How Town of Cary is Building Customer Focused Strategies

By: Nicole Raimundo

The Town of Cary has been completely transformed. Cary is becoming more efficient and more effective than ever before with thanks to their new customer-centric strategies. To learn more, we spoke with Nicole Raimundo, the Chief Information Officer for the Town of Cary and orchestrator of this substantial change. In this blog post we discuss the work Nicole and her team have been doing in the town and what businesses, governments and municipalities alike can learn from her experience. We will share with you the top three initiatives Nicole and her team have taken to ensure that they’re putting their customer at the heart of their operational excellence strategy. Discover how to overcome cultural problems and legacy systems all while focusing on your customer.

1. Tackle the Culture Problem

From all of her achievements at Cary, Nicole believes overcoming the cultural problems and changing the internal environment of the municipality is her biggest achievement. Changing the culture of an organization means that you can spend less time focusing on how people are actually doing their work and instead focus on the work at hand – the customers and the citizens. Ensuring everyone on the team is bought in on the journey will make what is usually a difficult process, significantly simpler and so the effort put into cultural change is worth the results you get.

'If you don't take time to change the culture, you're never going to be able to fully achieve and focus on a citizen-centric approach.' - Nicole Raimundo (Town of Cary)

According to Nicole, after tackling the cultural problem, people have started to adapt their own job roles based on thinking about what their citizens need. ‘It’s important to remember, Cary was never broken, it was very high performing,’ explains Nicole, ‘but this process was about getting people to think about changing the way they do their work and making their role easier from themselves and for others. Everybody has started to elevate the way that they do their work, meaning that they think about the task at hand on a more holistic level.’

But how do you tackle such a big problem? One of the first things Nicole did was host an internal hackathon, ensuring that everybody got involved. This event reminded the team that change isn’t just about technology and systems; it’s really about the mind sets and skills of the team. Getting people engaged and encouraging growth can really help to get people involved in changing the entire culture of an organization, as has been the case with Cary.

2. Begin to Eliminate Legacy Applications

Legacy applications, according to Computer Weekly, are holding back almost 90% of businesses. These applications have been in place for a number of years and for most organizations, eliminating these applications may not be worth the ROI. However, if you want to keep your customers and citizens at the heart of your strategies, eliminating these applications is likely to be a step you will need to take.

One of the top priorities Nicole has tackled in Cary is working towards eliminating more than 100 legacy applications as the organization moves to a single platform strategy. ‘The process for us was to come up with a platform strategy and really hone in on thinking about these platforms and how we could use them, moving away from the duplicative applications,’ explains Nicole ‘Traditionally the government had a lot of businesses that solely focused on one specific type of work. Through this, you actually end up with a lot of duplicative systems and they’re not even sharing data.’

‘By moving to a platform, our goal is to get rid of all these individual systems and build a congruent system,’ Nicole shares with us, ‘It will take us a long time to pick off each of these applications but as we go we can begin to see a 360 degree view of internal operations. This will allow us to make better decisions and we will be able to share this information with the citizens of Cary. For example, we will be able to notify individuals when they have missed a trash pickup and so on. As we build our 311 system, we will be able to give all that information to the customer instantaneously and then initiate a back and forth conversation, creating a better relationship.’

Eliminating legacy systems helps organizations to look into the future rather than being stuck in a continuous loop. Industries and customers are always changing and it’s up to the organization to ensure that they are always meeting expectations, no matter how much they differ from the traditional way of working.

3. Understand the Customer Journey

Of course, it’s important to tackle internal cultural issues and to eliminate processes that are holding you back from modernizing, but when it comes to putting your customer or citizen at the heart of your Operational Excellence strategy, the main focus is just that. Understanding the journey these individuals will take and discovering what changes and initiatives you can take in order to make this journey as smooth as possible. When speaking with Nicole, it’s clear that above anything else you really need to understand your citizens.

'We're always thinking about the next step we can take to connect our community and how we can make the whole customer journey better.' - Nicole Raimundo (Town of Cary)

‘The town has always had incredibly high service levels; however, there wasn’t really a focus on developing a customer-centric approach. When we thought about the work we did, it was much more operational. We realized we weren’t looking at the whole citizen journey. At this point, we started to think about doing journey maps where we put the citizens first or at the centre,’ explains Nicole ‘We worked through the scenario from the citizen’s perspective all the way back to the operations.’

‘This has changed the way the people in the municipality work,’ Nicole continues ‘the focus now is much more on the services that we deliver from the citizen’s perspective. The biggest thing for other organizations and municipalities to learn is the way your customers want to use your applications. In Cary we have an idea about building a connected community and this connection can come from anywhere. Whether it’s on a person to person level, whether it’s through text messaging or through an IoT project, the end goal should always be connecting to your customer.’

For every business, corporation and municipality alike, customers should be at the heart of their strategies. Not only does this lead to overall business successes but it give organizations a significant purpose and end-goal. When it comes ensuring your business is doing this, understanding your specific customer and their relationship to your organization is vital. From there, you can begin towards tailoring your internal environment to make sure the work you are producing and the services you are providing are meeting the ever-growing list of expectations. The Town of Cary have shown the impact that such a strategy can have on an organization, these steps can help shape success.

Nicole has worked in the technology industry for the 25 past years. For the last 10 years, she has focused her roles in the public sector and is currently the Chief Information Officer for the Town of Cary. In her day-today role, Nicole is responsible for the strategic direction across the organization when it comes to new technological needs. These range from security and networking to applying digital transformation strategies. Recently, the marketing department in the municipality moved into the IT department in order to move away from traditional public information into a more enterprise-wide marketing. Nicole will be joining us at OPEX Week Summer to host a keynote speech about the work she has been doing in Cary. Find out more.