Philadelphia uses Salesforce.com for upgraded 311 system

Community portals, social media analysis and better insight into problem resolution are on tap for Philly residents

Philadelphia is set to use a slew of Salesforce.com technologies in order to create a next-generation version of its 311 system for public information and citizen reporting of nonemergency situations around the city.

A pilot project is underway, with a full rollout expected in mid-December, said Rosetta Lue, deputy managing director and chief customer service officer for Philadelphia, in an interview Thursday.

The city's original 311 system gives residents the ability to report on problems, such as a trash pile or an abandoned car, and request that action be taken. The proper department is alerted to the issue and a ticket is created. The site provides updates on ticket status, such as "received" or closed." It's also possible for a resident to track a ticket by its number.

Philadelphia has hired systems integrator Unisys to develop the Salesforce.com-based 311 system, which takes the original's general idea and expands upon it greatly. When complete, there will be more than 70 types of service requests available in the system, according to a statement.

Philadelphia is "very big into customer engagement," Lue said. "We also want to push information out, rather than just pull information in."

The system will provide a number of major improvements, she said. For example, residents who submit requests for service will be able to identify problems based on nearby landmarks, rather than having to provide an exact address.

There's also an intent to give residents a clearer sense of what's happening with a given ticket, as well as what actions were taken to resolve a problem, she said. The system will allow residents to opt-in to receive notifications regarding a ticket on their mobile devices.

Also, while Philadelphia already has a presence on social media channels, Salesforce.com's technology will give the city the ability to ingest social data and then analyze it to spot conversations related to municipal service delivery and take actions based on what they find, she said.

The move to Salesforce.com will also involve new community portals geared toward specific neighborhoods, where residents can discuss safety and beautification issues, organize volunteer efforts and share their knowledge.

"Now they can talk to each other and say, we have a lot of trash in our alley we would like to clean on Saturday," Lue said. "Are you interested?"

Philadelphia has more than 1,000 community advocates, who Lue expects will help seed interest in the community portals. Broad participation by residents is critical to this piece of the project's success, she said. "It's not about the city and us pushing our agenda," she said. "It's their neighborhood and they know what works."

One thing Philadelphia won't be using Salesforce.com for, at least for now, is a mobile application for the new 311 system. An existing application developed by another vendor will be integrated with Salesforce.com. The application provides support for 17 languages, which is hugely valuable, and Salesforce.com's API (application-programming-interface) capabilities will make it fairly easy to connect it into the core platform, she said.

Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris' email address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com

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Chris Kanaracus

IDG News Service
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