Jefferson County’s Innovation Programs Transform Digital Government
It is perhaps an understatement that creating program efficiencies and transforming how governments serve residents are no easy tasks. In Jefferson County (Jeffco), Colorado, Innovation Program Manager Marlin McDaniel is doing just that. He heads a team of innovation analysts and interns who manage process and technology projects that result in improvements and measurable outcomes for the future of digital government in Jeffco. McDaniel has been named Granicus’ 2022 Innovator of the Year for his work leading the Innovation Programs and Emerging Technologies team within the Business Innovation & Technology department.
Bringing an exceptional digital experience to Jefferson County residents through innovation
Founded in 2018 by McDaniel, the program began as an initiative out of the finance office where the focus was to leverage innovation concepts to address financial challenges the county was facing. From there, the program blossomed into developing and executing a portfolio of technology projects that have transformed how they deliver services to the community — including cellular services projects, robotic process automation, digital voice assistance, and digital chatbots — while also optimizing resources and staff to reinvest into transformative efforts down the road.
When the county faced significant budget cuts in 2020, McDaniel undertook an extensive analysis of the county’s cellular service. The project’s goal was to identify the best solution for department partners, particularly for first responders to whom uptime is critical. McDaniel collaborated with 19 different departments and conducted a comprehensive evaluation of cellular services providers in the marketplace. After extensive testing and data analysis, McDaniel and his team established and scaled pilots, and ultimately moved forward with countywide implementation of the solution. The unified cellular services project will result in cost savings of $2.1 million for the county over the next five years.
Another solution implemented by the Business Innovation & Technology department was the use of chatbots in collaboration with the Motor Vehicle division. Handling the 100,000-150,000 calls per year was overwhelming the division’s staff of just 70 in five office locations, and an innovative solution was necessary to alleviate this strain. Putting chatbots into operation has made a substantial impact; call volume is down by half and chatbots are handling about 55% of interactions before a chat is escalated to an agent.
A new vision for innovation’s role in the future of digital government
Embracing modern technologies will be pivotal as governments look to improve resident experiences and overhaul ineffective processes. McDaniel states, “People shouldn’t have to come into our buildings to get services. Most services should be equitably accessible in a digital format across our communities. That’s where I see us taking technology and technology innovation across the county.”
Additionally, employees at all levels who are empowered to evaluate and implement technologies, says McDaniel, can enact real change in their communities. The Innovation Program encompasses an emerging technology internship program where students identify tech trends in the industry and build business cases to determine how and why local governments should consider new technologies for future digital government.
Though there was initially skepticism about bringing interns into the team, the program’s high-quality approach and tangible results have created more openness to working with interns. “It’s a two-pronged approach,” says McDaniel. “We get super smart students consulting with us on how and why we should bring in new technology and we start to change the reputation that government has of not being able to move quickly or do cool new things.”
Technology evolves quickly, and it’s important that innovative thinkers do as well. The team have realized much of their success by identifying where innovative solutions can help and developing implementation plans, but also by pivoting when necessary. McDaniel notes, “[We] define the value proposition early and if it’s not resonating, [we] iterate on it. [We are] intentional with how we engage with department partners. Sometimes things don’t work out, so we change and evolve the same way technology does.”
Click here for more information on the 2022 Granicus Digital Government Awards, and to learn more about the future of digital government in communities across the United States.