The City of Shawnee Brightens the Future of Legacy Apps—and the Community—With OutSystems
The City of Shawnee has only one application developer on staff. But with OutSystems, that’s all it takes to mobilize legacy apps, rethink workflow to save time and money, and provide valuable work experience opportunities for local college students.
30 production apps
"We’ve got a small team that needs to get a lot done. OutSystems helps us stay agile and rethink our legacy apps for the mobile age, so we can improve the experience we offer our users and the services we offer our citizens."
A Massive Task For a (Very) Small Team
Challenge - The City of Shawnee in Kansas employs around 350 people to serve its citizens, including a 12-strong IT team (with one application developer) that looks after the infrastructure and apps that keep the city running.
Over the last 20 years, the city has relied on dozens of apps built in Lotus Notes. There was a time when Lotus Notes was the last word in rapid application development, but Shawnee’s IT team could see it had reached the end of its useful life. The team needed to re-platform the legacy apps while retaining their rapid development capabilities, so they began to evaluate low-code vendors.
“We wanted to maintain our fast pace of development and add new web and mobile development capabilities without increasing application developer headcount,” says Mel Bunting, IT Director at the City of Shawnee. “We chose OutSystems because it provided everything we needed straight out of the box, giving us native web and mobile app development capabilities and supporting our Agile methodology.”
Teaching Old Apps New Tricks
Solution - Shifting dozens of apps to a new platform and adding new functionality with just one developer isn't an overnight process. However, after just one year, the city now has 30 production apps on the platform. Users get modern mobile experiences, and the team has also optimized workflows and built new process efficiencies into the apps.
Take the city’s new asset management app, for example. What started out as a simple maintenance request app has grown in scope over time, but with OutSystems, each new capability the team has added to the app has taken around 3-5 weeks of development time.
Alex Popp, the team’s application developer, says one of the biggest advantages of OutSystems is how easy it is to handle change requests. “Rapid prototyping and one-click deployment mean we can be really agile in how we meet the changing needs of our internal and external users,” Alex says.
The city is also replacing paper-based processes with online, mobile alternatives, including a new app that enables citizens to apply online for permits to burn garden waste—an app that took Alex just two weeks to develop.
OutSystems has also helped the city build up the skills and experience of its future workforce. The IT department has started a partnership with a local community college, and of the seven interns who’ve been through the program over the last year, three have been taken on by the city as apprentices, assisting with OutSystems development.
The apprentices have already created several production apps in OutSystems, including an employee wellness app—a fitness goal and points tracker for staff participating in free wellness activities and events.
Developing the Apps the Community Needs
Results - Even with just one developer, the City of Shawnee has already moved many of its legacy apps from Lotus Notes to OutSystems, optimizing processes and adding mobile functionality along the way. It plans to shift more systems onto the new platform and continue building new apps to support the community.
“In one year of using OutSystems, we’ve developed more than 30 apps—a pace that wouldn’t be possible without the OutSystems low-code platform,” says Mel. “Our goal for the coming year is to retire Lotus Notes completely.”
Replacing paper processes, like burn permits, saves the city time and money. Just three months since the burn permit app’s launch, more than 70 percent of applications are completed online. The app also provides a better user experience for citizens, along with an intuitive UI and workflow for novice internal users.
And with its asset management app, the city expects to save money through budgeting and forecasting efficiency and simpler asset maintenance admin. Another app for internal business licensing allows clerks to submit more than 50 payments at once, eliminating the need to enter every payment by hand.
Meanwhile, the IT department is also saving on staffing costs and realizing new efficiency gains. “With OutSystems, we’re able to build apps with fewer development staff,” Mel explains. “And we can increase efficiency through automation, which further reduces our costs.”
But perhaps most importantly, OutSystems gives the City of Shawnee new ways to help the community it serves. The platform’s ease of use means the city can give opportunities to local college students through its intern program. And the IT department’s apprentices, with little or no back-end coding experience, are creating OutSystems apps independently within six months.
“OutSystems gives us the opportunity to engage with the community and develop the apps they need,” says Mel. “And it also means we can give local people valuable work experience.”
And Alex, he’s excited to see the results of his work in action in the community. “I can see what I’m building actually helping someone do something,” he says. “I don’t just get a clear view of the outcomes—with OutSystems, it’s easier to make changes whenever they’re needed, so I can create the apps my community really needs.”