Project Management

Full Service: Agile Testing Helped a U.S. City Modernize It's 311 Service

Hayley Grgurich

Report potholes. Rat out rodents. Replace a busted garbage can.

One of the largest cities in the United States has made it radically easier for residents to request public services and resolve nonemergency problems. A team in Chicago, Illinois completed a 27-month, US$35 million project in December to modernize and streamline the system that serves 2.7 million residents.

The Chicago 311 project delivered a new website and rolled out a mobile app to better serve residents, and it developed a unified back-end system for handling work orders more efficiently across city departments. The system was designed to reduce wait times and increase the ability to track the status of requests—all major improvements on the antiquated, call-based service it replaced.

Now, instead of dialing 311 on a phone, residents can simply tap their smartphones to address more than 200 issues and file complaints ranging from excessive airplane noise to broken streetlights to a bad taxi driver. And the digital platform means 311 system workers no longer get bogged down with paperwork that could slow response times.

The high-tech overhaul required a team from the city’s Department of Innovation and Technology project management office (PMO) to execute a complex and comprehensive engagement strategy from start to finish. The team had to …

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"You do not really understand something unless you can explain it to your grandmother."

- Albert Einstein