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By Tom Amburgey
Some government departments have it easier than others when it comes to using social media. Take the city or county Parks and Recreation department for example. Latest event photos are frequently shared and enjoyed on platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, and they typically don’t have trouble gaining followers. But how can other departments with mission critical responsibilities – such as the Finance Department – embrace the power of social networks?
Let’s talk about how the finance director can help set the direction for earning engagement on social media, even though they appear to have fewer programs and activities that directly impact the public. The truth is, however, that a Finance Department’s mission isn’t less applicable to the public than a department that is more in the public eye, it’s just not as obvious.
There are several uses for social media that the director can consider. The social environment perfectly complements those agencies that are working on being as transparent as possible with taxpayers in their community. One example would be using social media to report and explain expenditures or big budget items. With this, directors are helping citizens gain a clear understanding of their government operations as well as promoting citizen engagement in positive events.
Another example would be using social platforms to simplify complex processes or requirements. For instance, using hashtags such as #tips and #howto are perfect ways for designating quick bits of information designed to help educate citizens and businesses regarding important government processes. Platforms with a length requirement, such as Twitter, force departments to think about the best and simplest way to explain difficult processes. Using short YouTube ‘explainer videos’ hosted by personable department heads can help facilitate public understanding of answers to common questions the entity receives. A well placed series of #howto communications can engage citizens at a new level and ensure they see the benefit of their local government.
Lastly, visuals and illustrations traditionally perform extremely well on social media. Although it is not obvious to citizens at first glance, finance operations can be very visual. Budgetary reporting is a major part of finance department services, and graphics such as pie charts and even statistics can be highly shareable on platforms such as Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram. An added bonus is that these graphics are already being designed in order to share them with elected officials and other stakeholders, so there is minimal work on the part of staff to create this type of highly shareable content.
While finance departments typically work most closely with department heads, agency leadership and elected officials, there is still a great deal that the public can learn and understand about why certain financial decisions are made. Gaining public buy-in for fiscal decisions can be made easier when directors show internal support for the use of social media in daily business operations.
By Nathan Hershkowitz
Government customer service operations have traditionally allowed citizens ask a question, initiate a service request or submit feedback. As these “311 center” operations have evolved to online systems, many now also let residents and contractors initiate the permit process with the community development department, schedule inspections or pay fees online.
Hundreds of cities and counties have implemented 311 service operations over the last 30 years. Services have evolved dramatically from basic call centers to full multichannel operations that include a number of ways to connect with the agency. Residents and businesses have come to rely on this interaction as the most efficient way to interface with their government.
The public expectation for service requests has evolved. Some agencies receive hundreds of customer inquiries daily, so the ability to shift from traditional phone calls to other channels like web chat, social media or text messages is key. The best outcome from both a cost perspective and customer service standpoint is a true self-service model where residents and contractors can find the information they need at any time, place and on any device.
Technology advancements allow citizens and contractors the ability to track their service request from initiation to completion, reducing the need to tie up government staff answering status updates. In many cases, prospective renters or buyers of a specific parcel can now view the history behind the property. Agencies also benefit greatly by encouraging residents to be the community “eyes and ears” to help report nuisance properties, graffiti, overflowing garbage cans, and the list goes on. Everyone wins if city or county staff can spend more time fixing problems rather than searching the community for violations.
Mobile applications now enable inspectors and officers to carry information about permits, code enforcement cases and related inspections on any of their devices in the field (including tablets and smartphones). Inspectors can modify inspection status, enter results and notes, and schedule inspections, without needing to return to the office to input the information.
Finally, we see another important and exciting aspect of this digital transformation of citizen services – better data. With better data, agencies can take action (for instance, having smarter street cleaning schedules) to save in a number of ways, including labor, fuel and equipment. It will be very exciting to see what the next 30 years of citizen service innovation will bring, along with the benefits to citizens, government and industry!
For more information on these services, read our latest case study.
A rapidly growing community, the City of San Clemente, California experienced a building and construction boom in the last decade as its population swelled from 49,000 to more than 63,000. This growth increased the urgency for sensible land use and building permitting processes. For that reason, the City’s leaders became pioneers in solutions that addressed these issues. As such, San Clemente was an early adopter of the TRAKiT Land Management Software from SunGard Public Sector.
TRAKiT, added to SunGard’s portfolio through its acquisition of CRW Inc., offers communities like San Clemente greater flexibility and automation in land use and building projects. TRAKiT consists of easy-to navigate modules tightly linked through a GIS-centric database that makes community development information accessible.
“In San Clemente, the building division, planning, code enforcement, engineering division, and business license group now all use the TRAKiT system,” said Mike Jorgensen, Building Official, San Clemente, CA. “We have found that the TRAKiT system has dramatically increased communication between our divisions, and has also dramatically increased the accuracy of the data we all share.”
TRAKiT’s core modules include:
Perhaps most importantly, TRAKiT also provides a new avenue for applicants to communicate with and understand their work with agencies. eTRAKiT provides a new portal for applicants to log in and access relevant information for their cases.
“The eTRAKiT system allows applicants to check the status of their projects online,” Jorgensen added. “It has dramatically reduced, if not eliminated, the number of phone calls that our staff has been involved in.”
For more information about SunGard Public Sector’s TRAKiT suite of community development applications, please click here.
Local governments, public safety and justice agencies, non-profit organizations, and the citizens they serve can envision the future happening today with SunGard Public Sector.