Citizens First: How Office 365 can help local government drive more responsive

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    Ashley Johnson

    The goal of any successful and forward-thinking local government is to provide effective and responsive services to citizens. Today, many small to medium size cities currently respond to issues and requests manually; an ineffective and outdated solution to a modern, pressing problem.

    So why don’t cities and counties upgrade their systems and their processes to a more technologically innovative approach as opposed to an outdated one? Cost is obviously a big factor, but also until just recently the technology was not available. With the advent of cloud technology, it is available and it’s empowering cities and counties to transition from a department-focused strategy to a citizen-centric strategy.

    As local government has grown, it has done so through department siloes resulting in the absence of a citizen-centric system. As a result, local governments are driven by a department-centered structure when there needs to be a citizen first structure. This department-centric approach drives up response times, leads to inefficiencies, and is not conducive to citizen issues and requests and will ultimately cost more in the long run.

    Evolving to new technology or a platform that puts citizens at the center doesn’t have to be cost prohibitive. A solution is available that provides a direct path to better, more responsive city services for a modern city at a cost within reason.

    Here at SP Marketplace we have worked with over 500 small to medium organizations to extend Office 365 beyond basic email and document storage to transform their organization by delivering improved customer service and employee productivity within tight budgets. It is a natural fit for local governments who are challenged to do more with less.
    One challenge that local governments face is traditionally services are delivered through siloed departments and agencies with their own policies and procedures. Department and agency siloes make it difficult for citizens to find what they are looking for and submit requests. This can lead to frustration and a breakdown in a city’s or county’s ability to communicate with citizens and deliver services.

    Imagine if a city or county could respond to a service request within the first few minutes of a website visit? And the citizen who submitted the request was automatically kept informed of the service delivery? Satisfaction and trust would go up drastically and citizens would be more likely to engage with their local government.

    Department siloes aren’t the only challenge with aging city and county services. Often with older systems, manual processes are still in place that could be swapped out for automated processes to improve not only the quality of response but also increase the quantity as well.

    Today, requests are often captured and handled manually by email or phone, which is inefficient and these requests can’t be associated with a trackable project or task. They also often get lost among the hundreds of other emails from varying departments.

    One lost email request may not seem monumental but what if that request was for a blocked drain. Beyond service itself, not responding could lead to larger consequences. If that request was not routed to the correct departments or staff, that issue could become a larger problem, turning into a flooded street. Seem important now?

    More resources, time and capital costs will be required to respond to that issue rather than if that initial request had been addressed in the first place. Allowing for these types of citizens’ proactive service requests can extend the reach of your team.

    311: Addressing Ease of Access
    A citizen services system is essential for any viable city. The key though is to make it easy for citizens to engage using whatever device or media is convenient for them. In the past, supporting multiple forms of media meant separate costly software, networks and programming that was out of the reach for many small to medium local governments. Today, Office 365, Microsoft’s cloud productivity platform, offers the functionality for that and creates a citizen-centric ecosystem that allows citizens to easily interact with local government and receive notifications.

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