Focusing your Business Continuity Management (BCM) (Continuity of Operations (COOP))

The arrival of Covid-19 two years ago posed a serious and more difficult threat to most enterprises’ existence. The importance of business continuity management (BCM) in reducing possible hazards, speeding recovery, and meeting customer expectations has become critical for every firm, regardless of size, business vertical, government, or private entity. BCM is a methodology for determining an organization’s risk of being exposed to both internal and external threats. The purpose of BCM is to give the organization the capacity to respond effectively to risks such as pandemics, natural disasters, and data breaches while also protecting the organization’s commercial interests. Disaster recovery, business recovery, crisis management, incident management, emergency management, and contingency planning are all included in BCM.

When done correctly, BCM may provide any organization a competitive advantage. This is especially true if a disruption affects an entire group segment and you are able to respond or recover faster than your competition, reducing consumer inconvenience. When it becomes evident that you excel at dealing with operational disturbances, your brand will gain trust and certainty, allowing you to position your organization as a preferred alternative for your clients and even bolstering confidence and increasing shareholder value. This is no different in being a trusted government entity, department, or agency.

Understanding continuity and preparedness requirements, establishing business continuity management policies and objectives, implementing and operating controls and measures for managing an organization’s overall continuity risks, and continual improvement based on objective measurements are all covered by one internationally recognized standard, that being ISO 22301. The standard highlights the need of meeting and exceeding customer expectations in order to secure business longevity and revenue development.

It is critical that the thought leadership and every level of the organization understand the importance of readiness and continuity.

The most crucial part of developing a BCM is clearly articulating stakeholder demands; consequently, consumers must receive special attention because they are critical to the organization’s success. Focusing on customer needs will also allow the BCM to be fit for its purpose and provide the organisation with a clear picture of process criticality. As a result, you can expect positive results if you design and implement the business continuity plan from a customer’s perspective to drive the business impact analysis. Understanding your customers’ demands is critical to determining where you add value to them, as it allows you to prioritise and determine how much downtime is tolerable in various areas before affecting your bottom line.

Be S.M.A.R.T. about creating strategies and objectives for business continuity management.

Doing this guarantees that objectives are defined and matched with customer-oriented criteria. Internal and external dependencies that may have the greatest impact on an organization’s consumers are identified when policies and objectives are developed. Customer objectives should attempt to surpass consumers’ expectations rather than merely satisfying their requirements. As a result, any organization should make sure to provide top-notch quality consumer objectives. The goal of this setup is to ensure client retention, brand image, and eventually revenue growth.

There exists the importance of putting in place operational controls and procedures to manage an organization’s overall continuity risks.

Following the identification of customer demands and the establishment of essential policies and objectives for the organization, the next stage will be to implement controls that address and mitigate the identified risks. Because risks and changes are unavoidable in the environment in which your organization operates, a systematic approach to putting in place controls to reduce hazards is required. Setting up disaster recovery sites, business continuity strategies, and business continuity procedures are examples of these controls. Lack of these will eventually cause an organization to fail, leaving clients with little choice but to shift to competitors who will provide better choices, or at minimum a choice.

It’s a cycle of continuous development and improvement.

Continuous improvement is a continuous, cyclical endeavour to enhance goods, services, or processes. Processes are assessed and adjusted on a regular basis based on their efficiency, effectiveness, and adaptability to changing consumer requirements and business circumstances. Organizations employ a variety of approaches to structure the process of recognising and acting on opportunities for improvement. Six Sigma, Kaizen, Lean, and the Toyota Production System are examples of prevalent approaches. Although these approaches differ, they all share a common foundation in the continuous improvement paradigm and principles.

Small tweaks, rather than significant paradigm leaps or new breakthroughs, lead to improvements. One percent improvement a month leads to a 12% improvement annually. Employee suggestions are quite helpful. When Employees take ownership and are involved in incremental changes, which are often affordable to execute, improvement occurs.

And finally…one more thought.

Customers are the lifeblood of every organization, and this is something that every organization understands, or should understand. As a result, their pleasure is critical to the organization’s success, which may be secured by providing exceptional customer service. Customer happiness, brand image, and revenue growth have all been shown to improve when BCM is implemented. BCM is critical in this age of unpredictability, and enterprises are encouraged to use it to provide corporate stability and sufficiency for ever-changing client demands.

The Michael White Group International is an approved PECB ISO Standard(s) training provider. It all starts with a conversation.

Plan the Work. Work the Plan.

Reach out. We can help.

Should your Municipality need assistance, contact Michael White Group International today, and we will be happy to answer your questions. Visit michaelwhitegroup.com/contact/

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What is Boolean Logic?

Girl encircled by search icons and AI

What is Boolean Logic?

Have you ever wondered how a computer can do something like balance a check book, or spell-check a document? If you want to understand the answer to this question down at the very core, the first thing you need to understand is something called Boolean Logic.   [i]

Why do you need to understand Boolean Logic?

Well, as the use of artificial intelligence (AI) increases, it will be important for us all to understand it.  I am no expert on it by any means, but here’s my take on what I understand to be the very basic fundamentals of it, in the simplest and broadest of terms.

The term “Boolean” refers to a system of logic developed by the mathematician and early computer pioneer, George Boole.

A Boolean search is a query technique that utilizes Boolean Logic to connect individual keywords or phrases within a single query.
Boolean searching allows the user to combine or limit words and phrases in an online search in order to retrieve relevant results.  Boolean searching includes three key Boolean operators: AND, OR, and NOT which are used to limit, broaden and define the search results.
When these “operators” are used between two keywords, the search will result as follows:
  • A Boolean search for “Cats AND Dogs” will retrieve all documents that contain both words
  • A Boolean search for “Cats NOT Dogs”, will retrieve only documents that contain the word “Cats”
  • A Boolean search for “Cats OR Dogs”, will retrieve documents that contain either the word “Cats” or the word, “Dogs”
Wildcard Characters (? and *) are also used in Boolean Logic. 
  • “?” matches a single character (i.e. the search string “re?” will match both rest and rent)
  • “*” matches multiple characters (i.e. the wildcard search “res*”, will match rest, rested and resting.[ii]
Quotation marks require words to be searched as a phrase, in the exact order you type them. For example, when searching for posts about Asset Management, using the quotation marks will search for the phrase exactly as it appears (i.e., “Asset Management”).  It would not return  documents that contain both the words, Asset and Management, in any other combination.
There are other elements to Boolean Logic, but I don’t want to get you too far into the weeds.  
The main thing I wanted to achieve with this article is; a) to provide an introduction to Boolean Logic, for those of us who are new to it and, b) for you to understand that combining Boolean strings with AI-powered search filters to conduct a search, utilizes a search engine to its fullest, most comprehensive potential for optimum search results.
Susan Shannon, CEO
muniSERV.ca

[i] How Boolean Logic Works, by Marshal Brain, Science Direct

[ii] Gnowit Guide to Boolean Logic – Boolean Primer

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UCaaS is critical for any authority service improvement

what is UCaaS?

Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS)  is a network of cloud-based telephone system that controls the flow of calls coming in and out of your organization. We replace your on-premises PBXs, as well as your SIP, PRIs, and POTS lines. UCaaS enables you to use a variety of hosted programs and services (including instant messaging, video conferencing, file sharing, and email) over the Internet from any location and at any time.  In addition, UCaaS provides security, allows flexibility, and integrates well with your other software applications including MS Teams. UCaaS systems are updated frequently by the provider ensuring that your communication methods will always be up-to-date in our ever-evolving world.

Why UCaaS is critical for all customer-guided corporations?

 
GUARANTEES YOUR BUSINESS CONINUITY & SECURITY

Experteers can easily answer this for all municipalities and companies who care about their customers.

First of all we have to emphasize about the importance of continuity in all circumstances, UCaaS provides the best option to avoid your business any hiccups along the road because of any reasons. UCaaS is available on any communication device, laptop, or PC anywhere at anytime to be able to efficiently communicate with your customers.

Security is another crucial requirement for all connected networks, voice calls, video conferencing, and instant messaging are parts of all departments communications to enable them to work properly and deliver services. Experteers, as part of security provider, enable first layer of security by having all our servers in Canada, maintaining 100% availability by having four communication centers in main four cities in Canada in Montreal, Calgary, Vancouver, and Toronto, and to maintain the second layer of security by having all SOC certified centers.

INCORPORATES THE LATEST FEATURES

When you have UCaaS, you’ll be able to use all the latest functions and features without any additional cost. You’ll also have the assurance that your information is kept safe and secure in a reliable data center. Having the ability to keep your communications up-to-date allows you to remain competitive and helps to increase your overall performance.

 

OFFERS FLEXIBILITY AND SCALABILITY

UCaaS allows organizations to add and remove users (for example, temporary employees) without any significant infrastructure changes or capital investments. UCaaS also provides seamless work experiences for your employees since they are cloud-based and accessible from any location – great for those working remotely.

 

PROMOTES PRODUCTIVITY

By using a UCaaS system, your productivity increases. All of your employees have unified communications support that is sharable amongst all departments, and UCaaS integrates well with your other software applications (like CRM). UCaaS keeps communication lines open and provides ways for your employees to log into various devices to access their information (such as voicemails).

 

LAST BUT NOT LEAST

SAVES YOU MONEY

When switching to UCaaS, there are minimal upfront hardware costs – you only need phones. You will also have the ability to choose the services you need (and not waste money on the ones you do not). UCaaS allows you to concentrate on growing your business by decreasing your dependence on capital investments.

 

UCaaS

 

We at EXPERTEERS are helping municipalities, utility companies, and medical centers increase employee productivity by adding a state of the art Unified Communications Solution, enhancing collaboration and increasing employee efficiency.

  • Enable your team to work remotely (hybrid)
  • Train employees more efficiently with sentiment analysis
  • Monitor key performance metrics with automated reports
  • Boost company performance through detailed analytics & collaboration
  • .. and more

Let us help you improve your client experience, call us at EXPERTEERS to learn how we can help enable your business for success in 2022.

 

Experteers is a system integrator SI and managed service provider MSP for the following services:

– SASE / SD-WAN: to secure all ur networking between all branches.

– NGFW: Next Generation Fire Wall centralized to keep all networks secured in almost real-time updated system.

– NMS: Network Managed System to keep your visibility on all network elements and servers to improve your systems availability.

– Cyber-Security on all endpoints and servers

EXPERTEERS CORPORATION

WWW.EXPERTEERS.COM

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Can Public Service Access Be as Easy as Online Shopping?

For all levels of government, including municipalities, on-line services are no longer something to be considered for some unspecified future date. The private sector has set a new standard for a streamlined customer experience, and this has translated to much higher expectations for access to public services as well. This speaks to a demand to digitize citizen service request processes, from reporting concerns through to requesting permits or making payments. An increasingly tech-savvy population, continued evolution in technology, and the realities of the pandemic are all contributing to an accelerated need for this to be underway now and to happen quickly.

Benefits of digitizing citizen service requests

The benefits of digitizing public services are numerous. At the core, citizens who are satisfied with how they are served are far more likely to trust in their local governments, and far more likely to remain engaged the process of making their communities better. But there are more tangible benefits as well. For example, unlike brick & mortar service offices, online services make it easy to offer the convenience of 24/7 access from anywhere.  Studies have also shown that time spent by citizens or businesses interacting with public employees can be reduced by 50% or more. And furthermore, automation has the potential to reduce service request handling effort by as much as 60% resulting in a far more productive and satisfied workforce, shorter turnaround times, reduced backlogs, and more time to focus on innovation.

But there are challenges

Government agencies have considerable ground to make up in building a more citizen-centric culture and, in recent years, satisfaction with government agencies has actually declined. According to the 2021 American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), satisfaction with local government agencies ranks last in customer satisfaction among the 10 sectors and 47 industries included. Much of this can be attributed to differences in the degree to which services can be transacted online, but also to the fact that the private sector continues to raise the bar on online service expectations quicker than the public sector’s ability to keep up. Adding to this challenge is that the number of customer journeys requiring attention and automation within the public sector is typically greater than is the case for private businesses, while access to internal technical talent to execute is often in shorter supply.

Thoughts on How to be Successful

Given these challenges, digitization of public services can seem daunting, and will surely take time to fully realize. But to be successful, there are some key elements that need to be part of any transformation effort.

Clear Intent

Positive change through digitization will happen more quickly and will be more sustainable if there is clear intent from the outset, common and well-articulated goals, and genuine excitement and confidence on what the transformation team can accomplish together. This needs to start with committed leadership. To be successful however, there needs to be a collective sense of conviction and purpose that is shared by all parties responsible for implementation.

Keep the citizen at the forefront

Efforts to bring government services online must start with and maintain focus on the complete experience a citizen has with a local government, as seen from the citizen’s perspective. Each journey will have a clearly defined beginning and end, spanning a progression of touchpoints, and citizens don’t really know or care about who owns each individual step in the process. From their perspective, these are all part of one journey. And it shouldn’t be assumed that because some individual touchpoints are performing well, the overall citizen experience is meeting the need. By making the citizen’s experience as seamless as possible, operational efficiency and employee satisfaction will naturally follow.

Look for quick wins

Digitization plans of any scale will often fail if there is a sense that everything needs to be done at the outset. It is advisable to build momentum within the team and across stakeholder groups by prioritizing a small number of particularly painful journeys and adopting an agile approach to make these journeys better. This means releasing improvements iteratively in smaller, more manageable sprints, and making refinements continually based on feedback from the field. To quickly demonstrate value, it often makes sense to start with the front-end experience and to gradually introduce backend automation and integration over time. And yes, this may require internal teams to adopt a new way of working.

Manage citizen expectations within each journey

When you make a purchase online, as part of a digitized process it is customary to receive an indication of when your purchase will be shipped. And once shipped you receive additional notification of estimated delivery date along with a tracking number. As long as the communicated expectations are met you are likely to be left with a feeling of being well served independent of the amount of time taken, and will be more likely to use the same channel for future purchases. Public services should be no different. As an example, a citizen request management system should acknowledge receipt of a reported concern, set service level expectations, automate communication to the citizen for key updates, and confirm when the concern is resolved – all of this within a timeline that can reasonably be met. Trust and citizen satisfaction are sure to benefit when such an approach is adopted.

Measure and communicate results

One final thought relates to an imperative to establish KPIs that reflect how well any investment in digitizing services is paying off.  We suggest that a measure of citizen satisfaction always be included, but others such as staff hours spent per citizen service request, percentage of requests received through digital versus other channels, abandon rates, and others will also come into play. These metrics can be used to reinforce strategies that should remain at the forefront of any ongoing digitization efforts, and highlight areas that need further refinement or rework. Of equal importance, this will provide a basis for communicating value and success to stakeholders including city council, CAOs, departmental managers, the transformation team and, of course, the citizens that stand to benefit. This is critical to build momentum towards the ultimate goal of making citizen service requests as seamless as on-line shopping.

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2022 Security Risk Budget Outlook

Moving on up

At the onset of the pandemic, Security Risk budgets decreased as organizations shuttered their doors and employees left the office, and organizations under duress looked for places to cut costs. Many found their savings in the Security budget. But now, the potential to double or triple budgets in 2022 maybe a reality.

Our research shows approximately two-thirds of security budgets increased in 2021 from 2020, but still have yet to reach or return to 2019 levels. 2022 has the potential to change that.

As organizations are set to come back to life in 2022 security risk events have not gone away. In fact, the COVID-19 pandemic created new security challenges. The new challenges have yet to be solved, and as schools and businesses reopen / remain open during potential future surges, the security risks of the past return as well. In order to protect themselves from past, current, and future threats, organizations need to reinvest in physical security.

Really watch

Real camera surveillance and real-time monitoring integrated with a uniformed security guard force that is properly trained may be for some organizations the order of the day. High-caliber uniforms security guards and training necessary to protect against threats to an organization cost more than $15-20 an hour. Challenges will emerge to protect your organization, your information, your IP, your personnel. All of this may lead to an explosion of security requirements, and the budget.

Another factor contributing to budget increases in 2022 is executive protection. According to the Ontic 2021 Mid-Year Outlook: State of Protective Intelligence Report, 58% of CEOs and senior leaders who expressed a stance on political issues received physical threats. Senior Public Officials and local health department leadership who encouraged health measures like vaccination or mask-wearing have also become targets of physical threats. Against the backdrop of this increased threat landscape, executive protection has grown in importance among physical security professionals.

An inner look

These aforementioned types of threats could also come from inside an organization. Leadership will either take a stand, or not take a stand. The personnel of an organization expect their leaders to take a stand, whatever that might be, for or against a particular issue or concern. Unfortunately, pent up frustration surrounding decisions may not even be pandemic related, and at times still result in leaders being threatened. In many areas of the country, threats against “leadership” is foreign territory for many organizations.

Integration

The threat landscape has always been uncertain and rapidly changing. With many advancements in approach, strategy, and technology, organizations can protect themselves with integrated security risk strategies.

As both physical and cyber threats compound, organizations are tasked with protecting themselves on all sides. With increased and realized threats there is one unfortunate downside. Higher security costs as risks to supply chains, cyber and physical security risks increase. During this pandemic many organizations have unfortunately learned that their security profile may not be or has been at a level they had hoped it to be. New gaps have been found, existing weaknesses have become even weaker and due to other impacts of the pandemic, organizations may have struggled to get the necessary supplies, purchases and even personnel in a manner to which they were once accustomed.

Plug it

Identify your shortfalls, your gaps and plug the holes. A comprehensive risk assessment will assist in that process. If organizations fail to plug those holes, and as they begin to re-open even more, they unfortunately will remain or fall back into a vulnerable position.

Proactive hard work

Technology enhancements, uniformed security, executive protection, education, and plain old attentiveness and proactive behaviour towards security risks to quickly address existing and newfound challenges brought forth because of the pandemic will require increases in security budgets in 2022.

Now more than ever we need to move beyond reactive, and proactively secure our organizations.

It all simply starts with a plan.

We can Help.

Plan the Work. Work the Plan.

 

Should your Municipality need assistance, contact Michael White Group International today, and we will be happy to answer your questions. Visit michaelwhitegroup.com/contact/

 

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How COVID-19 Permanently Digitized Site Selection

Have you ever had a meal, gone on a date, or enjoyed a vacation so good it made you never want to repeat the lower quality experiences you’ve had in the past? Why would you want to eat bad food, date a loser, or suffer scratchy hotel sheets when you knew there was a better way for you to live and you could keep living that way? That ah-ha moment is the same realization that happened with corporate site selection during COVID, and why professionals will not go back to the old way of doing business.

The global pandemic was a disaster for business expansions and relocations, including foreign direct investment (FDI). The data is clear that these projects declined significantly as a result of the COVID pandemic, just like the overall economy. It was natural that businesses were unsettled by the economic upheaval, so they were uncomfortable making multi-million-dollar corporate location decisions without physically and personally “kicking the dirt” as part of their due diligence.

Economic developers couldn’t physically travel to meet with businesses considering a prospective location expansion into their community, especially internationally, due to legal restrictions. Likewise, corporations weren’t travelling to meet with real estate developers or EDOs. The risk was too great; death from a virus or becoming quarantined outside of a home country made even aggressive businesspeople reconsider traditional operating procedures.

When traditional business practices fail, new strategies get implemented to overcome the obstacles; no companies want to be stuck being unable to take action to move their company forward, even in an unprecedented pandemic. And that’s exactly what happened with corporate expansions and site selection projects.

The only way to do site selection analysis leading to corporate location expansions in a non-physical world was to go digital. As a result, business, corporate real estate, and economic development engaged in a test of purely digital site selection out of necessity. But the result of the experiment was that it worked. The outcome of this positive result is that many businesses are discovering there is an alternative and better way to do site selection.

Of course, the transition toward online site selection has been a gradual trend that has been growing for decades. The difference is that COVID was a stress test to see if corporate site selection could be accomplished 100% digitally. Like other industries, this trial-by-fire accelerated trends and is normalizing new practices into standard operating procedures.

Digitization was not an experiment and trial run that was unique to economic development:

 Like these other digital experiments, digital site selection has revealed new advantages and proven theories. Digital site selection:

  • Enables companies to consider more communities faster
  • Communities can be more easily compared with objective and consistent benchmark data
  • Assumptions about the need for in-person were proven incorrect and that they were replaced with web meetings
  • Taking multiple web meetings gets more accomplished and is faster than flying and driving to numerous in-person meetings
  • Economic development GIS site selection software met the challenge to deliver relevant location information and site selection analysis in real-time

Two key reasons that companies will not go back to the old way of doing site selection are 1) they have discovered digital is an acceptable/preferable alternative and 2) their success story is being amplified in awareness to CRE peers and CEOs in other companies through mainstream media.

What does this new digital reality look like for the process of site selection? How are site selectors themselves doing things differently? Join us tomorrow for Part II of How COVID-19 Permanently Digitized Site Selection.

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New! Drive time data for cars, trucks, walk time on ZoomProspector

We’re thrilled to introduce yet another new feature on ZoomProspector: adjustable drive time analysis for cars, trucks and walking. This is a game-changer for prospective investors who need to assess transportation logistics, commute times and travel distances for target clients travelling in different ways, on different days and at different times. In keeping with GIS Planning’s ongoing commitment to excellence in the user interface, we’ve designed this feature to be intuitive, visual and easy for your website visitors to find.

The new drive time analysis is easy to find – it’s an enhancement of the radius/ drive time buttons at the top of every single property and pinpoint report. Now when you click “Minutes,” you’ll see icons that let you select car, truck or walk, with an additional option to click on and adjust the date, time and destination – from or to the selected location. We’ve made it even easier by also adding these options directly on the map for those website visitors who prefer to make adjustments over there.

Miami Dade ZoomProsepctor walk drive truck timeIt’s easier than ever for economic developers to inform site selectors and businesses making location decisions as they research long and shortlists of suitable communities and properties. You can read more about our new adjustable drive time analysis here. You can also click here to learn more about the other map tools that make ZoomProspector the most innovative and user-friendly online GIS data tool for site selection?

Would you like to learn more about how ZoomProspector can help drive investment to your community? Click here to schedule an online meeting and demo.

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How ZoomProspector makes you look like an economic development rockstar

GIS Planning’s clients range from small towns with a single economic development person (who often also handles duties at the chamber, the city manager’s office etc.) to large cities or regional and statewide economic development agencies with large staffs.

But no matter the size of the EDO is, they always have more projects and incoming requests than people or time.

Fortunately, GIS Planning clients can rely on the equivalent of an extra staff member with ZoomProspector working for their region.

Closeup portrait happy excited young economic developer celebrating successZoomProspector is available to answer questions 24/7 from anyone who comes to your website, whether they’re a potential investor, site selector or local entrepreneur. The industry’s leading GIS web tool for economic development can always be relied upon to offer accurate, up-to-date information in clear, visually compelling ways. And while it can’t crack a clever joke in meetings, celebrate birthdays or join co-workers for drinks after work, it will also never take a vacation, steal your lunch from the fridge or leave the coffee pot empty.

Reliable, smart and unflappable, ZoomProspector is the staff member every economic developer wants on their team. It makes everyone around them look good by helping them succeed. It makes you look like a rock star by facilitating quick, reliable research and helping generate beautiful, branded reports and polished proposals.

We have clients who speak with businesses only after that business has (in effect) qualified themselves by gathering information and answering questions, using the powerful analytical tools and extensive datasets provided by ZoomProspector.

In a fast-paced digital world where people want that information before they take time to pick up the phone and connect in person, ZoomProspector offers a critical competitive advantage. In many cases, simple questions about a community’s demographics, labor force, businesses, wages, etc. can be answered on the public ZoomProspector site using a few clicks of a mouse button.

As the most intuitive and user-friendly GIS site selection data tool on the market (by a long shot), they don’t need training or guidance to do so. You can rest confident that you aren’t losing leads before you even know they exist.

When more extensive data requests or RFP’s come in, GIS Planning clients have the ability to pull down and compose sophisticated reports on their community, with custom mile or drive time analyses around specific available sites or buildings, or around a pinpoint on a map. They can easily build and export reports from ZoomProspector in a few minutes. When our economic development clients receive incoming requests from elected officials, members of their community, academics or journalists, they too can be handled easily and quickly. Thus such request is transformed from a time-consuming nuisance to an easily handled opportunity to network, engage and build or bolster relationships with stakeholders.

Our drag and drop proposal generator now enables our clients to begin a response to an RFP, or begin crafting a proposal, with one click, and from there it’s easy to include available sites and buildings with relevant data reports, even include video and photos.

Best of all, anyone can perform the same high-level, detailed analyses on ZoomProspector at any time of day or night. GIS Planning created ZoomProspector to be a public-facing, easy-to-use source open access data portal. Economic developers can simply point to their own public website to answer basic questions, direct marketing campaigns to the website as a “call to action”, and make their website an integral part of their information toolkit.

With our ZoomTour platform, our clients can go even further and offer an online immersive experience, using media ranging from still photos to video to drone footage, and (of course) GIS Planning data tools, to provide a guided tour of a community (or a part of the community like the downtown area, or specific business clusters etc.), available 24/7, 365 days per year.

Learn how GIS Planning’s innovative GIS data tools for economic development can serve your community. Book a demo today!

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Considering a SaaS Platform for Citizen Request Management? Here are Some Key Questions to Ask

Local governments are continually looking for ways to streamline their operations. But with increasing citizen demands for more modern and accessible digital services, along with limited and declining budgets, bridging all of these needs can be a challenge. A growing number of municipalities are moving to manage these challenges by adopting Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platforms for core operating functions.

In this article, we take a look at some of the key things to consider when selecting a SaaS solution specifically to underpin your citizen request management process.

Does the Service align well with your operational needs?

The answer to this question obviously needs to be a resounding yes, however when evaluating cloud-based citizen request management solutions it is critical to start with a clear understanding of what your true needs are – both immediate and longer term. First and foremost, preferred solutions should be designed from the ground up with the needs of local governments in mind for the best chance of a successful implementation. Where not the case, adaptation to your process requirements will likely be more difficult and prone to failure. Be equally wary of solutions that offer feature functionality that you can’t or won’t actually use as this will normally drive unnecessary cost, and also lead to sub-optimal usability and poorer uptake by staff. To fully benefit from the cost savings promised by moving to the cloud, also look for solutions that include tools that can be used by trained administrators within your organization to configure and customize the SaaS solution to your specific requirements without costly custom software development.

What considerations exist to keep the citizen fully engaged in the Service Request Management process?

In all aspects of local government operations, citizen engagement as a strategy to create better and more livable communities is seeing increased emphasis. Yet too often citizen involvement in the service request management process takes a back seat to internal tracking against the municipal assets that the requests relate to. Solutions that keep citizens at the forefront will leave them feeling well served and more compelled to contribute to the process. For example, a well-designed citizen request management platform should support multiple channels for the purpose of accepting requests so that citizens can interact how and when it works for them. Solutions should also be mobile friendly, automate communications for real-time status updates, respect WCAG guidelines for accessibility, and include on-line capabilities for citizens to view and comment on the requests they raise.

What do the SaaS vendor’s track record and reputation look like?

As is the case with any product or service purchase, an understanding of a vendor’s previous experience is a great leading indicator or whether their offer is right for you. When it comes to citizen issue tracking, look for companies that have been around for several years and that can demonstrate success with local governments having similar operations to your own. Speaking directly with appropriate reference customers should be a given. Credible software review sites like G2 and Capterra are also highly useful to gauge customer experience and success and to compare the different options that are available to you.

What happens to my pre-existing data?

If you are currently using an on-premise system for citizen service requests or have other sources of data that you have invested in over time, it is worth understanding the potential and ease with which this data can be preserved. Ideal solutions will provide administrative tools to simplify the data import process. And where source data needs to be cleaned or transformed to make this possible, your SaaS solution vendor should be able to provide professional services expertise to support required ETL efforts.

Can I take a graduated approach to switching over?

Setting aside the many benefits of a cloud-based solution, new technology will always involve change for your staff and, for this reason alone, you might be interested in starting small and evolving the use of the new platform over time. For managing citizen service requests, solutions that you consider should easily support adoption by a single department or limited number of users in parallel to other departments continuing with existing processes. This can reduce risk, provide an opportunity for user feedback and help to validate the business case for other departments.

What assurances can the vendor provide regarding security, performance and resiliency?

Continuity of your operations and security of your data are critical considerations, and a cloud approach necessarily involves placing trust in your selected vendor to have these in hand. For vendors with any significant customer base, the good news is that these requirements should have received a lot of attention and certified experts will likely have been involved in architecting and securing the hosting environment. But given the nature of citizen request data, you will want to make sure that an acceptable privacy policy exists and that handling of personally identifiable information is understood. It is also important to know what safeguards exist against DDOS attacks or other malicious behaviours, and whether redundancy exists for high availability and disaster recovery purposes. And finally, you will want to ask questions about data backup procedures that are in place, including frequency and location.

How well is integration with other systems supported?

If you find yourself in a position where you need to integrate the citizen request solution with other back-office systems, ask how these integrations can be supported for your unique use case. The principal needs are for the vendor to provide open APIs that allow for secure data exchange between systems, along with professional services to support these efforts. If a vendor has created pre-built connections to leading application integration hubs like Zapier even better as this could greatly reduce the effort and cost involved.

What onboarding, training and support resources are provided?

No evaluation would be complete without gaining a high-level of confidence that onboarding will go smoothly and that your vendor will be there to support your success with the selected citizen request management platform over the long term. Mature vendors will employ a customer experience team and provide a proven process to get you up and running quickly, train your administrative personnel and end users, and guide you through branding and configuring the solution to meet your specific needs. Also look for a searchable online knowledge base where answers to common questions can be found, and a robust and responsive ticketing process for situations where additional vendor expertise is needed.

What are the details of the pricing model?

A clear benefit of moving to the cloud is that it avoids any upfront CAPEX spend when municipal budgets are tight, however the SaaS solution that is right for you should result in lower total cost of ownership over the long term. Costs for available citizen request management solutions are highly variable so, first and foremost, look for a service that is priced right for the operating scale of your municipality. Depending on the simplicity of the pricing model, costs may vary based on metrics like user counts, data storage requirements, transaction volumes or number of modules included. As discussed above, your use of the platform could very well expand over time and any potential price increases should be easy to understand and reasonable.

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Congratulations to the Municipality of Meaford!!

Congratulations to our AccessE11 customer, the Municipality of Meaford for receiving the 2021 CAMA Willis Award for Innovation!

The Municipality of Meaford has received national recognition for its “Report a Concern” AccessE11 Website Portal from the Canadian Association of Municipal Administrators (CAMA).  The Municipality was presented with the 2021 CAMA Willis Award for Innovation, in the Under 20,000 population category, during a Virtual Awards of Excellence Ceremony held May 11th.

Meaford identified the need to adopt technology that would integrate and provide a streamlined process in managing citizen requests.  As a result, the municipality partnered with AccessE11 for the implementation of a cost-effective, robust, cloud-based software solution focused on the supporting the municipality’s requirements related to customer management. This is a “lean six sigma” software solution, which is deep-rooted and focused on addressing the needs of the customer first.

 “CAMA is pleased to recognize the Municipality of Meaford for the innovation and best practice being demonstrated by their website portal,” said Jake Rudolph, outgoing president of CAMA and Chief Administrative Officer for the City of Nanaimo, BC.  “Using technology that allows residents to report their concerns online is a great way to enhance limited resources, put the customer first, and gather data for planning purposes.”

Watch the video here

Congratulations Meaford!!

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