During the extreme weather in early 2010 The county council’s website struggled to keep up with the demands and high volume traffic and essentially deliver timely up to date information relating to school and route closures.
This consequently led to a review of a number of things including the performance of our website, the supporting processes and the wider business continuity plans.
A few meetings occurred which I was fortunate to be involved in and we considered a range of options about how we could respond and deal with this scenario in the future.
An example of the options we considered included:
- SMS Solution Providers
- Google Docs (spreadsheets and forms)
The approach we settled for was to focus on improving and automating the information collection and ensuring that this was in a consistent and reusable format. Once collected the information could then be republished automatically either to the DCC site, a local school site or even to the local media
The web team in our Children and Young People’s Service (CYPS) currently host and maintain approx 50% of school websites in Devon and would be able to implement a solution without too many issues.
On review it was considered that the most suitable and low-cost option would be to use Google – Total cost of development came to £240.
By using google it was possible to deliver an embedded form (which fed into a google spreadsheet) into a static HTML page with an iframe which could collate all the responses – this form would be password protected. Google also allows the content once collected to be emailed, published as a webpage or even reused via an RSS feed.
By implementing a simple PHP script the CYPS web team we were able to publish the appropriate content onto the DCC website and also to the school website without the need for a member of staff to re-enter any content.
The site is live and available at www.devonschoolclosures.info.
The process now essentially allows a Head Teacher or School Admin officer to access the form via their own website and to submit the details relating to the schools status. Once submitted the information is republished to the councils website and relevant DCC officers notified via email, all without any further manual intervention.
It was essential to ensure that the focus was always on the business issues and problems and not on the technologies themselves. To allow the techno logy to drive the solution could lead to greater risks and unforeseen issues further down the line.
By ensuring we focused on data collection and automating the process we were able to understand where new technologies could add value to the process and how they were able to facilitate a greater reuse of the data.