- Success Story
- City of Olathe, KS
How the City of Olathe, Kansas is Transforming into a Modern Powerhouse
With digital transformation as the overarching goal, the City of Olathe, Kansas, set out to modernize the way its government operated. For approximately six years, Olathe has undergone a metamorphosis, slowly but surely evolving into a modern government, emboldened by the Granicus Civic Engagement Platform. This platform has helped Olathe become a more transparent, informative, united, and practical place for residents and staff members to live.
- <2 Minutes Average time for most residents to find what they need on the website
- 2660% Increase in total subscribers, growing from 2,167 to more than 60,000 in 2017
- 16K After adding agendas to the website, traffic—on that page alone—doubled (up from 8K)
- 12% Total increase in users accessing the site directly
The Road to Digital Transformation
Olathe, KS is a part of the Kansas City metropolitan area and serves as the county seat in Johnson County. It’s a diverse city with a population of roughly 140,000 residents. Olathe adopted a 20-year strategic plan, “Olathe 2040”, to develop efficient and innovative ways to serve residents through digital transformation. By aligning services with resident needs (and feedback), leveraging emerging technology, and using data to inform decision-making, the city aims to take its customer experience and service delivery to the next level. Emphasizing digital service delivery through its website experience, the City of Olathe set out to become more efficient across the board. Digital programs manager Scott Meyer is leading the charge.
Before govAccess, Olathe had a website that was built by in-house developers with very little structure or emphasis on user experience. As these developers came and went, they didn’t document their processes, making site maintenance nearly impossible. There were no breadcrumbs, subdirectories, or site maps to help either users or search engines navigate the website. To find the information they needed, residents needed to understand the internal structure of their government – an unrealistic expectation for most community members.
In addition to issues with the website, the City of Olathe gave considerable thought to how best to distribute information, especially to people who sought it out. Prior to working with Granicus, they had an archaic email delivery system that distributed unformatted, text-only emails. The email distribution lists weren’t analyzed, and the performance of the emails wasn’t tracked.
Olathe’s governing body had a desire to be as transparent as possible, but they were unable to do so because of a broken document management system that was tied to the city’s under-structured and managed website. The former agenda creation and management system was inefficient with no form of checks and balances. Instead—before each city council or planning commission meeting—the city clerk had the burden of manually building agendas based on an unspecified number of emails.
The City of Olathe wanted to offer services in a user-focused, customer-friendly format; however, most of the city’s services were completed via online PDFs that required a member of city staff to place a call, send an email, or request an in-person visit to city hall to submit supporting documentation. The onset of COVID-19 essentially forced Meyer and team to rethink the city’s approach to service fulfillment.
Implementing the Civic Engagement Platform
Accessing the Website with govAccess
Roughly five years ago—with transparency top-of-mind—the City of Olathe redesigned its website as a “virtual city hall.” Residents are better informed and city departments have improved cross-functional relationships. Jimmy Mack, strategic communications manager and leader of overall communications efforts for the city said, “govAccess helped us simplify our website content to make it easily consumable for residents.”
Now that it has been five years since the initial redesign, the City of Olathe is in the process of another site refresh. “With the site redesign, we’re focusing on understanding the information and services our residents seek, and how to weave in our other Granicus solutions for a platform approach. Our site is vibrant and aesthetically pleasing, but in the redesign, our focus has shifted.” Meyer quoted Bob Ainsbury, Granicus’ chief product officer: “‘The movement forward should be powerful. Powerful is going to replace pretty.’”
Delivering Messages with govDelivery
As Meyer and team worked toward a revamped website, they focused on journey mapping and understanding how residents interacted with staff. This rationale informed the way they approached site design, content, and campaign creation – everything was processed with the resident at the center. “We understood that it wasn’t enough to put information inside a website,” Meyer said. “At some point, we would have to work on delivering that information to the people who were looking for it.” That’s where govDelivery came in. With govDelivery, Olathe was able to reach a broader scope of the population and proactively engage with residents who expressed interest in specific topics via dynamic emails and text messages.
Meetings with govMeetings
Because of the city’s existing relationship with Granicus, they turned to Granicus for solutions in the agenda creation and management realm. They had an existing provider for video, so Granicus worked diligently to pair govMeetings Legistar, an open architecture technology, with an outside provider for video services. “The amount of work it took to connect those two systems was unbelievable,” Meyer said. “They built connections that didn’t exist. It was over-the-top,” he added.
Services with govService
Since COVID-19 strained the city’s ability to provide in-person services, CARES Act funding helped them launch their digital, service-fulfillment platform with govService. Customer-centric design is at the helm of their website redesign, where govService will be used to power a services-first website experience. Soon, residents of Olathe will be able to go to olatheks.org to apply for a permit, view public records, pay bills, and access dozens of other services. govService will also enable Olathe staff members to trade in tedious printing and paper-pushing for effortless, automated, digital workflows and service fulfillment.
How it All Works Together | The Platform Solution
A tried-and-true analogy, Meyer likes to think of Olathe’s civic engagement as the hub and spokes of a wheel. While the hub is the govAccess website, the spokes are email, text, and social media powered by govDelivery, and the ability to view and participate in meetings online with govMeetings. “We fully take advantage of the content suggestions offered by the govDelivery communications cloud, as well as the decision-making insight we gather from the website and communications solutions analysis. Now, we know how many people are viewing and clicking on our content, how much time they’re spending on each page… We’re just well-informed now,” Meyer added.
Coupling govAccess (the website) and govDelivery (the communications solution) in an integration called Send by govDelivery, the City of Olathe has the power to deliver tailored information directly from their website to their subscribers. “We had govAccess and govDelivery for a while before we started to implement connections between the two solutions,” Meyer said. “Now, as our partnership with Granicus has matured, those connections are more intuitive and easier to facilitate. The relationship we formed with Granicus years ago is paying dividends for us now.”
The City of Olathe also uses an integration between govMeetings and govDelivery called Send Agenda where finalized agendas can automatically be sent out through govDelivery. Agendas are also published on the calendar on their govAccess website.
Realizing the Potential of the Civic Engagement Platform
Because website improvements made information more accessible to employees and residents of Olathe, the city’s staff has been able to build strong cross-department relationships. Residents, in turn, have been able to easily access the information they need to be more connected to their local government. In fact, session durations have reduced, indicating that residents can access the information they need, quicker. Meanwhile, overall site traffic has increased from 1 million visits to 1.2 million since 2017.
The city went from 2,167 subscribers in 2017 to 61,207 subscribers in 2021, with a growth of 58.4% in the last month alone due to the use of the govDelivery network. The City of Olathe has sent 292 email newsletters, nearly 350,000 emails, and 527 text messages in the last year using Granicus’ govDelivery software.
govMeetings Legistar software has simplified and unified the agenda creation and management process and saved paper, time, and resources. After adding agendas for both city council and planning commission meetings, traffic—to that page in particular—doubled, which has helped the city reach deeper levels of transparency with constituents.
Even though govService is still in the early stages of implementation at Olathe, city officials were able to execute a block party permit with CARES Act funding before the close of 2020. The City of Olathe worked closely with Granicus’ implementation team to train staff members and get the solution up-and-running on an accelerated schedule. A public records service is currently being built and a host of other services are in the pipeline for the coming years. Soon, Meyer hopes to be able to provide most services from the website and enjoy a reduction in phone calls, paperwork, and walk-ins.
As one of our flagship customers, the City of Olathe is realizing the exponential potential of Granicus’ full civic engagement platform, while also acknowledging the room for further development.