Surrounded by snow-covered mountains, colorful skies, and accessible waterways, Sandy City, Utah, is home to 100,000 residents who value the exceptional work-life balance this modern community offers. Only a ten-minute drive to the nearby Wasatch Mountain Range, Sandy City residents have easy access to outdoor recreation while living in a diverse, safe, spacious, and beautiful community. The Cairns, Sandy’s city center, has emerged as the second-largest downtown in the region after Salt Lake City, with the second-highest number of residential units and leasable commercial space. With so much expansion and development, it’s an exciting time to live and work in Sandy City.
Helping to lead the City’s growth, Mayor Kurt Bradburn, alongside his Chief Administrative Officer Matthew Huish, has instigated an administrative-wide priority shift to modern, configurable, and flexible technology systems that can enable departments to migrate services online and better serve their tech-minded, on-the-go residents.
Huish explained, “Sandy City has always had good bones, and we simply have worked diligently to implement technology and smart city solutions to maximize value to our constituents and efficiencies of operations.”
To execute the administration’s vision, Mayor Bradburn has added to his team several collaborative leaders with private sector technology experience, including Teako Warfield-Graham, a full-stack software developer specializing in web applications to join Sandy’s cross-disciplinary communications team, led by Communications Director, Eric Richards.
Our goal is to create a resident-centric experience where residents that interact with our departments online are ‘remembered’ within our City systems, and data can be easily shared and automated within the City framework using APIs. This is critical for streamlining our city-resident communications efforts, particularly when emergencies may arise
As the City’s dedicated Software Architect Engineer, Warfield-Graham works in the Communications Department, handling all digital communication initiatives. She actively works with the administration to bring the innovation and digital convenience enjoyed by the private sector to government services. In her role, one of Warfield-Graham’s primary goals has been modernizing the City’s website content management system and integrated software tools to enable maximum flexibility and data sharing.
To achieve the content control and de-siloed data structure needed to maximize digital resident engagement, Warfield-Graham recommended that Sandy City partner with CivicPlus and leverage its headless content management system (HCMS) as its data repository and front-end content distribution system and the CivicPlus Process Automation and Digital Services software for the creation of custom forms and in-field mobile applications.
Accelerating Digital Optimization
In 2018, Sandy City issued a request for proposal (RFP) for software solutions to replace its existing content management system (CMS) and achieve its vision for a true citywide communication platform. The City chose to implement a CivicPlus website. While launching its new platform and making significant strides, the COVID-19 pandemic hit in the Spring of 2020. The Sandy City Administration suddenly needed to accelerate its efforts and test the platform’s capabilities.
“One of the most significant ways that COVID-19 impacted our community involved our businesses shutting down,” explained Richards. Since Sandy’s communication team acts as an internal agency serving each department, Economic Development reached out to the Communications Department to see how they could help with the ravaging impact COVID-19 has on local businesses. “All of us on the Communications team asked ourselves, how can we help businesses?”
In response, Kendra Vicken, the team’s designer and social media manager, led the development of a new Shop Sandy campaign, while Richards and Warfield-Graham worked on a new Engage 6 website section highlighting Sandy’s COVID-safe options in restaurants, hotels, and local events. The new website feature kicks off Warfield-Graham’s first website API integration to an external dataset.
“This type of on-the-fly integration was possible due to the [HCMS’] flexible API toolset. It was also an exciting moment to see the possibilities of the new CivicPlus platform technology,” said Warfield-Graham.
Beyond the need to support local businesses and connect residents to local resources, Warfield-Graham says that Sandy City’s leaders were focused on keeping residents feeling safe and informed and essential services available.
“Online services became essential as people needed safe ways to interact with our City during social distancing measures and limited access to City Hall. We needed to move services online quickly. Fortunately, we had already begun that process, and with our CivicPlus software, we were able to accomplish things so much faster.”
“We also wanted to help residents feel that Sandy is always here for them,” advised Richards. “Our focus was on pushing information out safely to keep people in the loop. Residents look for accurate and timely information from us.”
The Value of Low-Code, Rapid Application Development
As part of Warfield-Graham’s work to achieve the City’s vision of a smart city that includes a digitally accessible resident service model, she began considering new integration tools to complement the city’s new CivicPlus website. While attending CivicPlus’ 2019 CivicSummitTM User Conference in Kansas City, Missouri, Warfield-Graham was introduced to CivicPlus’ Process Automation and Digital Services software.
“At the time, we were looking for mobile solutions and forms tools,” said Warfield-Graham. “We were impressed when we saw [the software]. We thought it was slick, easy-to-use, and appreciated that it would give us options to customize our solutions and expand on our pre-configured templates. It’s a fantastic tool for what we needed to achieve our goals.”
Another benefit of the Process Automation software for Sandy City is its ease of use for non-technical team members and the ability it offers software engineers like Warfield-Graham to optimize integrations and custom functionality.
“At Sandy City, our staff members who provide basic front-end web development can use [the Process Automation tool] to create forms and applications, but as the City’s Software Architect Engineer, I can also fully edit the code to make more complex customizations,” said Warfield-Graham. “I believe that anyone could use [the sofware] as either a stand-alone tool or integrated with their content management system. It’s an ideal solution for any entity that needs to connect existing systems, and you don’t need a developer on staff to make those connections.”
Warfield-Graham adds that CivicPlus’ Process Automation tool is helping Sandy City to break down data siloes and better serve its residents by providing the types of modern digital experiences they expect from consumer interactions.
“At Sandy City, our driving statement is ‘Think Like a Resident.’ We want to make it seamless for residents to interact with our administration, no matter what department they are working with or their need,” explained Richards.
“One of the most significant problems surrounding modern software systems is that they need to talk to one another. We need to leverage the data we have across systems to serve our residents holistically—it’s something I always talk about in my position on Sandy City’s Innovation Committee. Today, no system should be thought of in isolation. We need to think about new software components relative to what they can connect to and how data can stream back and forth between tools. Otherwise, we’re just creating the kinds of fragmented government experiences that frustrate residents.” Warfield-Graham went on to explain that the City urgently needed to upgrade its core communications technology to achieve this goal.
“The Granicus software we were using previously was 100 percent service-managed, out-of-the-box. We wanted to be able to scale, which is why [CIvicPlus’ software] is a better fit. We were also using three different form tools before [CivicPlus]. Every department wanted to innovate and migrate services online, but this individualized solution approach was creating more data silos and disparate experiences for residentsas they interacted with different parts of our communication platform.”
Productivity Use Cases
Today, Sandy City is using the CIvicPlus solution to facilitate a variety of online, resident self-service workflows, including:
- Due to COVID-19, the City needed a quick solution to enable residents to request an appointment online with the Passport Office
- Used the tool’s out-of-the-box forms builder
- Currently exploring wiring up a front-end form as integration into Cityworks backend; the form would dynamically populate the fields based on the businesses’ associated unique pin stored in a proprietary database
- Adding CivicPlus’ Pay utility application as a submission event
City-Wide Class Portal
- Uses an element lookup when a department is selected
- The Process Automation tool dynamically creates and populates the fields with classes listed for that department
- Involves a private-facing form for employees to list classes to create a repository of classes, which is pulled via the lookup into the public-facing form where residents can select a class, if available, enroll, and pay
The Value of a Single Solution Partner
For Sandy City, there is convenience and confidence in working with a single technology solution partner like CivicPlus for its communications platform and integrated forms and application tool.
“What I like about CivicPlus, is that it’s not trying to build some monolithic system,” said Warfield-Graham. “Rather, it offers connected, relevant, and complementary systems that work together.”
Warfield-Graham feels that by partnering with CivicPlus, Sandy City will be well-poised to continue meeting the new online imperative faced by local governments.
“We need to strive toward modernizing government,” she said. “Municipalities have traditionally lagged behind the private sector. The pandemic is forcing local governments to make choices about where they need to go in a variety of aspects of their business models. They’re realizing that they have to provide residents with the modern conveniences that people expect. We need to digitally catch up, and COVID-19 is forcing governments to do it rapidly. Residents must be able to obtain and pay for services online to meet their needs; city government also must continue to earn essential revenue. So, ensuring that online services are effective and widely available is a win-win.”
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