"The app for scheduling Town Hall Appointments does not work" "I wanted to reschedule the date and the platform did not allow me to cancel it" "I had to stand in line since 5 am to get an appointment".

These messages from Cordoba neighbors along with the statement from the Public Works Direction of Cordoba City Hall… “we needed this project to be completed as soon as possible” were the trigger to take the initiative and start with the development project of the Town Hall Appointments Scheduler.

And there we were, a project that started in October 2021 and was already productive by January 2022. It took us three months to perform the discovery, development and implementation stages where not only the technological transformation had to be of great incidence, but that also had to work in the change management at the organization level. The result is a software product that:

  • allows citizens to get an appointment in a self-managed way both from the City Hall Website or calling to the 0800 Support Center line.
  • is linked with all the Support Centers, making processes and time invested in these centers more agile.
  • is efficient and whose admin platform allows users to configure proceedings in accordance to each need.
  • is an analytics-enabled solution.

A challenging but change-friendly context

“Having an app for scheduling appointments was a must and a service that required an urgent and definitive solution”, said Ariel Vercellone, Director of Public Works of Cordoba City Hall in the first meeting with us.

On the one hand, both the main City Hall building and most Neighborhood Service Center offices shared the same inconvenience: the management of proceedings became chaotic internally and for the citizens it meant waiting for hours. Endless lines since the early morning to get an appointment that will later require more time waiting until an officer could start working on the proceeding. Inwards, analogical processes that were inefficient due to massiveness. With this scenario, the first issue to be tackled was to organize and to put order over the citizenship support.

On the other hand, the City Hall already had an Online Appointments Scheduler that was only useful for allocating a time for an appointment. This was an in-house developed simple software product that was limited not only in its operation but also on its availability. This tool was not robust and flexible enough to support the heavy demand of the neighbors. Another challenging fact of the project was that the existing tool had an Oracle database and had to be migrated to Amazon Web Services (AWS). The good news was that the migration of workloads to Amazon was a priority within the information technology policies defined beforehand by the City Hall officers.

Ahead of this context, we had to develop, as fast as we could, a new digital platform for appointments scheduling that could: be accessed by all the Neighborhood Service Center (30 offices in different locations of the city), count on a 24/7 service availability ,and integrate itself with the other applications like “Digital Neighbor”, “Guide of Proceedings”, and “Online Driving License”.

Getting down to business!

The plan implied 3 months of work. A Discovery Stage involved the co-creation of a prioritized backlog, the planning of sprints of development sprints and releases, and the UX/UI design. Another stage included Development and Testing. For this part of the project, it was necessary to create new AWS Environments for Quality Assurance (QA) as well as for Production Environments, with CI/CD pipelines, a set of practices to make continuous integration and deployment of the software. Finally, the implementation stage meant the migration of databases in Oracle datacenter to AWS. We started to work with an experimental version in one Neighborhood Service Center, performing the configuration and later deployment in the other centers together with the training sessions for the users.

From the very first stage, the key for the success in this project was the collaborative work with the City Hall Officers. There were some people who were there from the very beginning accompanying and sharing all the development process from “the hardest” part that meant the configuration of proceedings and agenda and who are, at the moment, the admin users of the platform. During the experimental test, within the implementation framework, the most complex situation was to understand in detail which was the need behind each proceeding, i.e. how many appointments would be needed per day, how employees would provide assistance, how long would take each appointment, and how many spots were going to be available on each Center. The collaboration between those admin users who carry out the setting of each proceeding and those departments that require the recording of proceedings in the system was very important. Through this joint task, citizens can have a simple and intuitive user experience that requires only two clicks to schedule an appointment and receive its confirmation. In addition, the platform sends an email as reminder when the appointment date is getting closer.

Any Results?

  • In 3 months, including design, development and Cloud infrastructure stages, we managed to implement the new Appointment Scheduler.

  • Between January and May 2022 more than 182,000 neighbors were able to self-manage their appointments for 180 City Hall procedures.

  • By being in the Cloud, there is no need for infrastructure maintenance and support allowing the City Hall resources optimization.

“Today citizens call the 0800 line to request an appointment or they simply do it on their mobile phones in a self-managed way. In any case, none of these scheduling channels are friendly, citizens only need to get to a Neighborhood Service Center to receive all the advice they need and assistants working there,with just a mobile device can easily provide them with the date and time of the appointment. With the City Hall Appointments Scheduler (in Spanish, Turnero Digital) we give power to neighbors so that they manage their time freely", tells us Ariel and adds “Now we know what people want or expect from the City Hall. This involves: the reasons why they attend a Center, the most demanded proceedings, the time it takes City Hall employees to complete a proceeding, the number of people who are assisted per day, month, and year. These facts are well-known now and can also be measured, and if it can be measured, it can be improved”.

What did Bitlogic learn from this project?

Regarding Product Architecture, part of the speed with which we worked is due to the fact that we have already developed the process to deploy this environment and had experience in the use of the infrastructure offered by AWS. This context helped us save working time in the maintenance of infrastructure, data center, energy, servers, databases, etc. That is, everything that has needs to work accurately for the product to be available.

Beyond all the process of technical development, to implement this kind of tools in such a huge organization as the City Hall, implied a challenge in technological and change management fields. Today, the organization understands how the app works, how the City Hall staff becomes qualified to use the tool and how intuitive it is for citizens. This project menat an adaptation process, the adoption of new technologies, and a cultural change both inwards and outwards.

Designing and implementing digital transformation processes is always accompanied with a cultural transformation that is reflected not only in the end users but in the internal processes of the organization.

If this project sounded interesting and you are planning to make something similar for your company or institution, contact us. The coffee is on us ;).