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The User Community - explained

From the Secretary

The last 18 months or so have seen some really significant changes in the way the APPCx Community (formerly the APP User Group) operates.

Firstly, the clue is in the change of name. The emergence of software modules developed on the well-established Cx platform as a potential successor to APP has meant that we have had to review the services we offer. We now have to reflect the needs of the growing number of APP customers who have begun their journey to migrate to Cx. At the same time, we must keep in mind that the great majority of our members are still using APP, so we have to try and find the right balance of these demands. If you have a view about this, or would like us to address any particular topics (APP or Cx), we would be pleased to hear from you.

APP (still known by many as ‘Flare’) is a mature and stable product, honed over more than 30 years of use and development in Local Authorities, and is much loved by many of its loyal users. However, it is nearing the end of its designed lifespan. Despite its age, there is still innovation in APP usage, as highlighted by the ways colleagues have rapidly adapted it to cope with operational changes brought about by the Covid-19 situation. We will be bringing examples of some of these developments to our online events, and we would also be pleased to get details of any novel uses of APP in your organisation or other APP topics that you think our members may find interesting. If you think you can help, just contact any member of the Leadership Team.

We are also aware that things continually change at Local Authority level in terms of personnel, so we will be continuing to revisit and build on some of the basic system administration and integration topics that we have covered in the past, such as smart ways of integrating Microsoft products with APP, that our members have found useful to help use their system more effectively.

Another huge change for us has been in the way we deliver our services. Until 2019, the User Group (as it was) was split into 6 UK regions and each of these held a regional event twice a year. These events were always supported by Civica personnel and were very popular, not least because of the networking opportunities. However, as well as being heavy on resources to organise and run, they became impracticable due to the pandemic.

We have adapted to this by delivering virtual webinar-style meetings and workshops using the GoToWebinar platform, which we have found to be ideal for the job. So far, these events have proved to be popular with our members, not least I suspect because of the reduced time and travel commitment for the same level of content. However, I have personally missed the opportunities to interact with users in person, so I’m looking forward to our Learning Event in May 2022 which we anticipate will be wholly, or at least partly, face-to-face.

An unexpected spin-off to lockdowns has been the extent and effectiveness of our communication with Civica. Mainly, we used to meet with Civica personnel at the regional and other events and in an annual face-to-face meeting with the Leadership Team. With Civica’s staff mainly working remotely, we have developed regular and much more frequent communication, mainly via Teams. This has resulted in a working relationship which has built on the previous good one into an excellent one at many levels. It will serve us well in representing the interests of our membership as well as working with the company to make Cx a class-leading product.

Finally, and nothing to do with the pandemic, we moved our website across to a different platform – which you will know if you’re reading this. Mainly the Wix services we now use offer much more flexibility in the ways the Forums are managed, and we also now use the Customer Relationship Management functions within the site to operate the day-to-day running of the organisation, manage contacts and site members etc. The change also gave us a financial saving over the previous arrangement.

It’s really important that as many of our members as possible have access to our website, as it’s one of the main channels of communication, both with us and between users. So, if you become aware of other colleagues in your Authority who have not yet registered for a website account, please encourage them to do so. Thanks.

Ken Searle

Secretary – APPCx Community

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