Case Study: BC Safety Authority
- BC Safety Authority (BCSA) was looking for an in-field mobile application that would allow their safety officers to collect clean, valid data in areas that may or may not have any cellular service.
- BCSA had already invested in and customized a back-end field management service that integrated into their operations. However, the front-end client did not support offline data collection and was not easily customizable to support their unique data validation requirements.
- BCSA had an internal development team that was well versed in their data collection requirements who were willing to work to integrate the back-end field management service with an in-field mobile application customized to their needs.
- 14 Oranges’ was selected to develop and support BCSA’s customized data collection iPad app, which required a streamlined UI/UX process to enhance safety officer productivity. They also developed a document/data access solution to provide BCSA’s safety officers with the information they needed to complete their field inspections.
BC Safety Authority (BCSA) is mandated by the Province of British Columbia to provide safety oversight for a wide variety of technical systems and work done by contractors and individuals in British Columbia=, including electrical, gas, boiler, pressure vessel, passenger ropeways, amusement devices, elevating and provincial rail systems. To manage a large volume of permits across a large geography, BCSA leverages a data-driven approach to determine which permits to prioritize for site inspections.
This makes access to, and quality of, the data collected by BCSA safety officers essential to the mandate placed on the organization to ensure the safety of technical systems in BC. The data is used to quantify such items as a contractor’s work record, the compliance history of operating equipment, and installation or operating permits with the highest likelihood of having a safety hazard. This in turn ensures that safety officer time is focussed on activities most likely to have a positive impact on public safety.
To review and collect the necessary data to operate in this data-driven model, BCSA safety officers previously used Windows laptops with a thick client interacting with a local database. Depending on the amount of work being done, the client would be synced daily against the backend systems; this would take between 10 minutes to three hours. In addition, safety officers frequently relied on pre-printed forms, reference materials and manuals to take with them onto a site to perform inspections.
BCSA made a significant investment in a third-party vendor’s business application to modernize their IT systems. The specific goals of this modernization pertaining to inspection activities were to improve safety officer efficiency, improve the quality and consistency of data company-wide, and to reduce the delay in updating the information to the backend systems.
The selected vendor’s inspection client was web-based, and assumed an always-on Internet connection. As previously noted, BCSA’s safety officers cover a vast geographic area, including sizable regions that have no cellular data coverage at all. As such, safety officers had little option but to continue to rely on pre-printed paper forms and data before heading out into the field, which prevented BCSA from achieving some of the intended goals of the system upgrade.
In many cases this led to frustration with the software upgrade, as the reality had not met the expectations that had been set. Safety officers had expected to have a full view on the historical and current information via the software so they could make fact-based assessments. Specifically, this lack of reliable access to information in the field made it difficult to prioritize where to perform site inspections.
It became clear that the gaps in the safety officer’s information and data entry needed to be addressed. BCSA initiated a targeted software improvement project, which identified baseline criteria for safety officer needs. Key requirements included the following:
- The solution must provide information and allow entry of inspection information in offline and online scenarios.
- The solution must present all data required by safety officers to perform prioritization and site inspection, including broad site information and extensive historical information.
- The solution must ensure that the data collected meets consistent quality standards.
As the project progressed, a strategy to add a compartmentalized safety officer work prioritization and inspection iPad app materialized. BCSA had no prior experience developing mobile applications, so they sought to engage a third-party developer who would write the iPad App, while working with BCSA developers who would handle the back-end integration. Due to their in-depth knowledge of their organization’s specific needs, BCSA also assumed the role of the overall solution development leader and systems integrator.
The decision to select a mobile App development vendor was based on three key criteria:
- Ability to integrate their services with BCSA-defined APIs.
- Ability to provide a high-quality safety officer UI/UX experience.
- Ability to enhance the App based on BCSA’s agile continuous improvement approach.
After reviewing available alternatives and custom solution proposals, 14 Oranges was selected to develop the iPad App and provide ongoing support.
The iPad App handled the offline requirements identified by BCSA. The app could retrieve and display extensive data locally regarding all outstanding inspections. Safety officers could review and edit the inspections, and attach photos even when offline. Later, when back online, changes could be uploaded to the main backend repository of information.
The App included extensive development to ensure a very high level of data quality during the inspection process. The data entry forms were developed to automatically align with the data schema of the backend system. Data quality rules were built into the App to ensure that the right information was collected based on the inspection type and what was observed during the inspection. The improvement in data quality enabled more learnings through downstream analysis, which is another important part of BCSA’s data strategy.
As this project progressed, safety officers benefited from the agile process used to develop and enhance the App. Safety officers provided suggestions which were considered in the steady stream of application enhancements that followed. This resulted in a strong sense of engagement with the App and an improved experience for safety officers using this tool.
14 Orange’s iPad application, the by-product of which is the Metro Grove mobile workforce management service, provided BCSA with a robust, customizable mobile tool that has greatly exceeded BCSA’s original project needs, and enabled BCSA to continue to improve the effectiveness of their safety officer workforce, thereby improving safety for the public.