City knows that the web site doesn't really work all that well - a solution is on the table

By Pepper Parr

January 11th, 2023


This is  a very technical document; not intended for readers who struggle with the email.  It is the story about some of the really great stuff that is being done with information technology and points out that the communications still don’t understand engagement.

Residents complained for years about how difficult it was to find information on the city web site.

In the fullness of time a team was pulled together and tasked with creating an easier to use web site.

It was not a comfortable change.

One of the biggest concerns was that a lot of information that was once available to people was no longer accessible.

The city administration said they were working on it – on of the solutions offered up by a staff member was to pay a fee to get the information you wanted.  It was never clear what the city was going to do.

At a Standing Committee there was a report on the Consent agenda: Enterprise Web Architecture & Modernization Review, prepared by KPMG, that was very thorough and not all that kind to the people on staff who did the redesign that people are not happy with.

As an item on the Consent agenda it does not get discussed unless a member of Council ask that it be added to the regular agenda. Councillors can also make a comment; there were no comments on this item.

The Enterprise Web Architecture & Modernization Review outlined opportunities and recommendations on modernizing the City of Burlington’s current web architecture to:

1. Transform into a customer-centric approach and enhance overall customer experience (CX)
2. Enhance internal operations, service efficiencies and effectiveness
3. Reduce and/or avoid cost through resource utilization and automation

The report compiles the customer-facing applications and technology architecture from CoB’s current relevant documentation, preliminary findings and observations gathered during workshops. It also provides an evaluation of the current CRM platform options (i.e., upgrading, augmenting, or replacing the current CRM) to guide CoB in its decision making process.

Target state opportunities are presented, along with their associated benefits, improvement metrics, cost impacts and requirements. The report provides a conceptual future state web architecture and a proposed three-year roadmap that shows a high-level implementation plan ordered according to priority and dependencies.

With the current CRM platform some options were in contracts  pending and there were technical risks exist that needed to be mitigated. Option 1 (Product Upgrade) will likely not achieve the full set of business benefits desired by CoB. Two options remained for CoB to further explore: Upgrade & Re-architect or Replace current CRM platform.

The KPMG report was very technical – intended for technical people. The Staff report that was sent to Council provided background.

The opportunity to take a deeper look at the technology that runs much of the software the city uses was made possible with funding the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing who provided $152.640 that was funnelled into the the Audit and Accountability Fund

These are all the services the city offers with the software it has now.

The objectives of the review were as follows:

• An assessment of existing web architecture and current state of online services, customer applications, databases, platforms, and integrations;
• Stakeholder engagement and feedback;
• Recommendations for the development of enterprise and web architecture that identifies efficiencies and results in an improved customer and employee experience;
• Recommendations for improving, upgrading or replacement of the existing customer relationship management software;
• An implementation roadmap which prioritizes and aligns related digital service enablement projects to gain high impact improvements over the next 3-5 years;
• A governance model to address how the City identifies, prioritizes, and manages web-related technology projects, risks and opportunities; and
• Actionable items with estimated timelines and budgetary requirements.

The City entered into an Agreement with KPMG in May 2022 to complete the Enterprise Web Architecture Review in accordance with the Ministry’s Audit and Accountability Fund requirements. The consultation activities were completed between May and November 2022.

The Enterprise Web Architecture Review was required to address the growing use of the CRM and its limitations, the number of systems that contribute to a disparate online experience for the City’s customers, and the desire to bridge customer data across all channels, systems and services.

The Enterprise Web Architecture & Modernization Review report prepared by KPMG outlines opportunities and recommendations on modernizing the City of Burlington’s current web architecture to:

1. Transform through a customer-centric approach and enhance overall customer experience (CX) and employee experience (EX);
2. Enhance internal operations, service efficiencies and effectiveness;
3. Reduce and/or avoid cost through resource utilization and automation.

The report compiles the customer-facing applications and technology architecture from current documentation, preliminary findings and observations gathered during workshops. It also provides an evaluation of the current CRM platform options (i.e., upgrading, augmenting, or replacing the current CRM) so that the City can decide which option is most appropriate.

The report provides a conceptual future state web architecture and focuses on best practices to enhance the overall customer experience for residents and visitors.

Several architecture themes and principles were derived and target state opportunities were identified and associated with efficiencies. These efficiencies could be gained from proposed initiatives, improvement metrics, dependencies, cost impacts and requirements. Moreover, each opportunity is associated with a proposed initiative(s) to achieve the target state. A proposed three-year roadmap shows a recommended high- level implementation plan.

There are opportunities for further enhancements to what is in place now.

The report identifies that in order to achieve the objectives for a future state web architecture, incremental improvements will be required to address:

• The use of the existing CRM and Microsoft Dynamics platform, hosting model, and required upgrade to version 9;
• A unified approach to customer facing technologies to optimize development resources and skills;
• Implementation of a Customer Identity and Access Management model as the foundation for an improved and secure identification and login experience across service areas and applications;
• Implementation of Master Data Management strategy and principles to unify, govern and maintain quality customer data in a manner that is system agnostic;
• Improvements in the use of integration tools, standards and data access across applications;
• Improvements in system driven workflows over manual workflows;
• Increased availability of data to Service Burlington to service customers more effectively and improve service level response times;
• Improved business intelligence analytics to unlock greater insights such as sentiment analysis.

Related Initiatives
The City approved three initiatives under separate funding agreements with the Province of Ontario:

1) Enterprise Web Architecture & Modernization Review

2) Land Management Database Platform Review

3) Streamline Development Application Fund

The Mayor and the Staff members that went to Itabashi in Japan were dancing in the streets. Mayor is so excited over the new software services that are being put in place she wants to dance in the streets of Burlington. Will City Manager Tim Commisso go with her again?wants to do the same thing in Burlington

This this third funded assignment was discussed at Council on Tuesday.

Councillors were ecstatic – the Mayor wanted to march and dance through the streets of the city while Councillor Stolte wanted to do a Wooo Whoooo

The Streamline Development Approval Initiative Fund (SDAF) project is a one-time project delivering specific improvements to the low density residential development approval service.

The Gazette reports on the SDAF separately.

All three initiatives share the objective of finding efficiencies and cost savings in the provision of city services to deliver an enhanced customer experience. Each focuses on business outcomes which include the customer online experience and enabling technologies.

Next Steps
A cross functional team led by Customer Experience, IT Services and Corporate Communications & Engagement is evaluating the options in the Enterprise Web Architecture report and will provide an update to Council in early Q2 2023.

An analysis of the next steps will consider the KPMG findings with respect to web architecture and CRM in the context of:

• viability and feasibility including cost, resource and vendor contract impacts;
• a broader enterprise architecture model;
• desired business outcomes;
• customer and employee experience; and
• the prioritization of separate and related initiatives occurring across the corporation.

In total, 26 sessions were held to gather feedback from key stakeholders of online services, the Customer Experience Advisory Team, CRM users and implementation teams, and other technical and business application owners.

A survey of CRM users was completed to gauge satisfaction with the existing CRM product. These sessions provided insight to the current state, and to the development of a proposed future state road-map.

Kwab Ako-Adjei had an opportunity to tell people what an improved web site will be able to do.

A couple of things were learned from the Standing Committee:

Chad MacDonald, Chief Information Officer knows his stuff. He has assembled a staff of very smart people who are setting the city up for a transition into an operation that will provide a very high level of integration between the departments – when it comes to data and information there will be no more silos.

The unfortunate part was that Council didn’t take the opportunity to let MacDonald and Kwab Ako-Adjei takes ten minutes to explain what this will mean to the public.

There is a lot of work yet to be done and a lot of expense but Ako-Adjei missed the opportunity to look into the web cast camera and say to the public ‘you ain’t seen nothing yet’. This is where the communications people fail themselves and fail the city.

Really Good stuff is happening – but you don’t know about it.

There was a time when a project of this magnitude would never even been considered. Now – it could actually happen.

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4 comments to City knows that the web site doesn’t really work all that well – a solution is on the table

  • Blair Smith

    Perry provides valuable insight into this project; indeed, the devil is in the definition and understanding of “customer”, relationship” and “management”. My particular, long felt ‘bugaboo’ is why public institutions and government agencies/departments all feel the need for customized, “roll-your-own” solutions. I think there is an argument to be made for the use of ‘best practices’ and best utilities. I would argue that the actual business and customer relationship needs of the four Halton municipalities do not differ significantly enough that a single, common CRM/web interface would not make both economic and customer experience sense. In fact, the consolidation of information technology services on the regional level was an option recommended during the Regional Amalgamation Review. It may be time to look at what services are best provided locally and which would be more consistently, efficiently and economically delivered by the Region – to the benefit of both the organization and the citizen client. Arguably, the same would hold true of services and functions such as transportation, purchasing and fleet management. A core business review is critical to understand which functions and services are integral to the local government’s mandate and which might be candidates for other forms of delivery.

  • Perryb

    The report appears to cover a lot of ground, and there are certainly lots of acronyms and flowcharts. What is not so clear is the underlying definition of the terms “stakeholders” and “customer-facing” that appear throughout. It is far too easy to build a list of stakeholders from the inside – the departments, the staff, the lawyers, accountants, various levels of government bureaucracy and various other insiders – and inadequately define the needs of the ultimate stakeholder: the public. Similarly, it is important that the “customer-facing” interfaces provide the experience expected by the stakeholders, rather than how the providers think they ought to face the customers.

    CRM implementations can easily fail if the “C”ustomer is poorly understood, and/or the “R”elationship is not designed as a two-way street, and/or the “M”anagement is focused on managing the customer instead of the relationship.

    Let us hope the consultants and implementers have done the whole job before setting to work. It would be interesting to know that the plan is acceptable to customers such as the Marsdens, who have explained in detail their customer-facing expectations.

    • PerryB: The only way it should be acceptable to any taxpayer is if it gives us at least as much as we had, what staff have committed we will have in terms of returned missing material, along with what we are presently told we have, but don’t without a huge bill to do it. That surely is the very least one should expect from any municipal web site that deals with governance information covered by a retention by-law especially when other municipalities have produced acceptable and workable web sites.

      How or why the need for internal departments to communicate with each other is not an area of our comfort zone. How the city has responded to its transparency and accessibility requirements through access to governance material by the public through the city calendar (especially after municipal election nominations opened) has always been a comfort zone for us until May, 2022. The City remains silent on WHEN what we had and what is committed to us having WILL become reality for those of us who like to keep an eye on how our council is directing our money be spent and their compliance with governing laws and regulations as they spend it.

  • David

    The amount of treasure that’s been expended on this system and the fact it’s the fastest growing department should tell us all we need to know about its intent.
    (I personally have never satisfactually been able to find what I’m actually looking for)
    either A I’m thick or B the system is doing what its supposed to do.
    ‘When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth’ (Sherlock Holmes)