If you manage several projects for a large infrastructure provider, every day you probably face complex issues around the attendance of site visits and keeping on top of the progress of the works.

There really is just never enough time in the day and the logistics of a site visit can be costly, as well as time-consuming, before you even reach the busy motorways.

Industry first

Stonbury’s CEO James Stonor observed the challenge of keeping clients updated on the progress of their projects and how site visits were an inefficient use of time and resource. He also understood the impacts on loss of close client engagement and its effects on the high standard of customer service Stonbury prides itself in.

As a specialist contractor striving for continuous improvement, Stonbury has worked hard to transform the legacy of project management and communications. The challenges that Stonbury have developed technologies for, have created an unparalleled complementary digital technology stream to the business.

The strength of Stonbury’s tech solutions for engaging utility clients and local communities during project works, is underpinned by decades of experience operating as a specialist contractor to the water industry. Stonbury has undertaken new build, refurbishment, repair and maintenance works within both the clean water and wastewater sectors. They currently hold multiple framework contracts with 15 of the UK’s leading water companies and carries out similar works for all other UK water companies and their civil engineering partners.

A solution was required that would provide clients with the ability to monitor multiple sites from their desk, tablet or mobile. In 2004, Stonbury launched a brand new software system to do this, Client Portal. The results were profound. Clients are able to login to individual projects and access live updates of works on their sites. A commenting feature allows site staff and project management to communicate throughout the job. Other features allow the users to view and store audit, testing, quotation, safety and any other documents that may be important in creating a complete online project archive.

Water industry clients found that communication cycles were shortened, and project costs were reduced considerably. Soon companies were calling for additional innovative tools to manage projects and assets; they were also asking how they could acquire the portal for use with their own clients.

Stonbury did not stop there and it is believed that they were the very first water industry company to use and store site files electronically. No more messy paperwork and time consuming data entry. This software saw Stonbury reporting substantial cost savings and production efficiencies.

Following the success of Client Portal, Stonbury were set the task of creating another version of the portal, designed to communicate directly to Northumbrian Waters Customers, as a public facing portal. The success of this project ultimately led to the creation of ITS Stonbury, a small company with a team of experienced developers, dedicated to creating solutions for companies within the water and construction industry.

The introduction of ‘intouch’ takes our in-house engineering and digital technology expertise to the interface with utility customers, which will be of critical importance for water companies in hitting their regulatory targets in AMP7

– James Stonor CEO

Community portal

The development of the customer facing portal ‘intouch’ for NWG became known as ‘Community Portal’, which is featured on the Essex & Suffolk and Northumbrian Water website. Developed in collaboration with Northumbrian Water and another first for the water industry, ‘intouch’ enables water companies to share project information and progress with their customers and local communities.

Affected residents, business owners and commuters all have easy access to the project information along with real-time diary updates for the progress of the works and a schedule of expected completion dates. Water companies are also able to notify customers of any potential disruptions. Customer contact centres and social media managers can quickly divert enquiries to the portal, where any questions or concerns can be posted using the comments function. For those who may be affected by site works, the portal allows customers to follow and engage in project progress. Many other benefits can be seen from the use of Community Portal, including substantial cost savings for the water company. It also allows utilities to be proactive, which consequently drives up customer satisfaction, whilst rapidly reducing both the time spent on each enquiry and the multiple contacts that expose utilities to regulatory penalties.

With PR19 being next in line to create challenges within the industry, ITS and Northumbrian Water Group are continually developing solutions within the Community Portal, to not only improve customer experience, but to also address the issue around leakage targets. In collaboration with Northumbrian Water, a new feature within Community Portal was launched and their customers are now able to report leaks online. Customers can also follow the progress of the repair works related to any leaks that have been reported.

Linzie Pentleton, Asset Investment Programme Manager - NWG said, “The community portal is an excellent way to communicate with customers ensuring they all get the same message at the same time, the portals ease of use makes communicating with the project team and customers more efficient in delivering excellent customer service getting it right first time every time.”

Making a digital difference

Digital technology is a fast-moving world and ITS Stonbury is certainly not standing still. Another development in the pipeline is Stonbury World, an internal management system that brings together all business areas to increase project management across the company.

The bespoke software will include functions for the management of all aspects of the business including records for human resources, clients, projects, sites, assets and equipment. It will also include the Stonbury World App which replaces their electronic site files system – eSite. This will be a cloud service that stores details, including health and safety records ready for download as required. As with all ITS Stonbury software, security is of the utmost importance and the usual security processes for encrypted data in cloud software are in place, with additional access control and permissions, where required.

James Stonor said, “Through the commercialisation of ‘inprogress’ and eSite we are using over a decade of experience in digital site management to benefit utilities and other engineering companies. Modern cloud-based systems make firms still using only paper-based site files old fashioned in the digital era.”

“The introduction of ‘intouch’ takes our in-house engineering and digital technology expertise to the interface with utility customers, which will be of critical importance for water companies in hitting their regulatory targets in AMP7. These are exciting developments, not only for ITS Stonbury, but for the whole water industry.” If you think your company would benefit from these technologies, you can contact the ITS Team here.