Supporting Somerset’s Partnership Intelligence Unit

Supporting InstantAtlas takes us into lots of different areas such as customer training, software testing and technical documentation. Probably the most rewarding part of the job, however, is being instrumental in a customer’s successful InstantAtlas solution. This might simply be through troubleshooting an installation problem or by giving advice on where to download suitable map data. But often we are commissioned to play a more substantial role and actually deliver part of or sometimes even the whole working solution.

This work can be very varied. For example, we might be asked to manipulate a customer’s raw statistical indicators into a suitable InstantAtlas format in Excel or asked to create a personalised design for a dynamic report.  Above all it requires good communication between the support team and the customer and careful planning from the outset. The support team draw on their in-depth knowledge of the InstantAtlas product but also on their experience in areas as diverse as data visualisation, web design, statistics, digital cartography, accessibility, IT infrastructure and even security. The aim is to combine the best ideas of both the support team and customer to deliver an InstantAtlas solution that best meets the end users’ requirements.

Local & Community Information Systems based on our InstantAtlas Server product present the greatest challenge due to the depth of the product and endless configuration possibilities. On the blog last week we featured INFORM Somerset, a web site that provides an overview to the county of Somerset (UK) on a range of themes. The initial setup of this site was a collaborative effort between Mike Smith’s Partnership Intelligence Unit (PIU) team based at Somerset Council and our support team, with the work ranging from data loading to user interface customisation. The highly pragmatic approach taken by Mike’s team made them a joy to work with and allowed for rapid turnaround times. With local & community information systems, which are built to hold lots of data, it can be tempting to go for “quantity over quality” where voluminous datasets are loaded with scant attention paid to how these are consumed by the end user. With INFORM Somerset a phased approach has been taken to ensure that data and viewing options are added in a controlled matter and always with the end user in mind. The thematic icons on the homepage take the user to dynamic lists of data views and profiles (Mike’s team simplified these terms to Information by Topic and Information by Area) – these do not come “out-of-the-box” but it was decided that this relatively-straightforward customisation would give users an easier route into the data.

Read the full story on INFORM Somerset and link to the site – it features a feedback link at the bottom of the page if you wish to leave your comments!

Pierre Jenkins, Head of InstantAtlas Support

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