Dan Ault, Chief Innovation Officer & Assistant Town Manager, Town of Cary
The Journey to CRM in Local Government
Working in local government today is defined by the journey to find and implement a technology system that can be described but doesn’t exist. Endless RFP’s have been responded to claiming to be the system. The promise is that once found it will rejuvenate local government, arming cities with the tools and information needed to effectively run cities. At this point it seems almost mythical. It feels like a search for the fountain of youth.
Customer—or perhaps more accurately stated as Citizen— relationship management (CRM) technology is not the fountain of youth for local government. However, deploying CRM is the most important piece to capturing the essence of the system that’s alluded generations of local government employees.
For decades, CRM has successfully helped private sector organizations streamline customer information, marketing and contact details to drive a long-term sales growth. Given those origins it’s not a surprise that government, and in particular local government, has still only scratched the surface with CRM. Think about it: every person is a contact who consumes local government services.
Over the last decade the game changer has been the way CRM platforms have maximized the cloud, mobile and social advancements. Bringing these innovations right into the enterprise infrastructure of CRM. The result is that it has allowed organizations to leverage the power of CRM beyond the traditional areas. Allowing organizations more convenient ways to work together and have a more unified approach across the enterprise.
Everyone agrees that technology such as CRM that puts citizens at the center of everything we do is good idea. So why is it such a challenge? It’s because the roadblocks to success are adaptive challenges. Which are especially difficult during uncertain times.
The organizational structure that is still used in local government today came out of the last industrial revolution. It really hasn’t changed that much since. It’s a system that is aligned to specialize and maximize excellence vertically. Legacy technology has reinforced this. Most procurement rules and laws were designed for legacy systems. Which means local governments almost always still procure and implement technology in the same manner as on premise projects from 20 years ago. Which provides legacy technology and legacy technology models an advantage. This one example of the types of adaptive challenges requires constant review and analysis.
Two Things to Consider With A CRM Initiative
For any organization to consider embarking on a CRM initiative, move forward with the ultimate goal of creating an environment where people help people. People as part of the culture of the organization, as well as the ultimate consumers, the citizens. It’s that simple.
There is one factor that very broadly determines success and that’s the organization’s culture. A culture that promotes change agents and encourages co-creation is going to maximize their CRM return on investment. Having the right culture is so important. It’s what allows for innovation. In local government we take for granted the diversity of positions that’s in every city. Too often we take for granted their unique perspectives. CRM is the tool that can be equalizer for local government employees. It facilitates the best ideas surfacing to serve citizens.
Organizations that use helping people as a lens to reflect on how they’re using or implementing CRM are going to be wildly successful. It keeps the focus on what matters. It also provides for an effective way to address detractors.
Final Thoughts on CRM in Local Government
CRM can become the primary work system for all 311 or non-emergency departments a secondary work system for 911 departments. This creates a common work system maximizing collaboration and the ability to cross train. It can become the enterprise database used in every department. However, for CRM to be successful requires that the culture of local government change. CRM has to be a tool that helps local government employees grow and become the best version of themselves. If the culture isn’t right, CRM is destined to become another technology casualty in the search for the fountain of youth in local government.