Case Study: How the City of Vaughan Increased Revenue with the BlackBerry Solution
The City of Vaughan, located just north of Toronto, in Ontario, Canada, has long used technology to improve citizens’ quality of life and reduce costs associated with managing the city. In fact, Vaughan was the first city in Canada to adopt a BlackBerry infrastructure. Since that time, Vaughan has implemented a number of initiatives designed to make it easier for city staff members to do their jobs and serve the people of Vaughan. These projects include Staff Locator, which allows the Information & Technology Management Department (ITM) Client Services staff to identify and update the facility at which they will be working, and Project Portfolio Log, which mobilizes information about ongoing projects, including current status and assigned staff; this allows the city’s Manager of Business Solutions to be able to answer questions at any time about projects taking place in the city.
With Vaughan Vision 2020, the city has set up a plan to leverage technology to help increase quality of service and decrease costs through to the year 2020. In this case study, we explore how Vaughan made it easier for ByLaw Enforcement officers to get the information they need at any time, from any location—and increased revenues in the process.
Prior to deploying a BlackBerry® solution, when a Bylaw Enforcement officer wanted to check the license status of a business or individual, he or she had to call the Clerks Department and request that information. This typically took 5 to 15 minutes, as the clerks had to retrieve and verify the information—in fact, at times, clerks were unable to field these calls at all because they were attending to other duties. Because officers made multiple enforcement calls daily, they often spent up to two hours on the phone each day. Additionally, officers couldn’t get this information outside of normal business hours because the Clerks Department closed at 4:30 p.m.
The system, as it was set up, was inefficient and led to a loss of revenue because Bylaw Enforcement officers are tasked with making sure that businesses and individuals are properly licensed, and they give out citations in cases where they aren’t. These citations are a significant source of income for the city. Both enforcement officers and clerks were spending a large percentage of their workdays on the phone with each other—reducing the number of inspections officers could make each day and taking clerks away from their main job responsibilities. Additionally, 20 percent of licensing charges brought by the city were later dismissed in court because officers had outdated information. These dismissals represented a loss of income because officers were spending time on cases that were being dismissed rather than focussing on compliance.
Other problems associated with the previous system included:
- A seven-day lag time to process new licenses into the database
- Licenses could remain in “pending status” for long periods of time
- Data was often incomplete
To address this problem, the City of Vaughan turned to the BlackBerry technology they had already deployed for email and mobile voice communication. They developed an application in-house which allowed Bylaw Enforcement officers to remotely and securely access licensing information from their BlackBerry smartphones. Using four BlackBerry smartphones provided by a wireless carrier—and without purchasing any additional server hardware—the City began an eight-week pilot program for the system and found that it resulted in efficiency gains for the officers involved.
This saved time translated into efficient and effective utilization of human resources, and also increased revenue from citations.
The response from field testers was extremely positive. By eliminating the need to call in for information, the application saved both the officers and the clerks one to two hours a day that they had previously spent on the phone with each other. This saved time translated into efficient and effective utilization of human resources, and also increased revenue from citations. Specifically, in the twelve-month period after implementing the BlackBerry application, the city discovered that officers and clerks were saving an average of 7.5 hours a week, that 55.2% more notices of non-compliance were filed by the officers, and that revenue from improved enforcement of license bylaws increased by 12.9% as a result of these efficiency gains.
Perhaps most impressively, because the City leveraged its existing BlackBerry server and smartphones, previously only used for email and voice communication, it didn’t have to buy any additional hardware to achieve this additional efficiency.
Looking to the future, Vaughan Management feels that the City needs a standard approach to handling cases – requests for service, reports of incidents, and complaints. Centralizing this information will facilitate access for City staff, management, and members of Council to lookup and retrieve up-to-date information when responding to Vaughan’s constituents. BlackBerry smartphones will further improve efficiencies, effectiveness, and quality of service.
The City of Vaughan continues to extend how it utilizes its BlackBerry solution. Up next are plans to mobilize data that is critical for fire and building inspections. The City plans to give fire inspection staff the ability to access building floor plans, emergency response plans, and inspection forms while on-site doing an inspection. The City also plans to mobilize building code and permit information, allowing staff to access this information when they make inspections.