There are eight markets in The Hague, including an antiques and book market, a farmers’ market and five neighbourhood markets. The jewel in the crown is without doubt the convivial Haagse Markt with over 500 permanent stalls and 25,000 daily visitors, making it one of the largest open-air markets in Europe. To improve the management and control of all these markets, the municipality made a radical switch from ‘paper to digital’ with the aid of the agile development method. Devoteam was called in to act as an intermediary between the client, i.e. the municipality of The Hague, and the builder of the new system, Mercato. Rick Warnar, interim head of markets, highlights what has been achieved and what the advantages are.
Responsive, real-time management of markets in The Hague
Before talking about the system itself, Rick emphasises the immense value of markets in society. “
The market is an outdoor event that achieves various social objectives. It contributes to the economy, provides employment and promotes social cohesion in a neighbourhood. The market fulfils primary needs but also has a ‘fun’ component, particularly in the case of the Haagse Markt. There are also various aspects relating to sustainability and enforcement. From all those perspectives we look at the organisation of our markets, the granting of permits, the primary processes and information provision.
The main objective of Mercato was to interconnect all those various components and processes around the organisation of markets. Whereas the market superintendent previously had to do everything inefficiently with a notepad, he can now view all relevant market information in real time on his tablet and thereby supervise market stallholders more effectively and provide them with better service. Do they have a permit? Are they in the right position? Have they paid? And, for example, is there anyone on the stall who has no work permit? That real-time operation was the real game-changer. The market superintendent now has all the facts at his fingertips and can therefore act decisively.
The major challenge in the creation of Mercato lay in involving all the stakeholders in the municipality. Since it covers so many aspects, there are many process owners in the municipality who have an interest in it. Devoteam’s task was to draw up the functional requirements in collaboration with all those departments and ensure that all their interests were safeguarded during the development process. In that sense Devoteam served as the link between the local authority and the creator of Mercato. And they performed that role magnificently. The agile development method was a great help, as it enabled the stakeholders to see the system gradually taking shape and to intervene in time if they felt it necessary. That close collaboration between the operational side and the provision of information is crucial for success. Devoteam facilitated that collaboration very effectively and, having regard to constantly evolving regulations, ensured that the successive versions of Mercato were thoroughly tested and went into production on time.
Mercato is now an indispensable part of our day-to-day work. All processes have been digitised, so we can access valuable data to achieve constant improvements in both the markets themselves and their supervision. We can even use MAC addresses to discover visitors’ footfall patterns, so it will also help us with the marketing. And thanks to links to the police, the tax authority and the social security agency, we can keep a closer watch to make sure the law is being complied with. Last year, for example, we carried out a data discovery project with data on stallholders, their merchandise and the registration numbers of their vehicles. That opens up new insights and we’ve already had to ban some stallholders due to various illegal acts such as money-laundering and working without a work permit. But services for stallholders are of course also very important. For example, we are currently working with Devoteam on a business portal in which the stallholders can view their own information and daily stallholders (those without a permanent pitch) can check in the evening to see whether a pitch is available for the following day. We’re also going to set up new links to the Chamber of Commerce and Municipal Personal Records databases.
That will enable Mercato to be constantly enriched and help ensure the smooth organisation of our markets. I believe The Hague is really leading the way with this solution and I can see why other local authorities are interested. Because why would you want to develop something yourself if there’s already a working solution that has proved its worth? Work has now also started with Devoteam on the development of GISIB, a solution focused not so much on the market processes, as in the case of Mercato, but on the management of municipal property. That includes, for example, the permanent market stalls with shutters in the Haagse Markt, but also other non-market-related property such as lampposts and fixed flower boxes in The Hague. In that way we’re contributing to the ongoing digitisation of government, cost reduction and improvement of our services.”