Keytree helps London Underground deliver a new way to capture faults

Transport for London (TfL) is responsible for transportation systems in Greater London including the management of London Underground, London Overground, buses, taxis, trams and cycling provision. Their biggest responsibility lies with London Underground, which handles almost five million passenger journeys every day.

The wear and tear on the 270 underground stations is not always visible to commuters but light bulbs break, door handles fall off, and cracks do appear – but station staff continually monitor and report these repairs so they can be fixed without customers ever noticing. TfL wanted to create a mobile app that would let staff instantly and accurately report on damaged or faulty facilities across the London Underground network, and especially in stations.

logo TfL Transport for London

Transport for London decided to move away from its traditional Waterfall approach and adopt Agile working, so Keytree were brought in to deliver the project and also to support and coach their internal employees in how to work in a more flexible way.

Researching user needs

After the London 2012 Olympics, mobile devices became available for TfL that were previously used by the Games Makers – the army of volunteer teams responsible for helping everyone. TfL wanted to use these devices (iPhones and iPads) to empower their staff and to make it quicker and easier for them to report issues. Keytree won the contract over numerous competitors with a solution that became the Fault Reporting App which enabled staff to quickly and promptly report station faults at the scene ensuring the teams could work on resolving the issue much sooner.

To fully understand employee needs a User Experience Designer from Keytree reviewed TfL’s requirements before heading out into the field to meet with users to figure out the needs of staff who would be users of the app on the front line. It became apparent that fault reporting processes in place needed streamlining as there was a dependency on note taking before sending emails to report issues. There was also a concern over the management of contractors visiting stations to repair faults, as on some occasions faults would be difficult to locate.

logo TfL white

Creating the Fault Reporting App

The user experience goals were speed to complete, ease of use, recognition over recall and error prevention but the brief also requested a feature to include the use of photos in the app. This facility would be a fantastic way to describe the fault and its location especially once Keytree added a drawing tool to allow users to free draw over an image so they could be more specific about the fault.

By taking an Agile approach, the creation of a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) allowed the staff member to report defects but only send information in one direction. As the development of future versions of the app progressed, by using the technology on offer from the iPads, location tracking meant users did not need to specify where they were. Integrating with TfL’s Single Sign-On solution it allowed multiple users to log in and have profiles created. The final step was integrating with the legacy backend maintenance systems, which allows staff members to receive instant confirmation that the fault has been received and also status updates on their issues directly on their device.

The development of the Fault Reporting App has been through a series of iterative versions with each version layering on more functionality and features in line with staff feedback as well as TfL vision. It has been extended to additional staff and across TfL tube lines and stations and now allows station supervisors to look at outstanding issues by location and site – not just an individual. The Keytree team have worked with TfL to deliver seven versions of the app from the initial MVP all the way through to the fully integrated solution that’s in place today.

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