Mile-High E-Government

Denver's mayor answers the call for better service.

Denver's new 311 service, introduced in July 2006, demonstrates the way the city is changing how it uses information technology (IT). Michael Locatis, who was appointed CIO by Mayor John Hickenlooper, brings private sector management skills to his job. Under his leadership, the Technology Services department is focused on finding ways to simplify operations, save money, and deliver better customer service to the businesses and citizens of Denver.

 

The innovative 311 service is a three-digit number (similar to 411 and 911) that citizens can call when they have nonemergency needs, such as fixing potholes, renewing business licenses, and paying taxes. The 311 system includes a call center to manage all 311 calls and to link all existing (and future) government IT systems to a PeopleSoft customer relationship management (CRM) system. Information gathered during service requests is stored in a knowledgebase to facilitate future requests.

Denver's 311 system's seamless service delivery will be particularly critical during large city events or natural disasters. The boon to customer service is the biggest benefit, but the new 311 system will also generate significant cost savings. Currently, nonemergency 911 calls are a major expense for the city, and such calls will be efficiently managed by 311 agents. Based on the success achieved by the pilot testing of 311, Locatis is already working to help create new applications for the system beyond the Denver city limits.

Denver's Wellington E. Webb Municipal Office Building—a hypermodern beacon in a town of neoclassical municipal buildings and Old West charm—is where Michael Locatis and his Technology Services department hang their hats. An appointee of Mayor John Hickenlooper—and the first person to hold the title of CIO in Denver, Colorado—Locatis came to city government from Time Warner, where he was senior director of enterprise information technology. Hickenlooper's appointment of a longtime private sector manager sent a signal about the direction of Denver's technology policy—things were going to be different.

Across the street in the Denver City and County Building, Hickenlooper, who was elected as mayor of Denver in 2003, is leading a movement to change the way government works in the city. His reform-minded leadership influences all of the policy generated from his office, and he is just as informed by his time in the private sector as Locatis. "I believe there's no better preparation for executive elected office than running a big restaurant," says Hickenlooper, a restaurant owner and former bartender. "There's never enough money, there's never enough time, you have a lot of talented people who have to work together very closely, and you have to be able to respond to the public, which isn't always happy."

But Mayor Hickenlooper's key principles for governing the city have led to a broad-based transformation in the way Denver uses information technology. The upcoming launch of an innovative 311 system shows the administration's commitment to using information technology to save money, simplify operations, and deliver better service to the citizens and businesses of the Mile High City.

 

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