Why Environmental Teams Should Focus on Vertical Integration

1 June 2020



One problem we see local government waste and street cleansing teams struggle with, is where they are trying to manage their service using an enterprise solution that has been put in place across the council. The software isn’t generally well suited to their most common business processes and the data that underpins them. I was reminded of this recently when I saw an article on Forbes.com talking about the growth in industry-specific, vertically-aligned solutions (think Fin-tech, Law-tech, Edu-tech and of course, Waste-tech).

Industry specific has been part of our proposition for many years. We realised early on in the development of our route optimisation software that what made the technology so valuable to customers was that it was built around the way they actually designed rounds day-to-day. They weren’t (and still aren’t) GIS experts, so we didn’t give them a GIS system.

And we have also found this to be the case with our In-Cab and back office solutions. Navigation for example, while the key feature for many field service industries, is relatively less important (though still often present) for most waste and streets teams, who generally work on the same routes week in, week out. The ability to record missed bins however, and the right data and process steps sat behind that, is obviously a key requirement for waste teams, though not one that comes out of the box with an enterprise software solution.

The unique structure of environmental services and the associated data (repeating routes, a localised area, location-based), means our customers find it very hard to fit enterprise software to their day-to-day activities. The result is often re-keying between spreadsheets or printing paper notes. We believe there is a better way.

Vertical Integration

What our customers like about our solutions is that they are focused on waste collection and street cleansing. They support the work they really do day-to-day. We have spent our time integrating vertically, making sure that seamless processes run right through their service - from the first customer contact right through to the service on the street, be that scheduled or reactive - rather than adding lots of time and cost building out capability in other service areas.

We also share the same data across our service design and operational systems, so that plans actually match what’s really done. This is a key point to maintaining efficiency through continuous improvement and data-driven performance management.

Information sharing across council departments has a place of course, and in areas like customer service or finance is central to efficient and effective service delivery. But the problem we see is where putting in a solution across many areas of the council comes at the cost of vertical integration and process automation. Ask anyone who says you can have both to tell you how long it took and what it cost, and point to their successful case studies!

For many councils there is still much work to do in improving service performance and increasing efficiency. Most recognise that digital transformation is part of the solution. We believe the ones that are most likely to deliver results are those that focus on vertical integration of their waste and street cleansing services to connect customer demand with service on the street. We suspect that those that remain obsessed with ‘breaking down the silos’ between the waste service and other functions, will continue to bleed time and cost, while working with solutions designed for someone else.


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