Lotus: e-Government Takes Wings with Beacon Award Winner's Lotus-Based Product, Lotus Press 2001.

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YEAR: 2001
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TIME: 2001
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e-Government Takes Wings with Beacon Award Winner's Lotus-Based Product [Sep 27]

Award: Best Industry Solution, Public Sector Award
JPH INternational, Inc.

Accepting the award for JPH International -- John White - Chief Application Architect, J. Paul Haynes - President and CEO, Bryan Simmons - Lotus Sr. VP, John Goetz - VP, Business Development, Graeme Somerville - VP, Marketing

The Domino-based tracking and escalation system is a way to get a handle on the minutia that governs the quality of life in a civic setting.

As a result of this (Domino-based) kind of analysis, governments are also finding wasteful overlap.

Beacon AwardsthumbnailEvery Lotusphere, Lotus recognizes several Business Partners who excel in providing expert and quality products, solutions, and services to customers. The winner of Best Industry Solution, Public, was JPH International -- for excellence in solutions to the public sector. We spoke with Graeme Somerville, Vice President of Marketing.

At the level of everyday lives, e-government is making large contributions to more livable communities through such mundane but meaninful issues as quicker and more efficient response to potholes and trash collection.

JPH International has been thinking and delivering a software solution to local governments and utility companies for a long time. The Lotus Business Partner is the winner of a 2001 Beacon Award for excellence in solutions for the public sector. The company won for its SuiteResponse Service v5.1, which according to the citation, is "a truly comprehensive 'citizen relationship management' (CRM) solution that leverages Domino's collaborative and integration capabilities with existing legacy systems and non-Lotus messaging products."

In addition to Domino, SuiteResponse incorporates the technology of several other Lotus products, including Domino.Doc, K-station, and Sametime.

Tracking communications with citizens for follow up

Graeme Somerville, vice president of marketing for JPH International, says, "Citizens are beginning to demand the level of service in government that they are used to in business. They want access on a 24-by-7 basis, and they want more accountability than they get through a random phone call to city hall."

And, according to Somerville, governments are responding. They are looking into ways to expand their means of communication with their citizens. One of the elements that makes SuiteResponse attractive to this progressive kind of government is its issue-tracking capability. Whether a citizen calls, emails, faxes, or fills out a Web form, the issue isn't lost. It is categorized and tracked for follow-up and, if need be, the automatic escalation of the issue.

Domino agents running in the background track the time from the reporting of an issue until it is closed and notify the appropriate people if action isn't taken when it should be. At the same time, any action that is taken is automatically communicated to the citizen who reported the issue.

Benefit 1: empowering staff through knowledge management

The human part of communication is also enhanced by the KM elements of SuiteResponse. A surprise benefit of the CRM system is the empowerment of staff. People want to be helpful, but with no information, they are often forced to route a call to someone else -- whom they
hope can answer the question.

Somerville says, "The knowledge management capabilities of SuiteResponse, which we call Advisor, is the key. Advisor allows employees of the city or utility to be truly helpful, which makes them feel better about their jobs." No one employee knows the whole operation of city hall, which is the reason that callers are shuttled from one person to another looking for a solution to an issue.

But when an employee responds to a call, she will categorize the issue. Since each issue type has knowledge documents embedded in it, the employee also has instant access to other citizen issues and information in the category. This means that as the problem is being logged, it may also be solved. At the very least, through the information now accessible to every employee, each is capable of having a meaningful dialog with the citizen.

Benefit 2: seeing duplication of effort

Not only is the escalation process a way of serving citizens better, but it has other fringe benefits. For example, as local officials have examined the process represented by the escalation workflow, they have often found that more than one department believes it is responsible for delivering a particular service. Is that eye-sore lawn a citizen has reported the responsibility to public health or the zoning board?

The city of Lynchburg, Virginia uncovered a fascinating problem of this sort after they installed SuiteResponse. JoAnn Brown-Martin, the city's Director of Communication says, "The defining event to implement a centralized tracing solution occurred when we discovered that a particular resident had numerous code violations from various departments and each department handled the violation individually. The City recognized it needed a single view of that residence and that citizen."

As a result of this kind of analysis, governments with SuiteResponse are also finding wasteful overlap. And given that many local governments are delivering a broader array of services, information captured in SuiteResponse allows city management to deploy resources more effectively.

Benefit 3: getting feedback for continuous improvement

Identification of training needs of an agency's staff or lack of resources is the third fringe benefit of the tracking system. If one department isn't responding quickly, quite often the staff isn't prepared for what they are being asked to deal with. They need training to meet the expectations of citizen or utility customers. Again as governmental agencies deal with issues such as training and lack of resources and as they are able to keep citizens in the loop on a 24 by 7 basis, they can serve more quickly and effectively.

Less than a day after the city of Lynchburg opened its Citizen's First system, which is based on Suite Response, officials were receiving compliments from people who instinctively knew the system would mean better service. The city has since won a number of awards for its effective governing, including the highest award given by the Virginia's Municipal League for entreprenurial government.

Benefit 4: becoming a change agent

Many cities that incorporate CRM systems are thinking of it as a change agent. The city of Berkeley, California, is an example. In setting up their Suite Response system, they were primarily concerned about engaging their neighborhood associations. They needed to give the associations access over the Web so they could get into a self service mode.Stephanie Lopez, Berkeley's Communications Manager says, "The Web access didn't negate city representatives going out and meeting with groups, but, through the comprehensiveness of the tracking system, it improved the quality and speed of communications relative to neighborhood issues."

Benefit 5: discovering the root of problems

The ability to understand trends often helps a city go to the root of the problem. For example, the city of Georgetown, Texas, found that they had responded 20 times to fix a pot hole. With a report showing that number, they went out looking for a cause, which happened to be a leaky water main.
Often governments are trying to deal with what is called the "broken window syndrome." The idea is if you leave a broken window unattended, the neighborhood slips down the slope of decline. The Domino-based tracking and escalation system is a way to get a handle on the minutia that governs the quality of life in a civic setting.

The future

JPH International is constantly incorporating new and interesting features into SuiteResponse. Among the newest features Somerville lists:
    • support of WAP devices through Domino Everyplace, for employees in the field
    • iNotes Web Access for a browser client, as cities begin to allow citizens to enter data in a form
    • through Lotus Enterprise Integrator, greater integration with backend systems, such as a community's property data

What seems certain for the future is that Lotus through its Premier Business Partner JPH International will be on the cutting edge of a whole new venture in democracy.