College towns may invoke images of team spirit, ambitious students, and enthusiastic alumni, but for the over 78,000 residents of Auburn, Alabama, life in a college town also means an interest in technology and being on the front edge of what advancements offer.
As one of the fastest growing cities in Alabama, demands can come hard and fast, said Britt Johnson, GIS Business Analyst for Auburn. Keeping ahead of the needs that come with that growth also requires keeping pace with technology.
“Being a college town with obviously a lot of tech-savvy citizens, we realized that our old ways of doing business in how citizens could report concerns to us, was something we needed to improve,” he said.
Auburn’s population continues to grow disproportionately to city staff. Staff culture values working smarter, not harder, and therefore leans on IT to help implement efficiencies. Yet even IT runs “a very, very lean ship,” prides Johnson.
“There’s not many of us to support a lot of users,” he said. “So, that’s one place where we certainly lean on technology as much as we can to help us out in that regard.”
As a result, Johnson’s team constantly looks for ways to optimize business processes with technology across the organization. As administrator for Cityworks, Auburn’s enterprise-wide work order, asset management, and permitting system, Johnson saw the need to bring technology to help meet growing needs for public service requests.
“We had most people just calling City Hall and getting transferred around,” he said. “There were generic email addresses posted on the website. We had developed a limited number of custom web forms, but those were generally for a specific use case here and there. There was certainly by no means an all-encompassing one-stop shop approach.”
Routing of requests also created issues, he recalled, as non-emergency requests weren’t appropriate for routing through Auburn’s main call center.
“We didn’t have the budget to set up a dedicated call center for 311-type calls, and these non-emergency requests weren’t appropriate to route through our 911 call center” he added. “We were really looking for a solution where we could catch these requests as they came in, and basically route them straight into Cityworks. We needed to get with the times and be more technologically advanced in ways for citizens to interact with us.”