Cumberland and Westmorland & Furness councils become the first local authorities to migrate to Aurora


Cumbria County Council has been a customer of Symology Street Works since 2019.

The council has been an enthusiastic user of Insight which was the market leading street works solution and extremely well established with hundreds of customers throughout the UK.

Recently, Symology announced the launch of Aurora, its new integrated solution for the management of infrastructure assets and street works, meaning Insight will be slowly phased out.

Aurora, is a brand new development that has been built on many years of experience. Aurora offers comprehensive tools to record and manage works permitting and noticing in line with legislation, in addition to associated charge and inspection management.

The Challenge

In April 2023, local government in Cumbria changed.

The six district councils and Cumbria County Council were replaced by two new unitary authorities and a fire and rescue service; Cumberland Council, Westmorland and Furness Council and Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service.

This was a perfect opportunity for Cumberland and Westmorland and Furness councils to be the first (and second) local authorities to migrate to the new Aurora system.

The DfT Street Manager service, where all street and road work permits are stored, had no capability to split the existing data into the two new unitary authorities. Their proposed solution was to import Cumbria’s historic data into Cumberland’s system meaning the Westmorland and Furness system would be empty making network co-ordination virtually impossible.

The 1st April 2023 also saw the introduction of a new Inspections Code of Practice, which included a Performance-based Inspection regime. However the empty system was a massive issue as Street Manager wouldn’t be able to select any historic works for sample inspections preventing the authorities from checking the quality of reinstatements and impacting on revenue. This issue created a hard stop-go live date by which this issue had to be resolved.

All these challenges meant timescales were a massive risk, and the Symology/Aurora teams had no margin for any errors or delays during the migration process.

The Solution

The plan was to get the councils on to Aurora with both organisations using it as a single system but controlling access via the role-based and spatial permissions. Despite all the data being associated with Cumberland, with Aurora’s map-based views and permissions, both authorities could see all the works in their area and assess and co-ordinate them.

To solve the Performance-based Inspection issue the Symology team worked with both the Cumberland and Westmorland and Furness teams to facilitate a working solution for both organisations after it was recognised that they were not going to get support from other organisations. After agreements with the Statutory Undertakers and the DfT, Symology carefully adjusted the annual inspection quotas for each authority so that the correct number of sample inspections would be generated despite the reorganisation. The sample inspection progress during each quarter can be monitored daily using the in-built reports and enquiries.

Samantha Carr, Streetworks Manager at Cumberland Council said: “We have worked with the Insight system for some time with success, but the old technology meant that we could not extract the type of data we required moving forward in meaningful form. The new Aurora system, which is automated, now allows the users to be more efficient and effective and produce detailed reports that bring all of the data we have together to make it easier to make decisions more quickly on what is happening on the network. It also allows the whole team to do this, saving time and resources. Previously, one person would have had to supply reports to other people.”

She added: “The team at Symology have been with us every step of the way and we have had access to all the top people as we went on this journey with them of being the first local authority to migrate to the new system.”

Symology was able to quickly implement changes to the system based on the feedback from Cumberland Council as they undertook significant testing.

“The issues that we came across during the testing process and suggestions we made were all resolved quickly. Another area that we asked them to improve on is the use of the system on the mobile app and that has been dealt with as well. One of the biggest advantages of Aurora is the flexibility of it. The fact that you can set up your own dashboards is invaluable. Its reporting capability is now vast,” says Ms Carr.

As there is no mobile and offline inspection solution within Street Manager the council was very keen to utilise the Aurora Mobile App, which is free for every named user. As the first authority customer to go live, there were issues to iron out and it was quickly discovered the mobile app was having an issue with its stability, especially in poor signal areas, of which there were many across both authorities. These have now been fixed and app updates have been rolled out. Additionally, there were some device issues which were nothing to do with the software, but still needed to be solved.

“We would have been unable to manage our permit scheme or carry out our coordination role as effectively with only the Street Manager solution. Aurora has been invaluable to us by using dashboards that track due dates and the ability to create and save user specific queries/views,” adds Ms Carr.

One of the biggest challenges with a new system like this is training. Some people were averse to change, so a successful training programme was vital.

Samantha Carr, Cumberland & Westmorland and Furness council

In fact, because of the new system, the company had to change the way it delivered training. The Aurora Academy was launched, which enabled users to take training courses online and track their progress by means of tests at the end of each chapter. Chapters are small and users can dip in and out of them around their work loads.

Whilst the online learning was ideal for the bulk of the training, in some of the more specialist areas it was felt the users would benefit most from a more traditional face to face approach, allowing for wider discussions matching business processes to system features.

The migration of data from Insight to Aurora was performed seamlessly out of hours over a weekend by the Symology team. There was no disruption to business operations, with the system ready for use first thing on the Monday morning.

Following go-live things have not stood still with many enhancements being delivered along with changes to provide Street Manager compatibility. Marc Buxton, Professional Services Manager at Symology said: “For Aurora, we have completely changed our approach to development, adopting an agile strategy allowing regular updates every six weeks, with updates of a much higher priority being made much sooner. The projects team worked tirelessly with Cumbria in resolving their issues quickly which was facilitated this new agile approach. The technology that Aurora is built on lends itself expertly to this approach. “

Currently, both Cumberland and Westmorland and Furness council’s use the same system and there is a great deal of overlap between the two organisations. But, in the future, they will eventually have to split entirely into two organisations. The whole data migration and configuration was delivered with this in mind meaning when that split comes, the separation will be much easier and quicker to facilitate.

Now the system is live, both authorities are starting to delve a little more beneath the surface of what Aurora is capable of and the first and the quickest wins have been in the system’s ability for detailed reporting. The customisation and comprehensive access they now have of their data has been described as “awesome”.

“In theory, they should be paying for two separate systems but due to the way we have efficiently combined the data and the configuration, Aurora is working out cheaper for the two organisations than it was for Insight for just Cumbria. We have listened to market pressures and have done what we can to make it more affordable. As an Employee Owned organisation, we were able to make this decision for the benefit of the customer over increasing our own revenue,” added Mr Buxton.