As leaders of public municipalities, we often compete with private entities on many levels. When providing services such as recreation centers, cemeteries, golf courses, and entertainment venues, there is a persistent need to stay close to market forces in order to ensure performance and value to our constituents.
Cities and towns do not typically compete with private entities when it comes to providing essential services such as public works, utilities, police, and fire. However, a lack of competition does not mean municipalities can forgo the evaluation of these services. In fact, quantifying value and performance can help an organization better serve its constituents, which in turn supports a strong resident base and business community.
According to the Oxford Dictionary, value is defined as “the importance, worth, or usefulness of something, to be beneficial. Take it one step further, and a value proposition becomes “an innovation, service, or feature intended to make a company or product attractive to its customers”—in this case, making a city more attractive to its residents, employees, and business community.
Sandy City administration is focused on increasing value throughout the city. In order to ensure wise and responsible stewardship of public dollars—whether for competitive or non-competitive services—the administration of Sandy City, Utah, created a value equation to help guide operational decisions. By referring to this equation, we can ensure that administrative decisions regarding resource allocation will deliver increased value.
Value = (Quality Services + Customer Satisfaction)
The Equation Basics
A quick review of simple arithmetic reminds us that when an equation includes an equal sign, whatever changes you make to one side of the equation will also influence the other side of the equation.
For example, increasing the numerator on the righthand side of the equation (quality of service and customer satisfaction), also increases the value on the left-hand side of the equation.
Decreasing the denominator on the righthand side (cost) also results in a value increase on the opposite side of the equation.
So, what does this mean in the real world? By increasing the quality of services a city provides to residents—such as storm water drainage, street lighting, paved roads, beautiful parks, trails and open spaces, first responders, and many others—the value correspondingly increases.
Simultaneously, as we increase constituent engagement and satisfaction by creating positive experiences when working with city officials and operations staff, this increases our value to residents. The same logic applies to employee satisfaction. Lastly, Sandy City administration realizes that by decreasing costs through technology efficiencies, we also achieve increased value.
Sandy City is in the middle of a full-scale Cityworks implementation across all city departments. We recognize that technology alone cannot create value for a city. However, when the right technology is thoughtfully included as part of an organization-wide initiative to improve operational efficiencies, it can contribute to each of the variables in our value proposition.
Quality of Service
Using a single-point GIS system, like Cityworks, where all available data can be accessed, organized, and sorted accurately, is helping us create a more efficient way to obtain and analyze data. Having a more proficient system of engagement, record management, and data insight improves efficiencies in asset management, which will help us proactively plan for infrastructure replacement and repairs. These improvements in operational competencies increase the levels of service to our community.
When solutions are specifically designed to provide benefit to the end user, technology can help improve both employee and constituent satisfaction. With the help of training and careful deployment, technology solutions can give city employees access to real-time data while improving inter-departmental coordination and communication.
Using Cityworks mobile technology in the field improves our response times and helps streamline our business processes. Residents will be able to check status on projects occurring in the city. Developers and contractors can check status of their projects, make payments, and submit documents electronically, which saves time for both staff and the community as processes are streamlined. And, by using analytics to visualize concentrated problem areas, we can increase our ability to efficiently perform preventative maintenance and address issues proactively.
Reducing costs to increase value is clearly a priority for Sandy City and any private or public entity. By embracing technology like Cityworks, municipalities can utilize their limited funds efficiently in numerous ways, such as consolidation of software applications, reduction in onsite database hardware, and reduction of labor hours associated with providing services.
We see increased value in every aspect of the Cityworks, including time savings, inventory management, real-time reports, preventive planning through data analytics, and streamlining data entry from a slow manual process to real-time point of service entry with the use of handheld PDAs in the field.
By strategically implementing innovative technologies, a smart city can adopt the operational efficiencies of the private sector while also improving quality of life for residents. Sandy City strives to provide value through a customer-centered approach to quality service and cost management. When every department—every employee—is part of the value equation, the whole community benefits.
Matthew Huish is chief administrative officer at Sandy City in Utah.