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I can empathise with any Subject Matter Expert (SME) who is told they will be having a new software system. It means extra work and a lot of personal sacrifice. This is how I felt when I was first told that our Early Years system was going to be ‘subsumed’ by a new system called EYES, provided by Liquidlogic. In summary, I was anxious! It turns out that I didn’t need to be. Not only was the process completely worth the effort, but I gained so much through the experience!

My specialist knowledge was always treated respectfully – I was asked how nuances worked and was involved with testing the system as well as reporting issues. I was informally integrated into the Bristol City Council project team, who had to put up with my endless questions, and got to be part of an extraordinary change to my local authority – being part of a significant project within a larger transformation program. What surprised me most was how my perception of the ‘third party’ changed from initial suspicion to valued colleague. I was able to talk directly to the Liquidlogic team, whose patience and debating skills are fantastic. They challenged me to think about why we processed the Free Entitlement in certain ways, which allowed me the privilege of being a part of the changes we ultimately made. They understood my fierce passion for the Free Entitlement and in return created a system that I am proud to be a part of. They were as excited about go-live day as I was and were ready and available (quietly waiting in the wings) during those first tentative weeks.

Yes, of course we had moments where the pressure increased (every partnership does), but during my most poignant process (the Early Years Census), they literally dropped everything to ensure the system was working effectively; making themselves & their senior leadership team available on long conference calls day after day, all the while supporting other clients and work packages.

More than 18 months down the line, Liquidlogic continue to understand my statutory duties and having lived through more than a full academic cycle in our partnership, is keenly attuned to the government changes that impact and shape our offer – both locally and nationally. Liquidlogic is accommodating to my ad-hoc requests and forgiving when pointing out my ‘user error’. I feel honoured to have been involved with the development of EYES with Liquidlogic & the Bristol City Council project team and would advocate to any local authority considering this product that the benefits far outweigh the costs (financially and professionally).

At the time of writing this reflection, we are in the midst of a global pandemic and it is only because of Liquidlogic’s easy and quick secure online submission service into EYES, that I didn’t have to cancel any data collections. This has meant that I have been able to pay our nursery providers accurately and promptly during a time of great uncertainty.  I am looking forward to the next release where even more functionality will be introduced as other local authorities embrace EYES, knowing that I am in safe hands.

Blog written by Deborah Brown, Free Entitlement Development Officer, Early Years & Childcare Service, Bristol City Council

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