Implementing a Government CRM? Toss Out the Playbook!


As the City of Philadelphia Chief Customer Service Officer, I was responsible to led a project team to procure and implement a new city wide CRM (Customer Relationship Management) platform for nearly three years now. The platform will improve the City’s ability to communicate with citizens and internal departments, increase employee productivity, as well as, create a social platform around 311. The CRM will facilitate collaborations between neighbors and stakeholders encourage them to share practices, and organize events to better their communities.

Like any project, we have experienced ups and downs. I would be lying if I said that the journey hasn’t had unanticipated hiccups. Inevitably with a project of this magnitude, there are bumps in the road. Some of these challenges are foreseeable, and accounted for in the very beginning, and others reveal themselves in the process.

In February 2014 the City of Philadelphia kicked off the CRM implementation and a new era of citizen engagement. Before we were able to introduce the project throughout the City, we spent months planning, collecting data, and journey-mapping to ensure that the customers’ needs would be met and their expectations exceeded. Yet in that mission there were some obvious challenges. Anytime you, or a company, are implementing new technology, managing change for a new environment should not be underestimated. Also new and refresher training for your various stakeholders have to be a high priority. However, who needs to be trained, and when they need to be trained, often fluxes in relation to a number of factors. When schedules, resources, and strategies change in the process, you have to remember to be proactive and not reactive.

Embrace and face change. This isn’t to say that you should spend all your time planning for the unexpected, but to rely on your greater objective as a source to keep from getting discouraged. Part of being a project executive means establishing a strategy to confront the unexpected opposed to simply reacting to them as they come along. Don’t spend too much time planning for what cannot be planned.

Good news! The City successfully launched full implementation of the new CRM on December 8, 2014 to serve 1.5 million residents, businesses, and visitors in addition to 28,000 employees. The procurement and implementation journey has been long, but certainly worthwhile. With every mention of the new CRM I can’t help but to thank the people who have supported this process. A big thank you to Mayor Nutter, Executive Sponsor and City Managing Director Richard Negrin, Chief Innovation Officer Adel Ebeid, Philly311 staff, Unisys, Salesforce, ICMA and all internal and external partners.

Regardless of the inevitable challenges we’ve faced, the ultimate outcome: a transparent government that prioritizes its citizens, is what makes bumps in the road, simply that.

Stay tuned for news of our PhillyInnovates summit on February 18, 2015 in partnership with Salesforce and the local tech community. This will be a huge opportunity for the community and other key stakeholders to learn about the whos, whats, whys, and hows behind how the City of Philadelphia is connecting with its customers.

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