The Municipality of Utrecht is combining flexible working with more efficient meetings. Utrecht is the capital and most populous city in the Dutch province of Utrecht. It is the fourth largest city in the Netherlands with a population of 330,772 in 2014. Thanks to smart software, it is now possible to immediately inform all participants of a meeting's time and location, as well as of the relevant documents - completely digitally. And it's ideal for organisations with flexible workstations.
Meetings typically require large amounts of paper, because each participant is often given their own copy. This is anything but efficient. To make ma`ers worse, before the meeting actually takes place, a lot of time is spent making the necessary arrangements. Preparing for the meeting often takes longer than the meeting itself.
The right software can greatly reduce the time spent planning and holding a meeting. At a certain point, the municipality reached a crossroads: would it stick to existing methods, or drastically change course and use a digital planning and support solution going forward? ‘In 2013, we took the plunge,’ says Adam Golombek, information and process manager at the Municipality of Utrecht, ‘and went digital. Not only are meetings scheduled much more efficiently, we always have the required documents at our fingertips and paper consumption has been greatly reduced. We use much less!’
Utrecht opted for an application called iBabs, developed by MSI Communication. The software solution is geared specifically to planning meetings efficiently. It also reduces the stack of printed papers to the thickness of a tablet. All documents can be accessed digitally, so there's no need for more paper.
With the IBabs apps all participants can access planning data, and the required documents, anytime, anywhere.‘Before we had this software, departments had to organise their own meetings individually. Meetings were scheduled in Outlook and the corresponding documents were printed out or distributed via email. Though it worked just fine in practice, the old system was far from efficient.’
Recalling the situation pre-iBabs, Golombek relates,
That's why the municipality decided to make a radical change and go completely digital. Everything is arranged in a single application and fully digitised.
Going paperless was quite an undertaking: laid side by side, the total amount of digitised paper would stretch 21 km. Now that meetings are prepared digitally, the agenda and documents are made digitally available and - thanks to the Cloud - can be accessed anytime, anywhere. According to Golombek, a pilot was started in which users could communicate their preferred functionalities.
‘We concluded that phase on a very positive note and around one thousand staff haveThanks to IBabs, all meeting participants can access the right documents digitally, both online and offline, even if they are out of the office. ‘The iBabs apps also run perfectly on mobile devices. All you need is a 3 or 4G connection, to access the information anywhere,’ says Golombek.
since begun using the software.’
The meeting software is a quick, user-friendly solution for a wide variety of meeting processes. The advantage of paperless documents is key, but at least as convenient is the option to add notes to the documents and share these with fellow participants. Incidentally, thanks to a direct link to the software, the municipality can still plan meetings in Outlook. Moreover, users are assured secure and confidential data storage.
‘Naturally, our documents contain sensitive information, so the solution has to be reliable,’ says Golombek.
The Municipal Executive was one of the divisions to receive its own devices. Golombek: ‘We started out using iPads in 2014, but we've come to the conclusion that these are not an ideal solution either. People prefer a tablet with a more businesslike feel. We're currently working with the Surface 2 and the Dell Venue Pro 11. They're both fantastic and are geared a bit more to business use. Synchronisation is much easier and there is familiar software available for it.’ Some council members had to adjust to using such a compact and powerful device. ‘Many of them were still working with old-fashioned notebooks,’ he chuckles. ‘But they got used to it quickly. The tablets are compact and lightweight, and run with the full Windows package. Surface 2 even comes with Office as standard. It's a joy to use.’
Of course there were the usual issues to tend to in the preliminary phase. ‘In addition to implementing the software, the existing data also had to be transferred to the new systems. We also helped with that process, which is quite complex,’ explains Neeles. ‘iBabs is a cloud-based SaaS solution. That has many advantages: not only is it accessible anytime and anywhere, but it is also highly scaleable and users can always access the latest version.’
Golombek says employees transitioned quickly and smoothly to the new app. ‘The user responses are positive. The intuitiveness means they can start working with it quite quickly. An hour-long training session from MSI was more than enough,’ he says.
However, it won't only be used internally. For some time, the municipality has been livecasting
Municipal Council meetings. ‘Citizens can't always a`end meetings in person. We feel it's important that everyone can stay abreast of the Municipal Council's activities, which is why we livecast,’ relates Golombek. ‘That's the beauty of iBabs: livecasting can be combined with the available documents. Viewers can immediately see the relevant documents on their screen and are free to consult them. People really value that option.’
Are you saying that meetings are now completely paperless? ‘No, no,’ Golombek laughs. ‘Though paper consumption has been cut way back, employees are welcome to use paper as before, if they so choose. Sometimes it's just more convenient to explain something with a diagram on an A0. And they still can!
If you are looking for a solution like this, you can request a free demo of iBabs here.