The Journey Towards a Digital CRM Solution for AMO Members
By Nicholas Ruder, Research Advisor, AMO/LAS
At the AMO Conference in Ottawa back in 2017, I was taken aside by an AMO Board member on the trade hall floor, who, in not so many words told me: we want a citizen relationship management system built specifically for rural municipalities, can you make this happen? This Board member read our then hot-off-the-press digital government discussion paper, #ONMuni Online, and knew that there are significant digital opportunities that exist to help municipalities work and serve residents better.
Since that encounter, we have been working to identify the right digital technology partners to help our members improve service delivery, operational efficiencies, and engagement with residents in what we have been calling AMO’s Digital Toolkit. To date, we have formed five partnerships with digital technology providers offering AMO members digital and electronic signature solutions, meeting management and livestreaming solutions, an occupational health and safety training management program, and the opportunity to design and build accessible websites. That Toolkit will continue to grow in the months to come.
So what is citizen relationship management otherwise known as CRM? CRM software allows municipalities to manage internal and external relationships and the data associated with those interactions. Municipalities in Ontario have implemented or are considering integrating CRM technology to manage and develop interactions with residents. Through CRM technology, your residents can submit 3-1-1 requests, track their case submission from start to completion, and access a wealth of other features so that they know their municipality is serving their needs. CRM technology can also be used to enhance and improve internal administration and operations across all municipal departments potentially aiding municipalities in finding efficiencies and cost savings.
At the outset I knew that finding the right technology and vendor to work with would be a challenge. CRM systems can be cost prohibitive, there are dozens of potential and similar solutions offered by the vendor community, and to be frank, although I have a good grasp of which digital technologies can improve our members’ operations, I am not a subject matter expert when it comes to the technical details of IT systems.
That’s why we struck an AMO Digital CRM Steering Committee to help us with this work. We were advised by staff from the municipal sector representing administration and information technology and systems that helped us scope out the work, build the requirements, and offer insights on how to implement and integrate CRM into existing municipal systems. Of critical importance, we had to identify a solution that is scalable to smaller municipalities, that is affordable, easy to use and navigate by municipal staff and citizens who are the end users of this technology.
Over the course of one year, we surveyed the membership about their interest in CRM, approached the vendor community with an RFI and then when we were comfortable that the technology we were looking for was available, proceeded to an official RFP process. We received and reviewed many excellent submissions from the vendor community, conducted follow up interviews, watched demos of the technology in action, and asked further clarifying questions to make sure that we were identifying the right provider that understood the requirements and varying needs of 444 municipal governments in Ontario.
On September 30, 2019, AMO officially announced Frequency Foundry as our preferred provider of a digital CRM/online 3-1-1 system for members.
Based in Calgary, Frequency Foundry has developed CRM solutions through the Microsoft Dynamics 365 and Azure platforms. Their clients include Canadian municipal governments, provincial ministries, not for profits, regional economic development organizations, and higher education institutions.
AMO members will be interested in Signal, Frequency Foundry’s 3-1-1 CRM and citizen engagement solutions that enables automated and modernized citizen service delivery for local governments.
Now that we have selected our preferred digital CRM partner, the real work on how we are going to move this partnership forward is about to begin. If your municipality is interested in how Frequency Foundry’s 3-1-1 system could work for you, I would encourage you to register for a webinar AMO will be hosting on Thursday, November 28 at 12pm EST where we will be introducing our latest partner in our Digital Toolkit.
I want to extend my sincere thanks to members of AMO’s Digital CRM Steering Committee that volunteered to help guide us with this work.