2022 and 2023 budget: Designing and delivering better City services

The City of Guelph is making strategic investments in digital transformation; enabling employees to improve processes and deliver better services.

These investments are guided by Guelph’s strategic direction Working Together for our Future:

  • delivering effective, fiscally responsible, and trusted local government with engaged, skilled, and collaborative employees
  • improving how the City communicates with residents and delivers services

Through Council-approved investments in the 2021 budget, we have:

  • Moved all employees to the Microsoft 365 platform; enabling people working in the office, at home or in the field to connect and collaborate.
  • 583 front line employees were given access to email for the first time, improving how we are connected and communicate with these employees
  • Upgraded the Guelph Permit and Application System to enhance many features, including online application and payment for about 2,100 permits annually and inspection booking for approximately 30,000 inspections annually and soon online business licensing payments will be launched streamlining about 1,400 manual payments annually; creating value by reducing administration for both businesses and City, increasing accessibility of City services and reducing in-person lines at City Hall, and generally improving customer experience for users.
  • Being an industry leader by transitioning the court system to a virtual platform to allow for remote appearances that will replace about 5,000 in-person court proceedings annually, saving travel time and expenses and enhancing flexibility and accessibility of the court system
  • Launched new On-demand transit service offering riders more direct and flexible service while increasing ridership, broadening transit coverage, and lowering costs for the City; already over 15,000 trips in five months saving 67,900 kilometres of driving and 232,000 kilograms of CO2 from the environment.
  • 14,798 service requests have been submitted via Report an Issue map in 2021 reducing call volumes into the City.
  • 315 forms have been digitized either into a fillable form or web-based forms reducing paper and allowing citizens and staff to interact with the City from the safety of their homes.
  • Improved, more automated payroll and attendance management platform for 628 employees, saving an estimated 10,000 hours of time throughout the City; further employee groups onboarding through 2022 and 2023.
  • 340 employees are now using an online performance management application, improving goal setting consistency and enabling better communications between leaders and teams, reducing time spent on manual performance reporting and saving about 2,700 printed pages.
  • Automated and integrated expense management software will reduce time spent printing, manually submitting and reconciling more than 4,000 expense reports and reimbursements a year.

Becoming a more customer focused, performance driven, digitally enabled organization

As Guelph continues to grow, it must increase capacity to serve more customers who expect fast, easy, convenient service online, by phone and in-person. That means reviewing and redesigning City services, including the processes and tools we use to deliver them, measuring performance, and using that data to continue making improvements. This isn’t about eliminating jobs, it’s about creating capacity for agents to serve more people and businesses, training and providing opportunities for employees to continue improving service and performance in all departments, across all channels.

It’s about making sure the City’s workforce is future-ready.

Digital isn’t always better. Better is better.

Using modern tools and technology is critical for designing and delivering better services, but it’s just part of Guelph’s continuous improvement journey.

To achieve the goals set out in the City’s strategic plan: Guelph. Future-ready, the Council-approved customer service strategy: Service Simplified, and Guelph’s digital and technology master plan, Guelph must continue making strategic and sustainable investments to support a more customer focused, performance driven, digitally enabled workplace culture.

Before choosing a digital solution, it’s important to understand the problem from the customer or user’s perspective. Reviewing a process from end to end helps find ways to improve internal operations and customer experiences first, to optimize the process before digitizing it.

2021 highlights

Guelph is using Lean Six Sigma continuous improvement strategies to reduce waste, increase capacity, and provide better service to more people and businesses as Guelph continues to grow.

During the City’s first Lean Yellow Belt Certification Program, 11 successful projects were identified and prioritized by leadership. Each project was led by an employee working within the process or service, supported by training and coaching from certified continuous improvement staff within the organization.

This approach improves specific processes, creates common language, and encourages a culture of customer-centric problem solving; all are essential skills for successful digital transformation, customer service and process performance improvement.

Lean Yellow Belt Process Focus Areas Improvement Results
IT Project Intake Application Process New design of application portal with guidance document; reduced process cycle time by 43% and reduced extra communications by 57%.
IT Project Readiness Evaluation and Prioritization Successfully implemented gate process for evaluation; reduced lead time by 16.9% and staff time by 17.1%.
Finance Department Policy and Procedure Management and Control Framework successfully created and implemented; documents reduced by 56%; improved speed of access.
Safety Training Improved class fill rates by 37%; established new process for proactive planning with departments and updated vendor list with more class size flexibility.
Residential Water Meter Problem Resolution Standard process documented with code categories, ownership and prioritization clarified. Closure rate of 11% immediately and 19% more once new customer notification process in place.
Wastewater Sampling (Solids) New scheduling and monitoring process implemented, on track for greater than 10% first pass improvement.
Business Service Support Organization Partnerships Formal criteria assessment form developed allowing distribution of decision making, resulting in 86% improvement in decision speed based on pilot test results.  Actual cycle time will be measured as implemented in live process.
Oversized Load Permit Application Process improvements and payment process change resulted in overall lead time reduced by 80% compared to pre-COVID-19 and 96% during COVID-19. Payment error rework cycle eliminated.
Site Plan Application and Submission New Submission Acceptance Requirements document and formal resubmission guidance documents on Guelph.ca; Shared with GWDA; Pilot test showed 80% improvement of initial submission completeness and 38% improvement in resubmission response letter improvement; actual performance will be measured as implemented in live process.
River Run Centre Booking Process Improved internal process by reducing handoffs 50%, reducing batching 20% and pilot results showed overall lead time reduced by 19%. Will be monitored as implemented in live process.
Committee of Adjustment Comments New centralized and shared online commenting location in a new standardized AODA compliant template.  Best practices document and training provided resulted in 72% reduction in extra communication.

This work continues in 2022, at current staffing levels, with ongoing employee training, 10 more Lean Yellow Belt and five Lean Green Belt certifications.

2022 and 2023 strategic investments in customer and digital service improvement

The 2022 and 2023 Budget builds on the success of 2021 with the following planned investment:

  • Sustainable investment in the people resources needed to increase capacity for ongoing customer and digital service improvement projects.
  • Developing and implementing customer service standards, employee training and performance measurement framework.
  • Replacing, enhancing, and modernizing foundational systems including corporate payments, work orders and maintenance management, property taxation, human capital management and accounts payable.
  • Investigating and planning for enhanced customer experience with integrated customer relationship management software, using mobile technology to improve connectivity with employees in the field, improved data collection and analysis to support decision making and performance reporting in real time, and enabling artificial intelligence.

Opportunities identified in Guelph’s Service Rationalization Review

Many of the top recommendations from the July 2021 Service Rationalization Report focus on improving customer and digital service. Since then, the City has taken steps to address two of those opportunities:

  • further research and prioritize a list of digital initiatives which are planned or are already underway
  • recommend options for a more connected City-wide payment platform
  • develop a roadmap to guide ongoing customer and digital service improvements

The findings in the September 2021 report on Digitization of City Services are an important part of the multi-year commitment required to implement the Council-approved customer service strategy: Service Simplified. Staff are incorporating the recommended opportunities in 2022 and 2023 work plans and progress reports to Council will occur annually.

Modernization and efficiency financial strategy

The City proposes using its Efficiency, Innovation and Opportunity Reserve Fund to achieve the service, performance, and financial benefits of a customer focused, performance driven and digitally enabled organization. This established reserve fund is aligned with the objectives of the service rationalization and other digital transformation, modernization, and continuous improvement projects.

As part of the 2022 and 2023 Budget, staff recommend investing up to $500,000 annually for three years to fund the planning, business case development and in some cases, the implementation of process improvement and efficiency projects. These funds will be used in connection with capital financing strategies already in place, providing access to planning resources not currently available. Appropriate governance and reporting on the use of these funds and the outcomes achieved will be incorporated into annual Council financial and budget reporting.

What are the financial benefits of customer and digital service improvement?

Based on experiences from other government organizations, Guelph expects significant savings as it improves and increases digital services.

Estimated interaction costs

Channel UK Norway Canada
Web $0.14 – $0.27 $0.46 $0.91
Phone $5.02 – $6.01 $6.23 $5.50
In person $15.28 – $18.66 $12.46 $12.00 – $30.32

Source: Ben Perry Consulting

Guelph is developing its corporate customer service standards and measurement framework. The City plans to gather and report on Guelph-specific savings.