how we do it
There are so many competing demands for using internal resources for maximum impact on council services.
Plan Alpha guarantees that we will make more of a difference for less cost, in less time and with less input needed from you!
how we do it
Our zero-cost software technology & innovative approach is game changing
Choosing the Plan Alpha Build method is your opportunity to make huge savings by moving to a fully integral content management system and customer relationship management system. Below are the main building bocks we will be using to transform your customer service provision:
Drupal, the open source CMS giant, now powers 12% of the World’s top 100,000 sites and has more than a million versions running across the globe. The Drupal association is always developing new modules and updating versions of the software, making each even more user friendly and intuitive than the last.
Drupal is now one of the most popular content management systems worldwide, it is designed to be flexible and customisable to individual business requirements. Changing the system to embrace emerging conditions is a much more straightforward task using Drupal than traditional software and systems approaches.
The return on investment (ROI) for councils is creating an optimal working system which is completely customisable and extremely powerful - additional modules and features will never require licence fees.
Traditional CRMs don’t usually have the capability to build robust systems that allow more involved customer transactions. Even if they do, the process requires complex integration work, programming skills and consequent frustrations, delays and expense.
Our software environment is the Drupal platform which is much more than a content management system (or CRM or e-forms system). It is fundamentally a web-based database management system and in principle, any database management functionality that is required can be added.
The rise of the Drupal platform, and the extremely large and significant community of over fifteen-thousand worldwide contributors, has created over 35,000 user-contributed modules that are the source of just about any business or technical functionality. This is available for free!
User contributed modules conform to an architectural standard, which means that the deployment of a module usually takes only a few minutes to configure. This paradigm of adding functionality, without the need for programming is undeniably one of the most remarkable advances in business computing.
The Plan Alpha Open Source CMS is the most powerful and richest functional open-source environment there is. Most of what you will ever need is already there. Practically anything you might want in the future is never that far away
A CMS is your shop window and your ‘sales’ counter. It is also your biggest opportunity to create self-service and happier customers. It is also a great opportunity to make savings and do things better.
The Plan Alpha e-forms system is, like the CRM, embedded in the system itself. ‘Writing’ new e-forms does not require programming expertise, and you will be able to build your own in line with exactly the requirement you have identified, and it all fits in to the CRM and CMS too. Plan Alpha also has a complete solution for multi-lingual e-forms.
Plan Alpha has relationships with more than one leading provider of hosting. Through these relationships we can ensure that our customers have a secure, robust and available environment, and that the data is situated within the European Economic Area.
Responsive design is beginning to shift as the majority of digital interactions with government now come from mobile phones. ‘Mobile first’ is emerging as a design preference.
Our websites are designed to produce responsive output at the user interface, be it a PC, tablet or phone. This ensures the most satisfactory customer experience given the limits imposed by the screen dimensions and resolutions of the device that is being used.
Plan Alpha’s knowledge and experience of systems integration inspired us to create a unified CRM, CMS and e-forms environment. This is a massive step forward in on-line customer service transformation.
Plan Alpha knowledge and experience of systems integration inspired us to create a unified CRM, CMS and e-forms environment. This is a massive step forward in on-line customer service transformation.
Local authorities use many disparate IT systems that have grown up together over the years but systems need to communicate and integrate. We will use our expertise to make the systems we provide work seamlessly with existing IT.
Any IT system can be extended by the addition of code. This is expensive and highly skilled. However Drupal can be extended by configuration alone, and this configuration can be undertaken by non-programmers – a massive benefit of adopting Drupal. Plan Alpha’s philosophy is wherever possible, to carry out skills transfer. We are not targeted in any way on additional consulting engagements. The Drupal development effort has been carried out by thousands of programmers throughout the world, and their work is free for anyone to use.
Plan Alpha confirms that the system will integrate with other systems. As in the example list below, we have experience of integrating with call management systems that drive screen pops, interactive voice response (IVR), and Caller Line Identification (CLI). Computer Telephone Integration (CTI) is also enabled by the CRM. The following are examples of integrations that we have carried out for our customers:
- Firmstep eforms
- Salesforce CRM
- Netcall telephone system
- Capita e-payments
- Astun technology iShare (mapping)
- Alfresco (Enterprise Document Management System)
- ESRI Localview
- Social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter etc.
- Active Directory
- mygov.scot (Scottish authentication service)
- Patronbase booking
- Spektrix booking
- Lotus notes
- Middleware: Eden
In Drupal the theme, the look-and-feel, the design, and the information architecture are all functionally separate from the content. If for example in the future, the council were to rebrand itself, then the process of making the system reflect those changes would not be overly onerous or expensive.
By encouraging customers to open an account with the council, this can also be an authenticated log-on through social media (e.g. Facebook), they can have access to their personal data. This will include CRM-type cases.
An example might be the removal of a large household item. The customer having paid for the service will want to know when it is going to happen. In principle, any stage of the workflow can be interrogated by customers. However, the system also completely protects against a customer being able to access any comments that have been recorded by advisors during dialogue with the customer. Your bidding document, for example, cites customers who may be hard of hearing or even abusive.
Setting up alerts, say email, or SMS messages is easily configurable, and can be at any point in the workflow.
As part of development and implementation process Plan Alpha extensively test the themes supplied to our customers to ensure that they meet accessibility guidelines. Drupal also has the ‘Accessible Content’ module which is based upon the QUAIL 2.0 accessibility library. This module helps administrators ensure that their content meets accessibility requirements. When tests are enabled and, subject to permissions, users will be able to see if their content passes the enabled tests.
Some UK authorities are required by law to ensure that the native-language speakers in their country are ensured of a service that is every bit as complete as the site visitor that uses English. Plan Alpha has a complete solution for multi-lingual CRM, CMS and e-forms.
Drupal is a fully multilingual system. Whether Welsh or English, all of the language content in all of the system, including content, prompts, buttons and graphics are available in either Welsh or English. No language is favoured over any other, and it is understood that in the event of further developments involving third parties, the requirement will be that its content will be available in Welsh and English. Not only is Welsh available, without compromise for any user of the system (CRM, CMS, e-forms, or any other built functionality), but the back-end of the system can be in English or Welsh. Drupal is the result of an enormous international, and naturally, multilingual undertaking.
The social media capabilities of the Drupal environment are supported by a social media module. This provides a means by which social media activities can be carried out by an authorised user on the website. Reassuringly, emerging social media (or any other emerging technology) will be very quickly taken up by the Drupal community and made available for Drupal systems.
Using Drupal is not a matter of learning how to program, our experience with our customers is that the digital skills most professionals now possess are more than adequate to enable them to use the system to build digital options that their insights provide. The is the same for social media – which can be fully controlled using the system itself.
Drupal, as well as providing a full audit trail, keeps a copy of all authoring and administration. The system can roll back to any previous content state and recover what has been altered. The system by default ‘soft deletes’; it captures the user-id that made any content change, what was changed and when – with full roll-back capability.
Data can be permanently deleted if required. If you want data to be anonymised, then that can be arranged. If summary data is required, from data in different states (live/archived), then that can be accommodated too.
Security is best thought of as a moving target that needs constant vigilance in order to ensure any system remains protected. Drupal is the CMS of choice for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which is one of the most security conscious organisation in existence: https://www.dhs.gov/.
Drupal reports 24/7 any known security issues, and we implement any recommended patches as soon as possible. Cloud computing as implemented by Rackspace is built with security as a principal consideration; scanning is a 24/7 activity.
We use secure and certificated data centres, and no personal data will be stored outside the European Economic Area. General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will apply in the UK from 25 May 2018, and we will take all the necessa
For business continuity files are scheduled, managed, and restored using a Cloud Control Panel or Application Programming Interface (API). Quickly restore backups to the originating Cloud Server (or any Cloud Server running the backup agent), and choose specific files and folders to back up.
Choose specific files and folders to back up. Restore the whole system with all of its folders and files, select individual files and folders from a given time frame, or restore to an entirely different server.
File-level backups are transferred over Rackspace’s high-capacity network and written to three storage disks—all on separate nodes or locations that offer dual power supplies. We sales deploy Node Squirrel which is stored separately as an additional fall-back.
Fully customizable control when and how frequently each backup is performed, as well as how long those files are retained.
All of our customers have access to all of their files and all of the source software at all times – effectively there is no proprietary dependence at all. This massively mitigates business continuity risk.
We provide fully documented training materials and structured and appropriate training for council users and administrators.
Using Drupal is not a matter of learning how to program. Our experience with customers is that the digital skills most professionals possess are more than adequate to enable them to use the system to build the additional functionality.
Content authoring is straightforward, and requires only half a days’ training to enable authors to confidently use the system.
Our philosophy is one of skills transfer – the goal is to make you entirely reliant on your own resources to be able to administer, manage and extend the functionality of the system.
The life of the agreement is the opportunity to achieve self-reliance. This will be done through formal training, but more importantly through our Advisory support. This is a very powerful means of skills transfer. It is based on the real-world management of your system by you. Inevitably you will wish to change things but instead of you providing a requirement, and for us to charge consultancy to do it, we advocate your people using our resources in an advisory capacity, and though that process to become self-reliant.
We offer a full range of training courses for Drupal.
The one day courses are delivered under seven themes:
- Training for site administrators
- Web author training
- Technical training for IT staff
- Advanced administration training
- Training for the Views module
- Advanced Training for the Views Module
- Web Forms
We’re here to ensure your long-term success and we provide 24/7 Managed Rackspace Fanatical Support to our customers. If there is a problem we will use all our resources to get the swiftest problem resolution. Our escalation procedures mean that you will not be routed through a less experienced resource, you will have immediate access to an experienced Plan Alpha associate.
Support is available at any level required. We note that the availability of the system is a dependency on the internal IT environment. On-site support we would regard as an unnecessary expense. The Drupal environment is immensely robust, and we have had no experience of a requirement for on-site support.
Customer Relationship Management System (CRM)
Content Management System (CMS)
Responsive & mobile design
Social media module
Security & Compliance
Reliable backup system