Southwark Council’s most famous shopping area must be the ancient Borough Market, foodie favourite, and the film home of fictional Bridget Jones. But the council manages a network of 20 markets, from Bermondsey Square antiques to East Street off the Walworth Road, contemporary designers at Oxo Tower Wharf, and Peckham selling everything from ladies’ wear to ladies’ fingers (okra).
A plethora of regulations dictates the permitting of these brilliant neighbourhood assets. Market managers have been struggling with a very complicated workflow that’s only become more difficult over the years. They know they have to replace paper forms with a digital solution. And budgets are tight.
What does this have to do with SMEs?
Market managers and traders are not generally well positioned to write up a technical specification from scratch. Only SMEs are able to operate on the human level required to develop technology at the stallholders’ pace, working closely with the traders and managers, growing a product organically, and gradually phasing out the old way of doing things.
In the end, digital government will only advance if all the stakeholders take part. MarketApp, as we call it, and other products for niche users, must constantly change, and remain affordable, in order to stay useful.
Stripping out cost, working together and sharing efficiencies is a key strength for SMEs, and has created many opportunities for smaller players like us.
Why would an authority attempt to draft up – and finance – a bespoke specification when the knowledge and skills of so many others, developed over many years, and continually improving, is made available by a small SaaS provider?
Our company was born initially out of a need to provide unified film permitting across London. We expanded to help deliver other government services. The cost for our first product, FilmApp, came beneath the threshold for procurement requirements. This made the system available directly to end users, with the approval of their budget holder. No IT support was required to get up and running, and continual maintenance and support is offered at no extra cost.
Filmmakers working with next-level CGI expect more than incomprehensible paper forms that need to be posted back. Events operators managing productions from their smartphones will go elsewhere if councils don't keep up with their fast paced industries. Small business owners taking contactless payments on their market stalls aren’t going to ply their trade when the licensing authority takes months to licence their stall.
Digital transformation has to deliver improved productivity, as well as better services, at lower costs. We’re convinced that through remaining practical and collaborative, SME providers will increasingly deliver affordable and future-proof government technology.
About Apply4 Technology (www.apply4.com)
We make the UK and America’s favourite permitting software, providing simple, inexpensive solutions to public authorities and private companies for film, events, markets, streetworks, and venue hire.
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