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updated: 10/25/2013 5:50 PM

Elgin plans tech upgrade to better serve residents, businesses

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The city of Elgin is planning a technology overhaul that will allow residents, business owners and city employees to get things done much more efficiently, officials said.

The $718,300 project consists of buying applications made by three companies -- BasicGov, Monexa and Asset Optics -- to use a software platform made by the cloud-based company Salesforce. According to the Salesforce website, its customers include the cities of Boston and San Francisco, plus companies like Burberry, L'Oreal USA and Pandora.

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"This upgrade really brings us to 2013 technology, meaning this is all technology that we can later develop smart devices apps for," city management analyst Dan Ault said.

The city is using software purchased in 1992 that has gone through some upgrades but is not serving the city's needs, Ault said.

"Doing business with the city of Elgin can very often be a challenge for our citizens based on some very real technical challenges we're having," he said.

The new software will transform how business is done in Elgin.

For example, people now have to go to city hall to fill out permit applications. With the new technology, they will be able to do a lot more on the city's website, such as apply for basic permits and general business licenses, and renew business licenses, Ault said.

More complex permits will still require an in-person visit, but the process will begin online, he said.

The new software will yield real-time metrics, which the current system can't do. For example, city staff will be able to cross-reference information related to specific addresses, such as police calls, code enforcement calls and water bills, City Manager Sean Stegall said.

The system will also eliminate the need to hire consultants to gather data that the city isn't able to track now, such as leaf collection costs, Stegall said.

Ault estimated full implementation of the new system would take 15 to 18 months.

Elgin's new 311 system, which will allow people to call the nonemergency number for any city issue, will also use the Salesforce platform. The 311 system is expected to go live in early December.

The city council's committee of the whole gave the green light to the project earlier this week.

"The technology leap translates into better citizen representation from the city council, and better customer service," Councilman Terry Gavin said.

Having accurate data will help Elgin's budgeting process, Councilman John Steffen said.

"We can see where things are working, where we can focus more money, and where things are not working we can trim those back," he said.

Yearly maintenance fees are expected to be a bit more than double the current $90,000, but future maintenance will include upgrades three times a year, rendering the new technology evergreen, Ault said.

City's data will be stored by Salesforce in a primary storage facility near Naperville and backed up by servers across the country, Ault said. "We are not responsible for stowing or securing any of the data ... the data is much more secure with someone like them," he said.

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