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New website, eCommerce platform part of Pickering’s vision for its technology future



By Glenn Hendry

Published September 16, 2022 at 1:14 pm

Pickering has a chosen a Toronto digital firm to guide the city into the next wave of technology, which will including a new web site, a new Live Chat customer experience tool, an eCommerce platform, an upgraded financial system and a new Citizen’s Portal solution with self-serve municipal service options.

MNP Digital Inc., which has worked with some 750 municipal clients and provided similar consulting services for the City of Ottawa, City of Vaughan, Peterborough County and the City of Grande Prairie, to name a few, has won the bidding to provide a Corporate Digital Readiness Assessment and Strategy for Pickering.

The project, which is expected to take six months to complete, will cost the City $161,798.

The consultant will prepare a digital readiness assessment and comprehensive, multi-year-term strategy, which will identify the City’s current service state, as well as determine the correct approach to “maximizing value from current and future technology investments.”

According to a staff report, Pickering’s website is approaching its 12th year of operation (with the average website having an approximate shelf life of about three years) and the City lacks a “coordinated, long-term corporate vision” to meet the digital service demands of its residents, businesses, and visitors, now and into the future.

“Pickering is growing and it is important that technology play an important role in helping Pickering scale to the needs of an evolving community. Customers expect to be able to interact with organizations online, and complete many municipal service requests, 24/7, from any device, anywhere,” the report declared. “COVID-19 has highlighted the need for digital services and municipalities to have the potential to fulfil this need. There is an increased demand and expectation for modernized and efficient technology solutions to provide an improved, digitized user experience for our residents.”

While Pickering has already made “significant investments” in various major systems, like SAP for Finance and Human Resources, ActiveNet for program registration and management and Amanda for building, planning and customer relationship management, there is perceived lack of understanding of how these existing solutions fit into the City’s long-term strategic plan.

“Today, all businesses rely on technology,” the report stated. “Whether a firm is in the business of selling products, delivering packages, or providing healthcare – people, processes, and technology need to work together for those services to be delivered effectively. Municipalities are no different … and services as diverse as collecting taxes, dispatching fire trucks, planning a sub-division, communicating and engaging the community, checking out library books, and managing recreation program registration all rely on technology to operate effectively and safely.”

“While email and smartphones keep every part of the organization connected and communicating, it is the back-office systems that allow managers and staff to track permit and planning applications, to manage customer requests, or monitor budgets. These are the tools that will enable the City to maximize its operational efficiency (and) looking to the future, technology will continue to grow in importance. More customers will expect to use their computers and smartphones to make an inquiry, report a problem, or submit an application. Increasingly, sensors will be used to monitor critical infrastructure throughout the City and notify staff where problems are anticipated or have occurred. Cities need to invest in infrastructure to attract/retain business investment and meet the diverse needs of a growing population.”

The project still has to be ratified at the September 20 meeting of Council (re-scheduled from September 19), the final meeting before the October 24 municipal election and outgoing Mayor Dave Ryan’s last meeting as the City’s top elected official.

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