Building positive change management to digitally transform public services

The art of positive change management often runs head-first into the challenges of altering routines and the other ways that people do common tasks, even if those ways lead to frustrating processes or results.

Team of men and woman deep in discussion with bright light spheres cascading overlay

In government, change management faces those barriers of personal staff routines while dealing with institutionalized processes that can vary in flexibility. Some restrictions on changes may be based on statutes, other processes might be personal workarounds that have fossilized over the years into standard operating procedure.

However, governments now face communities that demand digital flexibility, looking for convenient access to services at all levels of government interaction. Digital services have grown into a tool to meet this need and chip away at the processes that frustrate both community users and agency staff alike.

Implementing change takes more than the desire to make change, though. Thorough planning, strategic thinking, communication, and precise execution are all important elements of effective change management and can be the difference between successfully evolving organizations into the digital government or creating a morass of confusion and inefficiency.

The city of Roseville, California, provides an example of how effective digital change management can change assumptions about government and create more efficient government services both for their communities and staff. The myRSVL program created in 2023, efficiently connects city services with community requests with transparency, easy access, and clear communication.

Identifying needs, building strategies

Located in Placer County, home to California’s state capitol of Sacramento, Roseville stands as the most populous city of the Sacramento metropolitan area, with over 141,000 residents. Yet, as of 2022, the city had yet to implement a customer relationship management (CRM) system to track public services requests, said Mollie Chacon, Roseville’s IT Manager, in a recent webinar describing their journey.

“There were many different business units that processed requests from our customers differently, which could have become a challenge,” she recalled.

Individual departments might offer a web form for request submission or a phone tree routing callers to call different divisions. Internally, Chacon said, those requests would route through numerous staff before being processed, sometimes without proper documentation, leading to potential issues and delays when it came to fulfilling those requests.

It was clear to Chacon and others in the city that a new system was needed to automate these processes and help create an efficient way to better track requests.

“These were either entered in spreadsheets or tracked through emails or chat, text, phone calls, word-of-mouth, even paper,” she said. “We wanted to create a centralized location to collect data on the services the city offers while also streamlining business processes.”

Not only would this approach better serve requesters, Chacon said, but also help the city “remain fiscally responsible in a changing world and support community engagement.”

With so many departments impacted by this potential change, however, Chacon knew that stakeholder buy-in would be vital to success. Incorporating a broad group of internal members in the early planning helped create a strategy that would increase the likelihood of success.

By asking what departments wanted out of a CRM system, Chacon was able to create a wishlist against which to balance technical requirements, and then prioritize a schedule for integration that would provide for early successes and lay a groundwork for future growth.

“We tried to find the best solution that would hit most of the requests on the wish list,” she said. “We wanted to make sure that the vendor selected was also able to integrate with existing systems that various departments used. Such as our permitting system, which we did do an integration with and our enterprise asset management system, which we’re working on right now.”

Other considerations that went into the strategy phase included:

  • An easy-to-learn interface
  • Developing supporting documentation
  • Identifying and planning for the different channels to be used, such as developing a mobile version of whatever application would be put into place
  • Organizing and prioritizing which types of requests could most easily be addressed through a new digital service system
  • Connecting informational articles to supplement requests

After meeting with stakeholders, learning their current business processes, and setting expectations of how digital services could help improve workflows, the myRSVL team was ready to move forward into implementing their strategy.

Communication and knowledge: Two vital elements of change management

Too often, people believe that change happens without their involvement. Stakeholders may operate under the dangerous expectation that once a strategy is approved they only need to wait for a new process to come back fully formed and ready to use. This kind of thinking can frequently lead to a project’s failure.

In the case of myRSVL, IT Business Analyst and myRSVL Project Manager Melissa Hernandez had clear goals for the implementation and development of the new system: “Flexible, virtual, a lot of documentation, and reflecting that back out to people while integrating with the current processes.”

Using a variety of tools and types of communication was key to the successful development of myRSVL and the change management within the City of Roseville’s processes, according to Hernandez.

“It was a challenge because we didn’t have a legacy system,” said Hernandez. “So, people were hearing about CRM for the first time.”

Showing examples of other projects from other cities helped educate staff as part of an early “large lift” that Hernandez said helped staff better understand the benefits they could reap from the implementation of a new system and the changes it brought.

With teams and staff spread across multiple buildings and locations, providing flexibility in accessing meetings and other learning resources also played an important role in the change management strategy. Using Microsoft Teams meetings and a SharePoint site for internal and external communications, the myRSVL team was able to share documentation from all participating teams across departments, including recordings of previous meetings, status of development phases, and other key resources.

Personal communication, however, remained equally vital, as did the need for flexibility with staff need from various departments.

“I always remained open and available,” Hernandez said. “People were always able to gather, if my schedule was open, if they needed a catch-up session. Or I’d meet one-on-one if someone was on vacation and needed to catch up with what they missed. Basically, whatever it took to get people engaged and involved was important for me.”

This personalized connection not only increased buy-in, Hernandez said, but helped staff better see how new digital services could impact their individual department and understand what contributions were needed from their end to achieve that success. From there, staff worked internally with their own departmental working groups to determine which request types they would include in myRSVL and how to improve their relationships with managing other cross-departmental requests that impacted their department.

This commitment to communication, documentation, and flexibility had a tremendous impact in the outcome of myRSVL internally, with 250 unique request types built into the system, a number that Hernandez says is “growing every day as people realize the potential of the system and find new things to add.” A library of over 200 knowledge-based articles, many supplementing request types with key information, also maintains the importance of documentation to assist both staff and the public.

Building relationships with the community

Governments looking to create a digital change in their processes also must consider the public audience that will be using these services. If users do not embrace a new system, the potential efficiencies and cost savings of digital services risk not being fully realized.

For myRSVL, the internal cornerstones of communication and knowledge also extended to reaching public audiences and educating about the new services available. Working with the city’s marketing and communications team, the myRSVL team created a campaign that introduced the services across a variety of channels, including:

  • A postcard mailing to 165,000 households with a QR code connecting to the mobile application
  • Two electronic billboards
  • Social media outreach with stories and information related to my Roseville.
  • Print and television news stories
  • Email newsletters with updates on the development of myRSVL and its features
  • Banners on city websites directing users to the myRSVL landing page
  • Free-standing banners and tablet kiosks in high-traffic areas such as libraries, community centers, pools, and other park facilities that allow users to experience the myRSVL app.

The external outreach not only helped increase awareness of the digital transition, but provided a way for the public to engage with digital service requests in the moment, Hernandez said.

“It provides an additional accessibility component to residents who might not have internet access or a cell phone, or maybe just don’t feel comfortable talking to somebody,” she said. “This does provide another opportunity for them to get information and resources about our city and services that they may be in need of at one of these six locations.”

The evolution continues

While some departments haven’t fully embraced the system in all phases of their work, Chacon said that the flexibility of digital services still allows efficiencies.

“A department might still be using call logs,” she said. “But we’ve created a way for that staff to input that information in directly so they’re not having to write it down and then translate it over into an email and then send it off. So we are helping streamline some processes that were still probably manual as well as trying to find the best way to incorporate it into their already day-to-day routine without trying to disrupt their process that they’re used to too drastically.”

After going live in November 2023 with the mobile application, Chacon reported that the self-service feature sat at 3,200 requests received only five months later, the impact of which was felt almost immediately after winter storms battered Northern California and the Sacramento area.

In order to proactively impact service requests for downed power lines and other outages, myRSVL included a link from the electric department into chatbot messaging during the storm that automatically connected users to a current outage map, reducing the number of requests that came in during the storm. Chacon also said that requests for storm clean-up were addressed more quickly by staff thanks to the myRSVL system, allowing for more efficient communication with the public and classifying emergency and non-emergency requests.

“The goal is to make things user-friendly for both the public and internal staff,” she added. “To make it easy for people to digest information and pick out what they need without having to dig too deep with getting that information. It’s right there at their hand.”

While change management can seem arduous, with a proper implementation strategy, and digital tools that provide the ability to create successful outcomes, digital government services can reap positive outcomes for staff and the public alike.

“Just make sure you celebrate those small wins along the way,” said Hernandez. “And then develop realistic timelines since not everyone is fortunate enough to have this as their only project. Success comes in being flexible and knowing that you might need to adjust and pivot when you need to while still being focused on the goal.”

Learn more

Explore more insights from myRSVL’s digital transformation and how Granicus tools helped them succeed in this on-demand webinar.

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