and analytics. No two customers of Tillr have the same set up, by design; we have spent a lot of time making our platform highly configurable, so we have a reputation for being the system that fits on to your processes, as opposed to asking your processes to match the way the system works. As an example, we have delivered a multi-department platform into Islington Council whereby each team presented their own design for their interface, and we delivered it in a matter of weeks. We like to say that we deliver your vision.

Great overview, thanks Mr Romer-Ormiston. You’re launching something called the ‘Public Sector Post-Lockdown Recovery Toolkit’, Paul: can you explain what that is and the specific problem it’s trying to solve?

Our local government customers began contacting us to ask for COVID-19 related content to be added to their accounts—with some urgency. In response, we developed what we’re calling a COVID-19 Post-Lockdown Recovery Toolkit, which will be available via our online platform. 

The Toolkit contains templates to assist with the execution and monitoring of activities that will be mandated upon councils by the government the moment lockdown restrictions begin to be lifted. It has to be said that as it stands, there are no experts on the topic of what that’s going to look like, as this situation is not one that any of us have seen in our lifetime in this country. Because of the lack of understanding and predictability at this stage, our software, then, not only serves as a single platform for managing all these new tasks, but will also be continually updated to include the very latest guidelines laid out by Whitehall. If the government changes the rules at 5pm, in other words, by 9am the next day those changes will be reflected in the service.

The basic value proposition here is that we  will reduce uncertainty and encourage uniformity among local government, which ultimately means that authorities—who we know from experience have very challenging resource schedules—can use it to take all reasonable steps to keep the public as safe as possible while also combating the spread of the virus by allowing the correct curve-flattening measures to be enforced. The Toolkit we have built has also had contributions from individual councils plus been looked at by the Mayor of London’s Office, Greater London Authority, London Council and two separate Forces.

Sounds good. What would its use look like in practice?

Let’s take a real life example we’ve already helped with: a central London Borough was experiencing problems with breaches of social distancing in its parks, so it decided to start monitoring those spaces and record details of the breaches. Problem was the team had obviously never had to do that activity before, will only have to do it for a period of time, and the things they are looking for are highly likely to change over time, too.

To help, we added a template to its Tillr account for recording instances of social distancing breaches, including location, time, date, volume of people, rule that was broken and action taken. I’m very proud to say that extension was delivered within 24 hours of receiving the request.

Now imagine how many guidelines and restrictions will be implemented once the lockdown begins to lift. There are going to be so many challenges: social distancing, unauthorised opening of commercial properties, sanitisation measures, making workplaces safe, the use of PPE in situations where it wasn’t previously necessary (to name only a few). We’re going to provide templates and workflows to support the monitoring of all of those things, via a mobile device, in real-time.

Wouldn’t it be safer for me to wait until the Government produces its own solution, which surely it must?

Slight problem: there is no time to wait. Now is not the time for procrastination and procurement red tape; the first Post-Lockdown measures announcement by the Prime Minister is scheduled for this Sunday. Plus, as has already been widely proven that in times of crisis, the Public Sector has successfully looked to private businesses for solutions to problems, so we’re stepping up to do just that: the NHS has been given some great Pandemic help already through innovative products and services that were developed in days by businesses all over the world that want to help. The government has also been able to survey millions of people via apps that were built for altruistic reasons by universities, charities and individuals.

And as we are a Crown Commercial Supplier, we already have track record in terms of selling sensitive software solutions into councils that have multi-million pound contracts being scrutinised via our platform. 

You’re starting to convince me, Paul. So if I wanted to go forward with the Post-Lockdown Recovery Toolkit, what would I need to do?

The software’s ready, based on the most accurate forecasting we have as to what activity and measures it is believed will need to be in place when Boris tells us ‘Go!’ 

 To register your interest and talk to us about implementation in your organisation, simply contact us directly on hello@tillr.io, or via our website. If it is to be of benefit to you, you need it in place for Day 1 of Recovery, so please do get in touch immediately if we can help you as we have many others.

Thanks. To end for now, we’re asking everyone this question at the moment, Paul: when do you think we’ll go back to normal… and what will that even look like?

In our extensive discussions with stakeholders about COVID-19 and its impact, there is one thing we can be certain of, I’m afraid. Things will not go back to normal for a long time—and as you say, what ‘normal’ will end up looking like is certainly not going to be what it was three months ago.

That’s also why the Toolkit is being offered under a 12-month licence. We are pretty convinced that allowing for the gradual lifting of Lockdown and all of the knock-on effects of that, councils will be acting on government recommendations related to this topic for at least a year. Equally, with so much uncertainty around the true total impact, it would be foolish to offer a date and outcome when our toolkit is specifically aimed at continually adapting the ‘new normal’.

That said, we’re in this together. We’re stronger together. And I genuinely believe that if everyone does their bit to help out, be that following the rules, setting the rules or checking that rules are being followed, then we will get through this, and generations to come will learn about it in history lessons.

So my message to the Think Digital community has to be, let’s see if we can make it a story of how to accept mistakes and be proactive in your recovery response. Let’s make the end of all this a lot better than the start!

Great sentiment, and thanks for your time today, Paul, and good luck with the Toolkit.