A new website, an e-commerce platform, part of Pickering’s vision for its technological future

By Glen Hendry

Posted on September 16, 2022 at 1:14 pm

Pickering has selected a Toronto digital firm to lead the city into the next wave of technology, which will include a new website, a new user experience tool for live chat, an e-commerce platform, an upgraded financial system and a new citizen portal solution with municipal self-service options.

MNP Digital Inc., which has worked with approximately 750 municipal clients and provided similar consulting services to the City of Ottawa, City of Vaughan, County of Peterborough and City of Grand Prairie, to name a few, won the bid to provide an Enterprise Digital Readiness Assessment and pickering strategy.

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

The consultant will prepare a digital readiness assessment and comprehensive, multi-year strategy that will identify the current state of the city’s services, as well as determine the right approach to “maximize 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 estimated shelf life of about three years) and the city lacks a “coordinated, long-term corporate vision” to meet the digital services requirements of its residents, businesses and visitors, now and in the future.

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

Although Pickering has already made “significant investments” in various core systems, such as SAP for finance and HR, ActiveNet for registration and program management and Amanda for building, planning and managing customer relationships, there is a 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 said. “Whether a company is in the business of selling products, delivering packages or providing healthcare, people, processes and technology need to work together for these services to be delivered effectively. Municipalities are no different… and services as diverse as tax collection, dispatching fire engines, subdivision planning, community communication and engagement, checking out library books, and managing recreation program registration all rely on technology to work efficiently and safely.”

“While email and smartphones keep every part of the organization connected and communicating, back-office systems are what allow managers and staff to track permit and scheduling applications, manage customer requests or monitor budgets. These are the tools that will allow the city to maximize its operational efficiency (and) with an eye 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 file a claim. Increasingly, sensors will be used to monitor critical infrastructure throughout the city and notify staff when problems are expected or have occurred. Cities need to invest in infrastructure to attract/retain business investment and meet the diverse needs of a growing population.”

The bill still must be ratified at the Sept. 20 Council meeting (rescheduled from Sept. 19), the last meeting before the Oct. 24 municipal election and outgoing Mayor Dave Ryan’s last meeting as the city’s top elected official.

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