Guest Blog from City of Pittsfield, Massachusetts
Our citizen reporting application wasn’t meeting our needs—it was outdated and cumbersome, and we needed a better tool. I spoke with my Business Development Executive, Ken Cutroneo, about what Accela could provide, and never imagined the possibilities! We were looking for a more robust, digital communications system that would simplify how residents submit requests, receive updates and access city information, and we wanted it to be easy and a time-saver for our staff to use as well. We found our answer in the Accela Citizen Relationship Management (CRM) solution.
Implementation a breeze
Once I started the process of building our requests, departments, users and workflows into the system, it became evident I could get to a very granular level. Our process was simple at first—take everything in the old system and ask departments if they wanted anything changed in the Accela one. Next came building each request type and workflow, which initially was a strict transition from one service to the next.
The beauty of the Accela CRM experience came when I started to explain to departments that they could custom-tailor their request types down to individual fields on individual forms. Once request types, departments, users, and workflows were completed the training began. I discovered that Accela clearly offers something for everyone in our municipality—department heads love the interface with visual representations of requests and the reporting capabilities that far outweigh our current system; staff members love Accela’s highly customizable ability to tailor request types down to the minutest of details.
Features to better serve citizens
Once we began training departments, each session would consist of walking the staff through the experience of a typical citizen submitting a request, and showing exactly what they would see and experience in a real-world environment. I would then switch to the staff side and show them the same request and how the staff would handle it. The staff was in awe of the program’s ease and customizability and the features it offered. Everyone loved the mapping capability and the instantaneous response to citizens.
Next we got to the mobile app, which we walked through from both a citizen and staff perspective. The mobile app was a huge hit for staff who found it would be great to have the ability to create and update issues in the field.
Managing specific request types
Our training provided the opportunity for a lot of discussion and input from different departments, some with very specialized needs. The Department of Public Services wanted to add a vendor to the system to allow them to enter all street light calls, track outages and repairs. We created a login for the vendor, assigned them to the specific request types, and on the back-end created custom fields to input their repairs by type so the vendor and the city could see exactly what number of repairs were due to a certain piece of equipment.
Another specific request came from our water department, who up to this point had been bogged down in a heavy paper-centric environment and unable to analyze any of the repair data. Using Accela Citizen Relationship Management, we created an internal request for sewer blockages and customized workflow so that the sewer foreman can now with the click of a mouse get in reports what used to take him days or weeks to get manually. By leveraging the custom fields in the request type, his crew can complete the form on their iPad while sitting in their trucks. When they complete the request, the data is immediately available for reports. The sewer foreman now has the ability to structure his workflow based on the data he receives from Accela, thereby greatly increasing his productivity.
Workflow that works
After their training was complete, the fire department wanted a way to track repairs to their fire apparatus. We created an internal request type that allows officers to log in and update any repairs needed on their apparatus. The workflow routes the request to the fire department mechanic, who then completes the repair and updates the request. There is one generic login for all fire department officers to use, however we created a report by location for each station so that they only have to select the report for their specific fire station to track any repairs made to the specific apparatus belonging to that fire station.
Even our Mayor’s office got into the mix when the Executive Assistant to the Mayor realized the benefits Accela Citizen Relationship Management provided. She loved the fact that at a glance she would be able to see on a map which requests were submitted, in progress, outstanding and completed, for specific request types. This translated into huge time savings for her as she would normally have to take the citizens information when they called into the Mayor’s office to report an issue and then relay the request to the specific department which had oftentimes already completed the request.
Accela CRM is truly a robust platform benefiting citizens and municipalities. It increases productivity while providing the ability to track resources and hold vendors accountable. The solutions Accela provides are limited only by the creativity and needs of the municipality using the program. From my perspective, Accela CRM is a highly recommended, customizable, flexible and state-of-the-art platform for municipalities of all sizes.