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l IT systems l websites l training/communication materials Staying connected Technology is key to keeping Swercots running smoothly, writes Lisa Peters O n the whole, local authorities arent known for being at the forefront of technology. This poses a unique set of challenges when developing IT systems to aid regional working. With different authorities running different browsers some of which developers would class as outdated anyone servicing a regional provision must be awake to these challenges, and be willing to find solutions that work for all potential users. Within Trading Standards Partnership South West (Swercots), we are fortunate to work with a number of IT developers who support various projects and products. From a regional office perspective, the introduction of a collaborative website has been revolutionary. No longer are we faced with collating 15responses to a consultation a task that would often take a day or more to complete. Plus, our website allows severalofficers to work on a single document, and has full traceability in terms of who made the comment and when. This means I can now produce a consultation response in a couple of hours. We also have a project-tracking facility in our site, which is used both within projects and at our specialist group meetings. Allactions from meetings are transferred to the site by the regional office, so progress on these can be monitored by the chairman of the group or project lead. It also informs officers of the tasks assigned to them and the associated timescales. From a local authority perspective, this gives trading standards professionals a means by which to stay in contact with the region, as they are not always able to travel toregional meetings/events. The website provides areas such as those available in ts interlink where officers can pose questions about the application of legislation, or quiz colleagues on how they approach certain local issues. What we often find is people use our site to build a regional opinion, and then use ts interlink to see how this compares with the viewpoint of other regions or national groups. Through our public-facing website we can share news items and guidance for consumers and businesses, as well as offering online subscription services and resources, such as training modules most recently, the primary production of feed module. This was piloted in Swercots and the Central England Trading Standards Authorities region, and is soon to be rolled out nationally. Technology has also changed the way we interact with subscribers. Not only are they able to make contact with ease, but technology gives us the tools to develop solutions to requests. For example, training videos and resources are now available on portable smart devices, such as mobile phones and tablets. Of course, it hasnt all been easy. One of the challenges we have faced is keeping materials current. In four years, weve moved from offering a CD of advice which is incredibly hard to maintain and keep up to date to an online facility. This is maintained almost on a daily basis, and is accessible from virtually anywhere, at any time, through multimedia devices. Hosting these resources online means we are able to boast green credentials, cutting printing and production costs by reviewing and updating materials online. As technology improves, the way we work will develop, too, allowing us to deliver projects to a wider audience, and helping us to stretch our limited resources further. WHO WE ARE Swercots is a partnership of 15 local trading standards services. Its common purpose is to promote a fair and safe trading environment to protect the interests of consumers and reputable businesses in south-west England. Weve moved from offering a CD of advice to an online facility, which is accessible from virtually anywhere through multimedia devices Credits Published You might also like Lisa Peters is Trading Standards 28 October, 2014 Piecing IOM together September 2014 Partnership South West (Swercots) regional policy manager. Images: solarseven / Shutterstock To share this page, click on in the toolbar