Letter: Planning software suppliers have hard balance to strike

I read the recent report from the Connected Places Catapult with great interest. It levelled criticism at the current offering of planning software on the market and aimed six advisory principles that suppliers should adhere to in order to push forward a culture of innovation.

I don't disagree with the six principles outlined in the report. However, by focusing wholly on the software suppliers, the report misses an opportunity to highlight some more fundamental issues.

I would put procurement near the top of that list of issues, with change management, HR and IT all on that list somewhere too.

It would be very interesting to take a local authority procurement exercise for planning software and see how much focus it puts on the six principles outlined in the report. If you pick out one principle - 'modularity' – for example: I have worked on hundreds of procurements of planning software, and not one has been for a system for managing planning applications alone.

Often the procurement exercises don't only include the broader elements of a local authority planning service, but also services such as building control, land charges, environmental health and so on.

Any supplier selling software that only deals with planning applications would find it hard to sell to the current market.

Should the software suppliers take a stand on the principles, and go out of business? Or do they give the market what it is asking for? It's a hard balance to strike.

Some suppliers have long since championed moving away from legacy tech and legacy ways of working. I would say that overwhelmingly there's a desire to get it right and strive to meet the evolving needs of planners and the public sector at large.

But we have to acknowledge that we are working within a market where the kind of innovation that we would love to take forward, isn't always what is wanted.

Richard Sankey, product director, Arcus Global


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