Smarter Government: Santa Monica facilitates citizen interactions with City Hall

When the pandemic closed many government offices in March 2020, residents in many cities were no longer able to have physical contact with government employees, including Santa Monica, California. The Santa Monica city manager turned to the city’s CIO for a solution to boost citizen services online.

CIO Joseph Cevetello of Santa Monica knew the city already had a powerful tool that could help.

“I have placed my bets on certain platforms, and one of those platforms is Serve now‘ says Cevetello. “ServiceNow is a fantastic platform used by the entire industry. It is used by Fortune 100 companies, governments, universities, non-profits, you name it. So we already had that in house.”

“I realized that we already had a workflow request infrastructure and we were using it for internal services within the city,” he adds. “I thought, we have this whole workflow engine, this platform, so how about I expose that to the end user, to our citizens.”

Santa Monica CIO explains how ServiceNow produced the city’s mobile app.

ServiceNow helped quickly set up citizen services

Cevetello contacted ServiceNow and explained his challenge and thinking. The solution quickly made the difference.

“ServiceNow is fully ramped up,” he says. “They were great, and that’s why they’re a great seller.”

ServiceNow helped Santa Monica by providing the back-end development to enable Cevetello to activate the IT service management software for the public. With the help of a software developer, Cevetello produced a mobile phone app that connects to ServiceNow. In four months, Santa Monica had a successful app that could handle citizen requests, allowing residents to interact virtually with the city.

Anyone can download the app, which has geospatial awareness. When individuals are in Santa Monica, they can make 311 requests through the app. They can request garbage removal, infrastructure repair, non-emergency response and other services, and they can add photographic evidence to their requests by taking photos with their phone through the app.

A member of the Santa Monica 311 customer service team immediately receives submitted requests and quickly forwards them to the appropriate city office.

“It is the same infrastructure and the same system that makes the request. So the person who made the request can see in real time how much work is being done and when it will be completed. City staff can take a photo to show that the work has been cleaned up, and the person who made the request can see that, close the incident and give us feedback,” says Cevetello.

TO DISCOVER how states and cities use ServiceNow for IT service management.

Online Services reduce physical visits to government offices

Typically, many cities maintain a 311 service app separate from the network that forwards requests. So citizens don’t have the satisfaction of seeing work in progress and their requests can get stuck in the app even without resolution.

“Now it’s all one system,” says Cevetello. “You have the app; you open the application. That same system can be accessed by city employees, either on their mobile phone through the app or through a computer. They do all the work. It’s seamless and when they close the incident and take that photo, it’s communicated to you. You know in real time it’s done. It’s radically different.”

Other cities could follow in Santa Monica’s footsteps and adopt similar solutions, he added. With strategic plans and the right resources, municipalities can use online services for the convenience of their residents.

“The time when you went to the town hall for everything is over,” says Cevetello. “Governments are very frictional, but that doesn’t mean they can’t become more frictionless, and I think that’s really what apps like the City of Santa Monica app are all about.”

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