Chicago's 311 center a magnet for tech execs
May 10, 2004
BY MICHAEL KRAUSS
The City of Chicago's
award winning 311 Center, which provides easy access for non-emergency
city services, is the drawing card for a group of top public sector
technology executives gathering here Wednesday.
developing a 311 strategy, and have a huge focus on customer service,"
says Chris Moore, CIO for the city of Brampton in Canada. "Chicago
has one of the leading customer centered approaches."
couldn't be better for Mayor Daley and 311 Center director Ted
O'Keefe. Last week, the center won a coveted Public Service Excellence
Award from the Washington D.C.-based Public Employees Roundtable.
The win comes on the heels of last year's Innovations in American
Government Award presented by the Ash Institute at Harvard University
and the Council for Excellence in Government.
311 Center handled over 3.8 million calls last year, and tracked
over 2 million requests for city services," says O'Keefe.
It tackled requests for everything from graffiti removal and street
light malfunctions to checking out the well-being of senior citizens.
This year the center expects to handle more than 4 million inquiries.
to offering Chicagoans a convenient way to contact the city for
information and services, the 311 Center provides city managers
with performance statistics to assure that problems are resolved
on time and on budget.
a great management information system," says Paul O'Connor,
president of World Business Chicago, the city's public-private
partnership guid- ing economic development. Through 311, city
department heads "have the real-life information they need
to manage. It shows the mayor's philosophy toward customer service.
There's no city that's got anything like this."
conference is hosted by the City of Chicago, Motorola, SBC and
Harvard's Ash Institute. Technology executives from across the
U.S., Canada and the United Kingdom are expected. Visitors are
"very excited about the opportunity to achieve what Chicago
has accomplished," adds Motorola Vice President Steve Reed.
approach to tech
Not all Chicago's
successful tech leaders are under 40. Rick Forsythe, founder of
Forsythe Technology, Inc. started with IBM in 1961 at the age
of 21. He helped the company introduce its legendary IBM 360 mainframes.
In 1971 he
launched his computer leasing company in a one-bedroom apartment
at 1340 N. Astor. He's made a profit every year since.
advice for Chicago's post-Internet bubble entrepreneurs: "There's
an old guy named Aesop who wrote a fable. Slow and steady wins
the race. I'm using an old Greek's advice to run a modern-day
the turtle principle, Forsythe is evolving from a leasing company
to an independent reseller of technology equipment and a technology
consulting company. Forsythe has grown to 650 employees with 35
offices around the country. Though privately held, Forsythe publishes
an annual report. Last year's sales were $444.3 million, with
net earnings from continuing operations of $24.2 million.
Not all successful
tech entrepreneurs go to Stanford or Harvard. A 1961 graduate
of Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, For-sythe recently was inducted
into his alma mater's Miami Academy of Entrepreneurs.
partner Greg Welch hosted his annual chief marketing officer's
summit last week at the Chicago Club. The program featured Cammie
Dunaway, chief marketing officer of Yahoo!, and Carter Cast, senior
vice president, Wal-mart.com. Credit Chicago's Welch with placing
Dunaway in her senior role at Yahoo!.
unafraid of Google. "Being a product of PepsiCo, I'm familiar
with competition," Dunaway says. "Google is doing a
lot of things right. What we have to do at Yahoo! is communicate
we're much more than a search engine."
It could mean
more Yahoo! kiosks like the pilot at Marshall Field's on State
Steve Pazol, CEO of nPhase, a local company focusing on machine-to-machine
technology, was named a "Top 10 M2M Pioneer" by M2M
technology is an emerging sector that, in its simplest form, will
someday allow machines like your refrigerator to signal when they
Michael Krauss is a Chicago-based tech writer and consultant.