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The city of Olathe, Kan., began its digital transformation journey roughly six years ago by consolidating the information on its website — but modernization involves continuous change and re-evaluation, say those leading the charge.

Digital transformation and optimal service delivery has been a long and intentional journey for the city of Olathe, Kan.; and it’s a journey that officials say has no real endpoint.

In 2016, the city consolidated its online resources into one easy-to-navigate website, and most recently, in November, city staff took another run at making that portal as user friendly as possible.

As Digital Programs Manager Scott Meyer explained, improving digital services is a city task without a specific destination — rather, it’s an effort to continually move in the direction of a more efficient digital experience for customers.

MODERNIZING STARTS WITH A PLAN

When he started working with the city as a digital communications manager, it was apparent that existing digital offerings available to constituents were unorganized — “more or less, a storage closet,” Meyer said.

This problem is what led to the 2016 partnership with Granicus, a company that provides the public sector with customer engagement and technology services, for a website refresh. The initial refresh involved the consolidation of the information and resources that were on the city’s website in a way that would make navigation user friendly.

The effort consolidated some 1,600 pages of content down to 400 pages, and website traffic doubled.

“We had feedback from customers asking if we actually added services, but that was mostly because they could actually find what they were looking for in an easy manner,” he stated.

What guided this effort was the focus on an improved customer experience, as defined in Olathe 2040: Future Ready, the city’s strategic plan. This being the focus of leadership helped the city let customer feedback guide design through the initial website refresh — and the progress since.

This progress includes the implementation of email and outreach modernization in December 2016 with govDelivery; agenda and meeting management updates in October 2018 with govMeetings; the launch of a digital service hub in April 2022 with govService; and most recently, another website redesign that was rolled out in November 2022.

This recent website redesign involved making the desktop-driven website more mobile friendly to meet customers where they are — even on the go.

LOOKING FORWARD

In the new year ahead, Meyer said the modernization includes expanded use of the city’s digital services model. This includes identifying services that can and should be moved into that platform and making sure use is efficient.

“We can now know and understand where our customers are inside of our overall experience and help them,” he stated. “Not just help them individually, but we can also then start to see what’s working, what’s not working and be nimble in that approach to change or edit or manage things a little bit differently.”

And for other cities looking to modernize their digital service offerings, Luke Norris, vice president of platform and digital transformation at Granicus, underlined the importance of leveraging data — both numerical and categorical.

His recommendations were to collect as much data as possible, have a goal or outcome in mind, and make sure there is leadership that can champion the project.

“I think the work gets done and implemented in a way that is really focused on that alignment because of having somebody that’s really curious and driven by understanding what’s possible,” Norris said.

FROM OBSTACLE TO OPPORTUNITY

While city leaders had a vision in mind for what they wanted to accomplish, the primary challenge in reaching it was the state of city data at the outset.

For example, digitizing certain business processes for digital services posed a challenge because, initially, some processes were not well documented — if they were documented at all, Norris explained.

These process gaps were created and grew in part because the personnel with historical knowledge had left their roles. However, this was also an opportunity for improvement, Meyer explained, as it gave staff with subject matter expertise an opportunity to evaluate processes and workflows to see if they were as efficient as possible.

And from a technical standpoint, Granicus was able to meet people in the city where they were with technical literacy by offering low-code and no-code technology solutions that could be easily implemented — but other training was needed.

“But we also know we have to equip them with the right skills, and we don’t mean tech skills,” Norris explained. “We mean, how do we help them think about the customer experience? How do we equip them with a mindset and an understanding so that they can be human-centered and data driven?”

This ideology helped with process redesign so that customer experience remained the priority throughout the modernization journey, and will continue to guide modernization through this partnership moving forward.

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Quelle/Source: Government Technology, 15.12.2022

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