City hall Customer Relationships software isn't doing what is was expected to do -neither are the people hired to make it work.

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

February 11th, 2020



There is much more background in a report from the Audit committee that will be going to a Standing committee later this week on the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) service the city has been struggling to get efficiently operational.

Kearns with Mike

Ward 2 Councillor Lisa Kearns – saw some serious problems and didn’t see much in the way of solutions.

The first the Gazette heard that the problems were serious was when ward 2 Councillor Lisa Kearns reported to her constituents that she was experiencing problems.

The Audit Committee report provides a lot of background. In their report they provide seven audit findings that are cause for concern.

Burlington has been talking about finding a way to communicate more effectively with people – city hall calls them customers, since 2016 when they hired AtFocus Inc., a consulting firm, to help create a Customer Service strategy for the city. The project was given the working title of Service Brilliance – which unfortunately hasn’t exactly shone.

Add to the CRM was a Knowledge Base which combined, was to improve customer service in city services through greater efficiencies in the management of queries, requests and issues.

Most Burlingtonians wanted to stick with the kind of situation where they can just call their Councillor or a staff member and get answers to their questions. That wasn’t the way city hall saw things working. There isn’t a staff directory on the city web site.

The city chose a solution developed by Rock Solid Technologies specifically designed to address CRM in medium to small sized municipalities and is integrated with Microsoft Dynamics. RSTI uses a cloud based hosting provider.

The project has a Steering committee – 9 department directors and the project manager; the city manager is described as the Project Champion.

The team consists of:

Project manager (project dedicated),
Business operations coordinator (project dedicated),
IT business analyst (originally part-time; now project dedicated),
Business lead (part-time from Clerk’s Department),
Business process coordinator (part-time),
Corporate change management lead (originally part-time, now project dedicated),
Communications lead (part-time

The CRM project has faced a long journey to acceptance within the organization. The idea for CRM was first proposed over 10 years ago.

The project began in early 2016 and its place as a corporate project was established in 2017. Since then, the project has experienced several challenges

The project team was originally established within Clerk’s Department and transitioned to the Corporate Strategy and Projects Office in early 2018.

Project Manager –this role has been filled by 4 individuals since the project started in2016. The most recent transition occurred in May 2019.

Business Lead –This role has recently transitioned to a new City employee. The previous business lead had significant corporate knowledge of the project given their role as initial project manager and their involvement in the RFP, vendor selection and privacy impact assessment.

Project Champion –This role transitioned to a new employee in January 2019.  That new employee is the city manager.

Training Lead –This role has recently changed.

Steering Committee –The steering committee was the original Customer Service Steering Committee(since 2015), transitioning to the project steering committee with membership expansion/change in 2018.

Corporate change management lead–this role was assigned to the project, with 20% availability, in early 2018.

Information Technology –the involvement of ITS in the project was limited. While involved in the RFP process and vendor assessment, their involvement in the implementation was focused on integration with existing systems and preliminary security assessments.

The scope of the audit that was done – which is the report being presented to the Standing Audit committee on Wednesday, was limited and specifically excluded the procurement/purchasing process and decision leading to the selection of Rock Solid Technology as the vendor for CRM software and implementation support.

There were seven audit findings.

Governance where performance and responsibility were looked at.

The CRM project charter indicates project oversight by named individuals who are directors of participating departments, managers from partner functions, and the project manager.

Whether a program or a project, clarity of roles, responsibilities and decision-making authority establish the foundation for accountability, improve productivity, save time, minimize conflict and set shared expectations and understanding of the project/program mission and deliverables.

The breadth and depth of discussions, member participation, and meeting frequency are factors contributing to project governance. When any one or all of these factors are not operating as intended, the governance of the project may not be effective.

The current pause in the CRM project implementation provides the opportunity for the steering committee to re-group and consider its mandate and effectiveness including: Definition of broader plans to coordinate and implement initiatives to deliver the Service Brilliance Strategy. Clearly define the roles, responsibilities and authority of the steering committee, project sponsor, and project team members in an updated project charter (or program charter.

Conduct a self-assessment of the Steering Committee’s effectiveness considering quality of information for discussions, meeting attendance and meeting frequency.

Establish a decisions document to track key decisions made by the steering committee, project sponsor, and project manager. This log will also support on-boarding of new steering committee members, project team members and on-going operations.

There is far too much detail in the lengthy staff report for a normal news report.

The problems with the service the city wants to put in place have resulted in a pause until the issues are resolved.

It will be interesting to see what Staff add to the report they want council to receive and what Council has in the way of questions.

The public isn’t happy, staff are not happy; the staff turnover has been alarming.

More once the Audit Standing Committee has met.

Related news story:

Kearns brings up problems with the way constituents deal with the city.

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7 comments to City hall Customer Relationships software isn’t doing what is was expected to do -neither are the people hired to make it work.

  • Perryb

    In the mid 1990s I was heavily involved in an internal implementation of CRM in a major Canadian organization. At that time, we were literally inventing it. We had lots of charts and research on how all the pieces fit together in an all-encompassing framework supported by software systems and job descriptions.. Senior management was all in favor and gave the go ahead. But quickly, my project evolved into something new: Change Management. This is how you lead people to evolve into new roles and become successful and committed to them. If you can’t lead the people to change, you will fail. Change must start from close work at the grass roots – you can’t make it happen from above. We had the advantage of no bureaucracy to speak of – bureaucracies instinctively resist change and close ranks to defend the status quo. My company later made a lot of money in consulting engagements based on what we learned. Since then, these lessons gradually have faded as CRM has come to be seen as just a question of installing a few apps and training people to use them, ignoring that CRM is an really an attitude and a culture.

  • Penny Hersh

    Anne and Dave this information came from Lisa’s Ward 2 Newsletter last week. You can sign up and receive it.

  • RobN

    The City has 890 full-time at 600 part time employees.

    Having an extensive IT back ground implementing systems, first glance shows this project is seriously understaffed. Part time staff in any of the delivery roles will not lead to success.

    Who are the consultants implementing the system? I’m assuming the city isn’t doing the work. If they are, they have an uphill battle and a steep learning curve. You can’t learn this skill set from a “CRM for Dummies” book. Not if you want to succeed.

  • Well, well, well now isn’t that a surprise. How did Lisa Kearns communicate with her constituents as we heard absolutely nothing from her! Did she perhaps advertise through the Post which has not delivered to apartment buildings for some time. It is time the City developed a weekly flyer to communicate with their “customers” or their “boss” depending on the individual perspective. The flyers are still delivered to every household! We would like to see a cost analysis of Post Ad against a single sheet flyer based on a year’s advertising bill.

    Editor’s note: The Gazette is delivered to every household that wants one – they don’t even have to open the front door to get the news.

    • Yes of course you are right especially in the emerging paperless society which we find hard but know there is a good reason for it. Seriously though there are many issues of lack of communication with those who pay for what we get that must be addressed soon.

  • Stephen White

    Four years to put in place a CRM! Unbelievable.

    Who puts in place a CRM of the scale and magnitude of this project without involving Information Technology at every critical stage of the project? Given the far-reaching implications of this project how can having four Project Managers in four years provide any measure of project continuity and consistency? And where on the project team are there representatives from Council as well as the user community (i.e. taxpayers)?

    The City of Burlington has a lot to learn not just about community engagement, not to mention effective project management.