In the second of our two-part Microsoft Power Virtual Agents series, we examine the difference between Chatbots and Intelligent Chatbots, and how AI can elevate chatbot capabilities and improve user experience.
When Stearns County was originally looking for a platform, the largest requirement for a solution was that it could meet the unique and multifaceted needs of a local government organization. PowerObjects has been Stearns County’s digital transformation partner since 2013. Since then, they have utilized Dynamics CRM to provide better communication, faster processing times, heightened data security, and an overall more productive and satisfied county.
When Stearns County was originally looking for a platform, Anderson explains that the largest requirement for a solution was that it could meet the unique and multifaceted needs of a local government organization.
"You can obviously buy off-the-shelf permitting solutions for different departments, but one of the things that became clear is that those have limited functionality and the costs can really add up over time. For example, one solution might have what you need for feedlot permits but if you want to expand it into other areas, you're going to need to look for additional solutions. What Dynamics CRM presented us with was an opportunity to leverage one unified platform that can cover all of our needs and continue to grow with our county."
Stearns County also needed a platform that would supplement deficiencies in their current systems. For example, there are certain functions missing within their tax system that they used to have to manually process via email or paper. Before Dynamics CRM, there was no easy way to track or automate these redundant processes.
And finally, like many local government organizations, Steans County wanted to move away from disparate spreadsheets, outdated reports, and paper forms, lists and applications.
Stearns County now uses Microsoft Dynamics CRM to centralize their data, track inquiries and communications, and streamline their processes. Their system is set up as an xRM solution, customized to fit the needs of a local government organization.
The largest group of Stearns County’s Dynamics CRM users is based in their land-focused departments, including the Environmental Services department, Recorder’s office, Assessor’s office, and Land Management division of the Auditor’s Office.
Dynamics CRM is used to manage permits within Stearns County’s Environmental Services department and manage subdivisions and platting of land. The process starts in Environmental Services and then touches other departments like the Surveyor's office, and the Recorder's office.
Their Environmental Services group also manages feedlots, feedlot permits, and feedlot inspections. Additionally, they manage wetland projects, which determine where wetlands are situated through delineations and determinations.
The Assessor's office is another heavy user of Dynamics CRM. They use it for property transfers – when somebody sells or buys property. They also use it for district processing which is verifying values for various properties located in different townships.
Stearns County also uses Dynamics CRM cross-departmentally for tax adjustments. With Dynamics CRM, if somebody's tax valuation is too low or too high and a property owner challenges it, they can now track actions and have a single view of all communication across the involved departments.
Dynamics CRM is also used in their Land Management area. They use it for managing everything from county ditch projects to activities related to address assignment.
They also use Microsoft’s ADX Studio Portal with Dynamics CRM to accept online applications for septic permits and other activities related to septic systems. This will reduce the need for paper applications.
These departments are using Dynamics CRM to track activities such as phone call and emails. This allows the collaborating departments to know what is happening in real time on any given project. Anderson says that these streamlined processes have been met with excitement.
"Dynamics CRM makes things easier and more efficient for our staff which translates into far better customer experiences for our county residents and customers."
All of the solutions that Dynamics CRM provides leads to better communication, faster processing times, heightened data security, and an overall more productive and satisfied county.
The flexibility of the platform means that different departments are able to use Dynamics CRM, creating interconnected systems and ensuring alignment across the organization. When asked if Dynamics should be considered by other local government organizations, Anderson replied,
"I would definitely recommend Dynamics to other local government organizations. As we’ve seen over the years, the initial investment really has paid off – and we’re only getting started. There is a lot more functionality within Dynamics then you might originally even see. That’s what I’ve appreciated about PowerObjects. They’ve helped us see that the sky’s the limit with what we can accomplish with Dynamics."
One of the biggest benefits that Anderson has seen is the amount of information that has moved from spreadsheets and paper to Dynamics.
"Really, it’s about not flying blind. For example, if a permit is issued and it's going to affect assessment value of a property, the assessors can now go out and see which permits have recently been issued as opposed to waiting for some type of monthly report or maybe not ever receiving that information. Dynamics CRM has helped streamline these processes by providing real-time information, within a single view. It makes a huge difference to all parties involved."
Growing from 30 users to over 300 users in less than five years could be a stressful experience with some platforms. Dynamics CRM is an exception.
"I don't hear people complaining and even better than that, after several years on the platform, people are still asking for more. Departments who are not using Dynamics yet hear how great it is from other departments and want to utilize it as well. That’s how I know it’s successful."
“PowerObjects has been a true partner, in the sense that they work to truly understand our needs from the beginning and they want us to succeed. They are there when we need them but also empower us to work independently and think outside the box with Dynamics,” says Anderson.
Stearns County is currently in the process of moving one of their active production orgs to the cloud. They are also working on implementing ADX Studio Portal to accept homestead applications online for their Assessor's office. These processes will increase data security and could be expanded to eliminate the need for processing paper forms and applications over time.
In addition to those boarder functionalities, Stearns County is building an internal Dynamics CRM org for managing their internal processes related to county functions like human resources.
I would definitely recommend Dynamics to other local government organizations. As we’ve seen over the years, the initial investment really has paid off – and we’re only getting started. There is a lot more functionality within Dynamics then you might originally even see. That’s what I’ve appreciated about PowerObjects. They’ve helped us see that the sky’s the limit with what we can accomplish with Dynamics.