Case Studies

Developing Service Information with ALISS

A collaboration between Dundee HSCP and the ALISS team allows people in Dundee to find support services and activities on the ALISS website

Simon Stewart, SDS Assistant, Dundee Health and Social Care Partnership tells us about working with the ALISS team to produce a service information directory for Dundee City.

The Dundee Health and Social Care Partnership (this link takes you away from our website) worked in partnership with ALISS (A Local information System for Scotland) (this link will take you away from our website) to produce service information for the Dundee City area on the ALISS website. Through continued collaboration and service development, ALISS and Dundee Health and Social Care Partnership have made great progress, with Dundee now being the most represented city on ALISS. The next step will be to fully integrate the ALISS service into the Partnership site so that they operate as one.

The Dundee Health and Social Care Partnership had launched its web site. While the launch was a great success, the site was missing a comprehensive space for service information. This was identified early in development as a vital, yet highly complex element of the site. Chief concerns related to where this service information would be hosted. Consideration was given to the production of a bespoke directory service, with the partnership bearing full maintenance and editorial responsibility. An alternative plan was to produce a page that offered links to multiple, decentralised directory entries that would be maintained by service providers. Neither option appeared to offer an ideal solution. Additionally, both would have required significant time and resource investment.

At this time, ALISS was not a functioning service but had been developed to the point where the concept could be discussed with organisations. Initially, it did not seem like ALISS could meet the needs of the Partnership’s diverse service information needs. However, after extensive development by the team at ALISS, it became apparent that this service had genuine potential to host centralised information while empowering organisations with the ability to maintain their entries. As the development of ALISS continued, it gained functionality that allowed it to be integrated into any web site so as to look like a part of the site, instead of being an external link. With this development, the Dundee Health and Social Care Partnership elected to work with ALISS to produce service information for Dundee City on ALISS, with a view to integrating ALISS into the Partnership’s web site.

As ALISS was developing from conceptual stages to becoming a live service, ALISS provided regular updates as to the status of their service. With regular updates coming by way of e-mails and telephone conversations, the staff at ALISS never overstated their status, and were entirely transparent about the development of their platform. Providing feedback to ALISS was always warmly received, and when it came to the decision to produce service information on ALISS for the Partnership, the staff at ALISS were more than happy to offer their support in this decision.

As a service that is still very much under development, the process of adding entries to ALISS was particularly intuitive, with good visual guides being provided so that service providers or local authorities can add and maintain directory entries. In moving over a large volume of entries for the Dundee Health and Social Care Partnership, ALISS offered support, with the work being split between the Partnership and ALISS. Despite this cooperative effort, it was still a long, repetitive process which would have benefited from at least one additional person being involved when compared to the two individuals that added service organisations for Dundee Health and Social Care Partnership.

At this time, the ALISS now hosts more than 300 services for Dundee city, making Dundee the most represented city on ALISS. These service providers have been contacted to inform them that their services have been added to ALISS. It is hoped that most of these service providers will elect to maintain their own entries, but seeing as they are all hosted on ALISS, it also means that the Partnership can collaborate with providers in the editing of these entries. ALISS has already had an impact on the provision of service information for the Dundee Health and Social Care Partnership. Once the service has been fully integrated with the Partnership website, this impact will only continue to grow.

There’s no getting away from it; adding entries to a database is typically a time-consuming, labour-intensive exercise. Despite the production of a spreadsheet which contained data on over 300 service providers and organisations for Dundee City, there was no way to extract these data by way of an automated export/import service. As a service directory, ALISS is structured with one key difference when compared to other directories; it hosts entries for organisations, each with distinct services which are provided at key locations. While this provides a far more comprehensive service information database, it also means that all entries had to be added manually to this service information format. This may present a challenge when producing large volumes of service information entries. The long-term payoff, however, is worth it.

Dundee Health and Social Care Partnership will continue to work in partnership with ALISS in helping to develop the ALISS platform, maintaining service information entries, encouraging service providers to take ownership of their entries, and to add new entries as required. The long term goals of this collaboration will result in the ALISS service being fully integrated into the Partnership web site, with the site and the service information functioning as a single entity. In this, the perfect balance will have been struck between having a single location for service information and empowering service providers to control the information about their service.

For more information on ALISS please call the ALISS team on 0141 404 0239 or email hello@aliss.org.

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