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Reflections 2020-21 and looking forward to 2022-23

Changes – good or bad? Are they here to stay?

As I hung up from the 3rd video call of the morning recently, I was left reflecting on the many changes that have affected our Community over the last 2 years or so.

Gone are the days when the User Group (as it was) was organised into 6 regions across the UK, each with a Chair and a Secretary. Each region met up at a venue in their area 2 or 3 times a year for day-long gatherings. Civica would come along and update us about their developments, some users would give presentations on how they used the software and often we’d arrange a guest speaker. Above all, there were great opportunities to meet with colleagues, discuss issues, find solutions, make good contacts etc. Then, once a year in the autumn, we’d all gather at Stoke Rochford Hall (and later at Woodland Grange) for a 2-day intensive Learning and Networking Event,

Then along came Covid………….. 😷😷😷

Since then, the Community has adapted to ensure it continues to offer its services to members. The rapid enhancement of video conferencing software like Microsoft Teams, Zoom, GotoWebinar etc meant that online events could replace regional meetings. This happened quickly and enabled the frequency of meetings to be increased. Attendance at online events also increased, probably because travel time and costs were eliminated. But, despite the functionality of software, the benefits of face-to-face networking and 'users supporting users' were largely lost.

There is some light at the end of the tunnel though. We had several hybrid Learning Event meetings planned over the last 2 years, only to have to defer or cancel them because of Covid. Following soundings of the membership, we are now sufficiently confident that an event in Autumn 2022 would be supported, so this has been arranged for October 11th & 12th in Dudley, West Midlands. Details will evolve on the website.

When needed, we also used to put on topic-specific workshops, organised on a cost-recovery basis. Here too, these have been replaced by online sessions covering topics like Word integration and Power BI and more are planned for 2022.

As Cx has continued to evolve and gain market share, the Cx Adopters’ Focus Group has become a major activity. With somewhere around 30% of our member Authorities now at some stage of implementing Cx, the Adopters' Group is proving to be fertile ground for sharing experiences as well as providing a strong communication channel back to the Civica team.

Scrapping the old regional organisation provided an opportunity to re-organise the Leadership of the APP & Cx Community, with representation along functional, rather than geographical lines. This has made for a more effective management structure, more able to respond to the needs of the membership nationally across both APP and Cx topics and better placed to develop our relationship with Civica.

As you would expect, Civica has also stepped up to the plate in terms of embracing remote working technologies. Instead of infrequent face-to-face meetings in Bristol, when the agenda had to reflect the costs and time involved in travelling and attending, video calls have become the norm. Some can be lengthy, but most are brief, on-message and productive. The result of opening up a widerrange of communication channels with Civica has been a seismic improvement in the overall relationship at all levels with the company. As a Leadership Team, we now have a much greater understanding of how the business is organised, operates, and develops the products and we have access to key personnel at all levels.

A lot of effort has also gone into developing and enhancing the Community’s web presence, in particular the Forum areas of our site. These are well used and provide members with an online version of the peer-to-peer networking that used to take place. Specialist forums have been created for both APP and Cx users to share experiences and ask questions of the Community. Not every individual member will have a need to access these facilities regularly, but as the website has evolved into our main communication channel, we encourage all members to sign up for a login.

So, in conclusion, here’s the thing!

The last 2 years have seen some radical changes in the way in which operate. Our byword for many years has been “Users Supporting Users” and this is as true today as it always was. We exist as an organisation to facilitate and encourage our members to work together, and with us, to help develop both APP and Cx products and keep them fit for purpose.

To that end, we are keen to hear what you, as individual members, would like to see from us going forward – whether that’s a return to face-to-face events, changes to our online offerings, topics for workshops (APP and Cx), improvements to our website or anything else you feel would be helpful.

We’ll start a Discussion Thread going in the General Forum, so please add your responses there. The Community is your organisation, and we want to hear your views about how we could improve what we do to support you and your use of APP or Cx.

Wot? No AGM?

A further casualty of the Covid era has been the Annual Meeting of Members, usually held at the October Learning Events. This was an opportunity to present formal motions for debate and vote, receive an update from the Leadership team and be presented with the Audited Accounts by the Treasurer. In this new era, most of that can be transacted online, but I will take this opportunity to share the Accounts for 2020-2021

Statement of accounts 2020-2021
Download PDF • 313KB

and the appropriate Treasurer’s report.

Treasurer's report 2020-2021
Download DOCX • 38KB

I hope you will find the information to be satisfactory, but I appreciate that this arrangement is less ideal than a conventional meeting and there may be questions you would otherwise have wanted to ask. So, if you have any questions that you would like to put to either the Treasurer or Leadership team, please let me know by email before the end of March.

Let’s hope that the Covid era is soon confined to history, and we can resume the contacts between us and our members other than by screen. “Users supporting Users” has not been easy to achieve recently, but it is still what drives us.

Ken Searle

Secretary - APP & Cx Community

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