Residents and visitors cross Ocean Ave. to the beach in Santa Monica, Calif.

Dec 29 2022

Smarter Government: Santa Monica Eases Citizen Interactions with City Hall

The municipality created a service app that has proved popular after pandemic lockdowns.

When the pandemic shut down many government offices in March 2020, residents could no longer physically interact with government employees in many cities, including Santa Monica, Calif. The Santa Monica city manager turned to the municipality’s CIO for a solution to boost citizen services online.

Santa Monica CIO Joseph Cevetello knew that the city already had a powerful tool that could help.

“I placed my bets on certain platforms, and one of those platforms is ServiceNow,” Cevetello says. “ServiceNow is a fantastic platform that’s used throughout industry. It’s used by Fortune 100 companies, governments, university, nonprofits, you name it. So, we had already had that in place.”

“I realized that we had a workflow request infrastructure already in place, and that we were using this for internal services within the city,” he adds. “I thought, we have this entire workflow engine, this platform, so how about I expose that to the end-user customer, to our citizens.”


Santa Monica CIO explains how ServiceNow produced the city's mobile app.

ServiceNow Helped Quickly Establish Citizen Services

Cevetello reached out to ServiceNow and explained his challenge and his thinking. The solution quickly made a difference.

“ServiceNow completely stepped up,” he says. “They were amazing, and that’s why they’re an amazing vendor.”

ServiceNow helped Santa Monica by taking care of back-end development to empower Cevetello to activate the IT service management software for the public. With the help of a software developer, Cevetello produced a mobile phone app that tied into ServiceNow. In four months, Santa Monica had a successful app that could field citizen requests, enabling residents to interact with the city virtually. 

Anyone can download the app, which has geospatial awareness. When individuals are in Santa Monica, they can make 311 requests through the app. They can request trash removal, infrastructure repair, response to a nonemergency situation and other services, and they can add photographic evidence to their requests by taking photos with their phones through the app.

A Santa Monica 311 customer service team member immediately receives submitted requests and quickly routes them to the appropriate city agency. 

“It’s the same infrastructure, and it’s the same system that creates the request. So, the person who created the request can see the work being done and when it’s complete in real time. City personnel can take a photo to show the work is cleaned up, and the person who created the request can see that, close the incident and leave us feedback,” Cevetello says.

EXPLORE how states and cities deploy ServiceNow for IT service management.

Online Services Reduce Physical Visits to Government Offices

Typically, many cities maintain a 311 service app that is separate from the network that routes requests. So, citizens do not have the satisfaction of seeing work in progress, and their requests may even hang in the app without resolution.

“Now, it’s all one system,” Cevetello says. “You have the app; you open the request. That same system is accessed by city staff, either on their mobile phones through the app or through a computer. They perform all the work. It’s seamless, and when they close the incident and take that picture, it gets communicated back to you. You know in real time that it’s done. It’s radically different.”

Other cities can follow in Santa Monica’s footsteps and adopt similar solutions, he adds. With strategic plans and the appropriate resources, municipalities can field online services for the convenience of their residents.

“The days of going to City Hall for everything are over,” Cevetello says. “Governments are very high-friction, but it doesn’t mean that they can’t start to become more frictionless, and I think that’s really what apps like the City of Santa Monica app are all about.”

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