By Kimberly Hoffman
With over 50 percent of the world’s population living in urban areas for the first time in history, cities are facing daunting issues as the march towards urbanization creates new challenges of modernization, scale and sustainability.
Doing New with Less
While the need to do more with less is evident, it is imperative to broaden the conversation to include cities that are doing “new with less,” i.e. cities that are finding innovative and cost-effective solutions to meet and exceed residents’ needs. Microsoft is helping many cities, such as Grand Rapids, Michigan and Charlotte, North Carolina do just this.
Microsoft takes a people first approach to innovation that empowers governments to harness the ideas, energy and expertise within their cities to create healthier, safer and more sustainable places to live. Microsoft is uniquely equipped to enable this approach with a portfolio of specific solutions and technologies like Microsoft Dynamics, Office 365 and Windows devices. Together they can enhance collaboration, improve transparency and streamline processes, which in the end create better citizen services and community engagement within cities.
Innovating the Citizen Call Center
The City of Grand Rapids, Michigan is a great example of a city striving for greater transparency in a time of budget constraints and diminished operational costs. Residents of Grand Rapids wanted assurance that elected officials were running a lean operation, but still expected a high level of service from city government.
To address these challenges, Grand Rapids created a 311 citizen services and information department. This department provides citizens with a single number to call for a variety of requests and issues, as well as a web portal to submit requests and monitor city performance. To facilitate cross-functional processes required by this new service paradigm, the city needed a technology platform that could connect numerous departments to the citizens. By leveraging Microsoft Dynamics CRM (customer relationship management), the city was able to quickly improve citizen services and utilize resources more effectively.
“The Microsoft 311 Service Center accelerator and Microsoft Dynamics CRM combination gives us a wide range of automated capabilities, including service-request tracking, call scripts, a citizen Web portal, mobile access, and interactive mapping,” explains Ryan Harris, CRM Practice Manager for the City of Grand Rapids. “We can tailor the reports using Microsoft Dynamics CRM,” says Harris. “Posting them for public view helps achieve our mission of being as transparent as possible so citizens can see exactly how well the city handles service requests.”
Redefining How Cities Manage Events
Another example of a city government striving to achieve balance between operational effectiveness and constituent management is the City of Charlotte, North Carolina. When it was announced the 2012 Democratic National Convention would be held in Charlotte, the city knew immediately that it was time to implement a streamlined event permitting process to handle the large influx of events and requests around the convention. The city chose Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online to support event permits in a single system, replace manual processes, and empower staff and citizens with the information they need to more effectively manage events and inquiries.
With Microsoft Dynamics CRM in place, City of Charlotte staff successfully supported the Democratic National Convention and now have a central repository for event information and event management overall, including major regional events such as Food Lion Speed Street, Taste of Charlotte and the CIAA Tournament.
“We will be able to take Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online well beyond our initial use. By year end, it will include an e-commerce piece for accepting permit payments, and we are even looking at it to support other government services, such as code enforcement,” says Emily Cantrell, Organization Development Specialist, Neighborhood & Business Services, City of Charlotte.
Making a Real Impact
Cities are already on their journey towards modernizing today. They face many challenges in preparing for the future and Microsoft is helping them get there, now and into the future. Working together, Microsoft, our partners and city leaders are making the most of existing investments and finding the right combination of solutions and partnerships to accelerate innovation and create sustainable cities in which people can make a real impact for a better tomorrow.
Visit Microsoft at the 2013 Congress of Cities in Seattle from November 13-16, 2013.
See firsthand some of the innovation Microsoft is helping cities deliver around the world:
To see what Microsoft is doing to help define the next steps in city modernization, visit www.microsoft.com/citynext.
Try CRM Free Today
To receive free trials of Microsoft Dynamics solutions for city government, visit the Dynamic City CRM App Store at www.crm-appstore.com.
Kimberly Hoffman is the Industry Market Development Manager for the U.S. Public Sector for Microsoft Dynamics. In this role, she is responsible for the strategy development and execution of initiatives for Microsoft Dynamics across federal, state and local governments as well as the education and healthcare sectors.