Article

Making digital transformation part of your firefighting team


By Kerr McColl, Industry Director UK Fire & Rescue, TechnologyOne

How cloud-based business management systems can help Fire & Rescue services free up time for frontline staff and deliver savings

Fire and Rescue professionals carry out the most remarkable, heroic work for their local communities. They must endure rigorous training, rush towards danger to save lives and offer vital fire prevention support.

However, they can’t do all this alone. They need robust, reliable support throughout their organisation. But, when outdated technology is used to run core functions, it hinders operational effectiveness, ultimately limiting essential backup services for frontline Fire & Rescue staff.

As someone who has spent over 20 years supporting fire and rescue, I know all too well the challenges services face. From budget cuts to time pressures, there’s a drain on resources that could otherwise be channelled towards life-critical activities, helping the communities they serve.

When it comes to discussing the support fire services need, much focus has (rightly) been on issues of frontline funding and equipment. But, in my opinion, there is another often overlooked aspect of support which, if fully utilised, can deliver huge benefits. That’s digital transformation.

Due to the vital role they play, ESN and command and control systems rightly receive the most technology attention within emergency services. But, alongside this, time and cost savings can also be delivered by giving greater thought to how back-office systems, such as procurement, HR and finance, can work smarter to support frontline teams.

Every pound spent on keeping antiquated on-premise systems running is one less pound spent on frontline support.

But digital transformation isn’t just about technology. It’s also about people. It means giving fire and rescue teams the tools they need to excel at their jobs. Whether frontline or support, everyone benefits from improved efficiency, increased productivity, remote work capability and being able to derive insights from data, to make the most of limited resources.

For many years I worked with Strathclyde and then the Scottish Fire & Rescue Services helping develop their business and financial management systems to better support their people and their communities.

To help them operate better we removed outdated legacy software systems, which had been working in silos and costing lots to maintain. Instead, we put Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) in place, so everyone across the organisation could access business applications wherever they were working and receive real-time, joined up information that aided faster, better decision making.

We found giving back-office staff the right tools to do their jobs boosts productivity and allows them to fulfil their duties to support frontline staff with pride.

Making sure firefighters and suppliers get paid on time, frontline workers are aware of latest health and safety regulations, and that everyone has the right equipment are essential tasks that help the service keep the community safe.

These modern Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solutions are simple, and intuitive to use, and reduce time-intensive manual work. They also connect disparate systems and make relevant information readily available for staff.

Digitisation, automation and remote access to business tools can be transformative given the nature of the fire and rescue services, where teams are geographically dispersed and where firefighters can be full-time, retained or volunteers, working on a shift-by-shift basis.

Rather than having to wait until they’re back at the station, frontline workers can easily undertake self-service tasks such as ordering new kit or make holiday requests, on their smartphones while they’re on the move. Approvals can be carried out automatically and this speeds up the procurement process too. Frontline workers are then able to focus on their core duties of serving the community.

By moving mundane back-office processes into the cloud, SaaS makes things quicker, easier, and future-proof. It improves real-time operations, decision making and reporting.

One Fire & Rescue service we’ve worked with in the UK has managed to free up hundreds of hours in staff time and save hundreds of thousands of pounds in IT maintenance and software costs by digitally transforming back-office processes and switching to SaaS.

Fire Services will only become more important and face new pressures as our communities continue to grow and temperatures continue to rise - it's vital they have all the necessary support they need to keep us safe.

TechnologyOne helps digitally transform Fire & Rescue Services in England, Scotland and Wales.

Publish date

10 Sep 2021

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