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Return to: 2002 Feature Stories

CLIENT: GOVPARTNER

March 1, 2002: American City & County

CITY UPDATES ONLINE CUSTOMER SERVICE CAPABILITIES

In 2001, when Laguna Hills, Calif., officials were searching for ways to improve the city's online services, they considered two options. They could hire an information technology staff to develop Web applications and computer systems, or they could find a third-party vendor that could provide the services the city needed.

Considering the costs of both options, Laguna Hills officials decided to use e-government applications hosted by a vendor. The applications will allow residents to submit requests for services, make payments and register for community activities through the city Web site.

Many of Laguna Hills' 33,000 residents use the Internet frequently, but their ability to conduct online business with the city has been limited. For example, residents could submit requests for services online, but, once the forms were submitted, they bottlenecked in a maze of manual handling.

Because the city does not have an information technology department, officials sought a low-maintenance software package that could automate those and other manual processes. "We were balancing two desires," explains City Manager Bruce Channing.

"We needed to ensure the systems would be specific to each department's unique processes. In addition, we wanted a comprehensive solution to avoid costs of integration and to mitigate compatibility problems down the road."

In spring 2001, city officials learned about cross-departmental software developed by Sunnyvale, Calif. The software handled online permitting, and it included community development and parks and recreation management systems. Sunnyvale had partnered with GovPartner, an affiliate of San Diego-based Berryman & Henigar, to develop an online service request and constituent communication management system to complete the suite of systems.

In July, the Laguna Hills council voted to begin using the full suite of e-government systems, which Sunnyvale was distributing through a partnership with GovPartner. Officials then began a public outreach campaign to increase awareness of the city's new online features.

"We are able to [expand our online services] without an IT department because the systems are hosted at a data center," explains Don White, assistant city manager. "That means we do not maintain and support the servers and e-commerce software associated with them, nor did we have to load software on to individual computers or pay for per-user/seat access to the systems."

Laguna Hills paid a one-time, up-front fee of $50,000 for the system, and it pays $66,000 a year for hosting, maintenance and support. Employee training for all systems, as well as development of the public outreach plan for the new e-government initiative, was included in the up-front cost. The city unveiled the online service request system in February and expects to complete implementation of the systems this month.

Return to: 2002 Feature Stories