Sandy City, UT, Uses CivicOptimizeTM Productivity to Accelerate Online Service Access
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 citizen engagement, Warfield-Graham recommended that Sandy City partner with CivicPlus® and leverage its Engage 6 headless content management system (HCMS) as its data repository and front-end content distribution system, and the CivicOptimizeTM Productivity low-code development 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 Engage 6 from CivicPlus. 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 their 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 Engage 6 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 citizens to local resources, Warfield-Graham says that Sandy City’s leaders were focused on keeping citizens 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. Citizens 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 citizen service model, she began considering new integration tools to complement Engage 6. While attending CivicPlus’ 2019 CivicSummitTM User Conference in Kansas City, Missouri, Warfield-Graham was introduced to the CivicOptimize Productivity low-code software.
“At the time, we were looking for mobile solutions and forms tools,” said Warfield-Graham. “We were impressed when we saw Productivity. 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 Productivity 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 Productivity 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 Productivity 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 Productivity is helping Sandy City to break down data siloes and better serve its citizens by providing the types of modern digital experiences they expect from consumer interactions.
“At Sandy City, our driving statement is ‘Think Like a Citizen.’ We want to make it seamless for citizens 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 citizens 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 citizens.” 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 Productivity is a better fit. We were also using three different form tools before Productivity. Every department wanted to innovate and migrate services online, but this individualized solution approach was creating more data silos and disparate experiences for citizens as they interacted with different parts of our communication platform.”
Productivity Use Cases
Today, Sandy City is using Productivity to facilitate a variety of online, citizen 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 Productivity’s out-of-the-box forms builder
- Currently exploring wiring-up a front-end Productivity 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
- Productivity 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 towards 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 citizens with the modern conveniences that people expect. We need to digitally catch up, and COVID-19 is forcing governments to do it rapidly. Citizens 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."