Interview with Erik Veerman from 's-Hertogenbosch, 1st replicator of Signalen

A few weeks ago we shared the success story of 's-Hertogenbosch, the first municipality that has replicated Signalen.

Today we publish in this news section an interview with Erik Veerman, project leader in the municipality of said Dutch town. 's-Hertogenbosch thus became the first organism to replicate Signalen adapted to its needs.

Interview

  1. What solution (if any) did you have before in s-Hertogenbosch?

KMS (Klacht en Meldingensysteem) at de Afvalstoffendienst and Melddesk.

  1. Why did you decide replace your existing system to Signalen?

We researched whether the current solutions still met the wishes of the organization. The old solutions could no longer meet the requirements, especially in terms of integration with other applications. We also had the desire to be able to communicate better with the reporters (melders). Which wasn’t really an option with the solutions we had at the time.

  1. Why is a replication better than starting from zero your own environment?

The biggest of the advantages of replication of Signalen is that a lot of the desired functionality has already been realized and proven in Amsterdam. When you start from zero there is a lot more uncertainty if and how the solution is going to end up. And replication probably has an financial advantage, although I'm not sure if this is true.

  1. What were the main challenges?

The two biggest challenges were to: a. Find a balance between our extensive requirements and wishlist and the functionality yet to be developed or adapted. b. Make as many parts and functionality of SIA suitable for use in 's-Hertogenbosch (and other municipalities) and still continue to merge to one Signalen master branch so all Signalen participants can use each other's contributions. Especially in the beginning there was a tension with Amsterdam because Signalen (SIA) is their creation and adjustments to Signalen by or for others can then be experienced as difficult.

  1. Future perspectives for 's-Hertogenbosch

As far as Signalen is concerned, we still have an extensive list of desired functionalities. We would like to develop most of these, preferably together with other municipalities.

  1. Advantages of using open source technologies in a replication like this one

Good question! I’m not sure. But I think it’s easier to create a sustainable environment/community of software suppliers and other municipalities when using open source technology.

  1. What would you change if you were to start all over again?

At the start we didn't really have an idea how Signalen worked, what possibilities were and what the underlying thoughts of certain choices were. This made it difficult to determine what Signalen offered compared to our requirements and wishes. This also caused some issues when testing the application. When purchasing a software solution, you’ll get support of some sort of implementation consultant. If this role was available at Signalen at the beginning of the process, the trajectory would have been a lot easier. So if I could do it again, I would look to get someone on board with (process) knowledge of Signalen as soon as possible.

  1. Tips you'd give a following replicator

See above and try to learn get information and documentation used by other municipalities. One of our internal struggles was getting our IT-department on board. There was resistance because Signalen and the maintenance of Signalen (beheer van Signalen) is very different compared to the existing applications. Although we put a lot of time into getting them involved, the process was still very difficult and slow. I can recommend involving the IT-department at an early stage and keeping them involved throughout the entire process. I’m not sure this applies to other municipalities, cause it might be specific to ‘s-Hertogenbosch.