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Setting a New Standard — the Future of Constituent Experience

Learn how Catalyst, equipped with Salesforce technology, is helping local governments modernize their public services and deliver better experiences for their constituents.

Imagine there are two tasks you need to accomplish in one day, and a good friend offers to take care of whichever you think is harder. The first task is to return a pair of shoes you bought from an online retailer. The second is to notify your local government of a pothole on a major road that has doubled in size in the last two months.

Which task would you give to your friend?

The standard for customer experience has risen rapidly in recent years. Both B2C and B2B customers expect seamless, personalized experiences from businesses that treat them like real people. Notably, digitally-facilitated customer service is increasingly the norm with technology serving us across many – almost every – use case that is modern, connected life. This has contributed to and has driven the high expectations for digital customer experiences. Public sector and local governments aren’t granted exceptions to these customer service expectations and standards. Yet, in many cases, there’s a significant gap between the experiences customers have versus the ones they have as citizens or constituents of their local governments.

At Catalyst, we’re committed to closing that gap.

We are the 3-time winning Salesforce Partner Innovation Award recipient. Of those three awards, two were awarded in the Government & Public Sector category with one in Transportation & Travel. Our implementations for the City of Toronto, Toronto 311 (2022), Port of Seattle (2020), and the City of Chicago, CHI311 (2019) earned this accolade three out of four consecutive years. Each project drove revolutionary transformation in how these organization serve and build trust with their publics. The work in each project impacted numerous departments and touched several technology solutions, with Salesforce serving as a “glue” or common source of truth. In this article we’ve chosen key details that demonstrate and provide models for constituent-centered government technology. Read on for a closer look at how modernizing technology can improve constituent experiences.

Toronto

In the winter of 2020 alone, the 311 (non-emergency) team for the City of Toronto received more than 10,000 phone calls related to winter weather concerns.

Before modernizing their systems with Salesforce, the processes for receiving, tracking, and resolving service request cases like these weather concerns were very manual and disconnected. Lack of integration between their systems and piecemeal workflows for different kinds of service requests made it slow and expensive to resolve cases, with limited ways to collaborate across departments.

We sent our team of government technologists to overhaul the underlying technology with a revamped CRM built on Service Cloud, equipped with a custom-built public-facing mobile app and web portal. Both the app and the web portal make things simple, easy, and clear for Torontonians with a single intake form that dynamically responds to the scope and variety of the public’s needs with nearly 600 different service request offerings. Requesting city services to address potholes, graffiti, or a traffic light malfunction, is unprecedentedly easy with a variety of channels to best appeal to constituents’ preferences for their 311 experiences. Whether it’s via email, social media, the web portal, the mobile app, or with the assistance of Salesforce Live Agent on the web and mobile platforms, there is no wrong door to access Toronto’s government services.

Constituents can now receive convenient email, SMS, and push notifications with real-time updates on their service requests, which improves transparency and trust in the city government’s abilities to serve its stakeholders. With “Explore”

functionality built into the mobile app and the web portal, existing service request cases surrounding a given address are suggested to be viewed when a constituent types in that given location. This enables stakeholders to opt in for updating notifications, even though they may not have been the individual who originally reported the concern.

And with boosted constituent satisfaction and unprecedentedly easy ways to get in touch with local government, Toronto 311 is on track to receive twice as many cases per year — from about two million to 4.6 million.

Port of Seattle

With more than 50 million flyers traveling through SEA-TAC airport every year, it’s easy to imagine how the slightest inefficiencies in digital operations can have an immense impact on constituent experiences. Before working with Catalyst, the Port of Seattle (which oversees the airport and other critical infrastructure) had a disconnected digital ecosystem spread between siloed platforms, which was impeding on their abilities to offer efficient customer service experience. Across the Port’s domains for Airport Customer Experience (ACE), Commission Services (CS), and External Relations (ER), processing and responding to constituents communications was subject to inefficient technical operations.

Our Catalyst team unified all of the Port’s disconnected systems under the Salesforce Customer-360 umbrella, bringing communications, marketing, event management, and other functions together into a centralized platform. This enables constituents with the ability to contact ACE with questions, complaints, concerns, compliments, and comments about their experience at SEA-TAC through social media, email, text (SMS/MMS), and web form. AI-powered tagging features categorize constituents’ communications, which allows the organization to automatically vet, triage, and assign cases for the fastest follow-up and resolve. With decreased resolution times for airport travelers by more than 16%, constituents get faster, clearer communication.

With our implementation, the airport is also equipped to send SMS alerts to notify travelers of happenings within the airport. Constituents are immediately in-the-know with real-time updates on everything from construction update to airport concessions.

Travelers are also now empowered with self-service options in a mobile-responsive web form, hosted on SEA-TAC’s website, where inquiries are met with informational knowledge articles. This cuts the volume of instances in which an individual would have to contact airport departments.

And the momentum continues, as we’ve just started an additional project with the Port of Seattle to enhance their call center operations!

Chicago

It’s easy to forget that the original digital transformation movement started by turning analog, paper-based systems into digital processes. Before partnering with our Catalyst team, if Chicagoans reached out to the 311 department about a pothole, snow removal, graffiti blasts, streetlight repair, or other non-emergency requests, the 311 employee had to search through physical binders with hundreds of pages to find the information they needed. Callers often had extensive waits on hold, even for simple, purely informational requests like an updated ETA for fixing their pothole.

With a vision for transparency, efficiency, and constituent satisfaction, the City of Chicago partnered with us to usher their 311 department into the 21st century with the build of a public-facing web portal, a best-in-class, modern website, and their first-ever public-facing app. Fitting of modernized government service delivery, Chicagoans can self-serve and access city information, as well as request services via multiple channels outside of calling 311.

Now, a comprehensive — yet concise — digital library of over 500 knowledge articles on the website and mobile app provide constituents the information they need to answer their own questions. In situations requiring service request, individuals can remain updated from submission to completion with real-time updates presented in the portal, as well as via push notifications from the mobile app.

With “Explore” capabilities enabling visibility on Chicago’s processing of requests in any given neighborhood, constituents are granted transparency and the means for accountability of their city. This improves trust and rapport between the public and the government entities that serve them through a constituent-first lens. Through

efficient technology, the City of Chicago is now providing greater transparency, faster services, and improved communication with its residents.

In pursuit of better government services

The future of constituent experiences will be shaped by forward-thinking, innovative leaders who prioritize seamless technology operations and a constituent-first approach. Our team of government technologists here at Catalyst are up for the challenge, and as a minority-owned business, we take the responsibility of building technology that works for EVERYONE very seriously.

Our implementations with the City of Toronto, Seattle, and Chicago demonstrate what the future of connected government and public sector organizations can and will offer to their constituents with investment in world-class technology – improved efficiency, no-wrong-door approach with multiple communication and engagement channels, enriched trust, transparency, and equity.

If you’d like to learn more about our public sector technology capabilities, or have any questions for our team, please reach out — we’d love to hear from you.

The Southwest Airlines Meltdown –The Government Technologist’s Perspective On Continual Investment and Attention to an Organization’s Technology Infrastructure

Mistakes cost us money.

It can be argued that a lot of mistakes we make are preventable with proper planning. Perhaps, we speed because we are running late; we forget to cancel the subscription because we don’t set a reminder; we don’t plan a recipe to use the fresh produce. Locking your keys in the car? Well, maybe that one needs a bit more consideration.

Imagine you fail to plan, fail to realize the gravity of a potential mistake, overlook a paramount investment, and it costs you an estimated $825 million. This is what Southwest Airlines is facing in the falling out of their mass holiday flight cancellations. It is being coined a meltdown and a crisis, specifically one of outdated technology, by major media outlets including the New York Times, NBCNews, Dallas News, and many more.

Customer Service Origins and the December 2022 Southwest Crisis

One of the most beloved brands, birthed in Dallas, TX in 1971, Southwest Airlines revolutionized the accessibility of flying with its affordable price point. It’s “Servant’s Heart”, recognizable heart logo and its “LUV” ticker symbol on the stock exchange are symbols of a high regard for customer service and experience. Their employee-first commitment is what they credit for their Southwest difference. It is important to note that SW operates on a point-to-point model, where flights are direct and avoid connection service through the central hub cities airports. This contributes greatly to its appeal of frequent and low-fare trips. However, simultaneously, this plays into the complexity of their scheduling and routing, as well as to their crew staffing. With winter storm Elliott, at the peak holiday travel season in late December, 2022, Southwest was forced to cancel 16,000 flights, drastically outnumbering cancellations from other major airlines. Was Elliott to blame? Not quite.

It has been reported that their internally built and maintained, airline optimization software, SkySolver, is greatly outdated with no front-end technology to input a flight crew’s status to aid in the assigning and crew scheduling. This system depends on a mathematical formula for the computation of the number of routes needed to cover a given number of destinations. So, the perfect storm scattered Southwest crews and pilots across the country, and their only means to report their whereabouts to support the possibility of rescheduled flights? Sit on hold on the crew scheduling phone line, for several hours or more. Imagine the difference digital scheduling options with automation could have made.

Speaking with Catalyst’s Aviation Experts, Mohammed Khan

This fiasco led to reflection and conversation with Mohammed Khan, “Mo”, Managing Director, who oversees all our work with the Chicago Department of Aviation. We discussed the importance of operational technology for large organizations, especially for that of a highly logistical-dependent industry like aviation. This also sparked consideration of in-house solutions, the importance of technology leadership, and how technology infrastructure is a forward investment supporting an employee-first culture.

You might have the software, but you have to think about risk assessment to see: What is the risk?

Mo provided,

“In leveraging the latest and greatest technology, make sure that you have high availability of any infrastructure in redundancy and also contingency. If something happens, how would you move forward? Even with the automation process, what would be the next step?”

“You might have the software, but you have to think about risk assessment to see: What is the risk? What are the risk factors if something happens? Then, what can be done? I think preparing your business with redundancy, risk assessment, and contingency will be helpful to eliminate these types of issues.”

The in-house, homegrown applications are very specific and very directive to the business requirements and might not give the luxury of making modifications on the fly.

As Mo mentioned, embracing the latest-and-greatest alone isn’t enough. Risk assessment is paramount. The media has dated Southwest’s SkySolver, scheduling and routing software, back to the 90’s. Not exactly the latest and greatest, the system was neglected.

“If the application is homegrown or house-built, then there has to be constant changes made to it. There are so many changes that you need to adapt and make happen, so you need to have a continuous process to improve that. The in-house, homegrown applications are very specific and very directive to the business requirements and might not give the luxury of making modifications on the fly.” Mo remarked. Leading up to this holiday cancellation crisis, there were warnings from pilots and crew employees, as well as warnings in previous cancellation episodes. In a public filing published by Southwest in 2022, they addressed their technology initiatives and noted a significant number of technology projects were deferred during the pandemic. Employee-first companies cultivate healthy tech ecosystems, and that is something that SW seemingly recognizes and has marketed.

“The Company continues to focus of the prioritization and execution of its technology investments and is in the process of continually executing an evolving multi-year plan for technology, with the goal of developing a stronger, more adaptable, and more efficient and reliable technology foundation to support the Company’s strategic priorities,” the filing read.

Southwest did undertake technology transformation in a few areas in the last two years, including consolidating all of its aircraft into a single system for aircraft maintenance and record-keeping, implementing Salesforce’s Service Cloud for human resource technology and customer service capacities. These technology efforts and successes are deserving to be recognized for ensuing digital transformation. Unfortunately, the neglect of major operational technology ensued a crisis. Smaller enhancement projects, like that of the Service Cloud implementation, get overshined when there’s such outdated technology enterprise-wide. A holistic approach and commitment to digital transformation on all needed fronts is a survival guide for organizations with stakes as high as a crisis to this magnitude.

Catalyst Wrapped, Our 2022 in Review

Many look forward to the fresh start of a new year as the time to set new goals and start new habits. While this socially embraced, forward-thinking tradition is productive, it sometimes takes the attention away from reflection on the passing year. As we approach the year’s end, we feel it’s important to pause and dive into our most memorable Catalyst moments of 2022!

Introducing Catalyst Wrapped, our highlight reel of reached milestones, celebrating a successful year of challenge met with determination, growth and new heights! Check out the video recap here, and learn more about each milestone below.

A milestone birthday! Catalyst celebrated 30 years in business in May!
Since our beginnings in the basement of our CEO’s first home, we have grown to serve over 500 clients with elegant solutions. We have spearheaded award-winning work for the public sector, guiding governments along their paths to modernization. The last 3 decades have been defined with much success. Our birthday wish? We know we shouldn’t tell, but we hope the next 30 years are as sweet as the first 30 years!

We were in the Salesforce spotlight! Tim, our Managing Principal and COO, discussed our Toronto 311 implementation on a Salesforce webinar with Toronto!

Our trailblazing work with the City of Toronto didn’t go unnoticed. Of the several highlights, Catalyst’s very own, Tim Smith, Managing Principal and COO, discussed the implementation with the City of Toronto and Salesforce on The Salesforce Trailblazer Community Meeting Series.

And the award goes to…. Catalyst Consulting Group! We won our third Salesforce Partner Innovation Award for Public Sector!
Our team’s implementation of the City of Toronto’s 311 non-emergency services center, “Toronto At Your Service”, was recognized with Salesforce’s 2022 Partner Innovation Award for Public Sector. The award marks our third, having earned the PIA for Public Sector in 2019 and for Transportation in 2020.

This year, we’ve flown to new heights…and new places! Catalyst resumed on-site travel in Q3 and Q4!

We are excited to be visiting clients once again, as well as attending industry events, in-person! This year, some of our travel included trips to: Washington State, Houston, South Carolina, Las Vegas, and San Francisco. We feel our client relationships are strengthened when meeting beyond our computer screens, and we are grateful we had the opportunity to travel.

Our team members celebrated double-digit work anniversaries! Those who have been with us the longest celebrated 17 years!

We celebrate all of our team members’ work anniversaries, but 17 years calls for a special highlight. We want to thank Tim Smith and Mo Khan, Managing Director, for their dedication and hard work ethic throughout nearly 2 decades with us. Team members like Mo and Tim are what define
the Catalyst difference.

Hello, fellow government technologists! Catalyst sponsors the Engage311 Conference in Phoenix, Arizona in May 2022.

This conference convenes annually to talk about the power of non-emergency services to help cities and counties thrive. We were thrilled to spend time with leaders across North America to discuss how technology can boost internal efficiencies among staff, while deepening the relationship between public sector and people.

We’ve expanded our footprint! We now have contracts in 14 states, as well as in 2 cities and 1 region in Canada!

In 2022, we had the privilege of completing projects in American states we hadn’t worked in before, including Texas and Massachusetts. Beyond just the USA, we’re proud to share our Canadian presence has extended throughout Ontario, as we undertake 311 projects with the Region of York and Town of Oakville.

Hey, NYC! We’re especially excited to say we signed our first contract in New York City for system integrator services, which will go into effect January 2023.

We’re taking a bite out of the Big Apple, too! Our first New York City contract is slated to begin in January as we’ve been accepted into a Task Order pool as an approved vendor to provide support and enhancements to New York City’s technology ecosystem.

Sweet Home Chicago! We deepened our long-term partnership with the City of Chicago, launching a significant Salesforce CRM solution for the City of Chicago Department of Family and Support Services.

There’s no place like home! We are excited to continually serve the City of Chicago, expanding to their Department of Family and Support Services. As always, we are aiming for this project to set precedent for how we could best serve other cities in the modernization of their departments’ systems.

Welcome to the team! We’ve hired 27 team members this year, with 60% of them filling new roles.

Our Catalyst team has welcomed 27 new faces this year, and we are evolving as a company in the functions that we cover, internally and externally! This growth is testimony to the dedication and effort that each team member has brought and continues to bring to their work here at Catalyst and for our clients.

Thank you all for a great 2022! We like to think of Catalyst as a firm that belongs to its team, and we hope that you all celebrate these milestones as part of your personal achievements for the year. These accomplishments couldn’t have been achieved without you. We are looking forward to 2023 and are excited for what the future holds!

Parallel Paths within Catalyst

Anthony Lungaro, Ola Chmiel, and Jim Lizzio – all were once Catalyst Interns. Their transitions from interns to full-time team members granted them common ground and invited conversation for a reflection on personal and career growth and company culture, as well as a look into the future.

Some More Recent than Others

Drawing on a diverse mix of experiences and expertise, these 3 once-interns represent several realms of the Catalyst business. Anthony is 4 years removed from his internship experience, acting as a Salesforce Solution Architect. Also working on the Salesforce side of the Catalyst business, Ola is a Salesforce Business Analyst and is approaching her 1-year anniversary with Catalyst. Meanwhile, Jim spent 3 summers interning and has recently accepted his full-time position as a Software Engineer on the Custom Development Team.

An Integral Introduction

We’ve heard it before – internships are to serve as an informing introduction to the workplace with hands-on, mentored industry experience for students and recent grads who seek exposure outside of the classroom. However, fetching coffee seems to be the image that comes to mind regarding “the intern.” The internship experience at Catalyst is far from days spent fetching coffee and the boss’s dry cleaning.

Anthony recalled having learned most from the variety and diversity of skillsets on the teams he was surrounded by and interacted with in the office.

Being in meetings with a bunch of different people with different experience levels and skill sets helped mold me into a more well-rounded business person.

He explained that this experience has followed him throughout his tenure with Catalyst and is reflective of the benefits of a smaller sized company.

During her internship, Ola was part of our Toronto 311 project, “Toronto At Your Service”, which won the 2022 Salesforce Partner Innovation Award for the Public Sector category. She said joining the efforts on the Toronto project was a “full steam ahead” approach. She returned to school before the project concluded, but she remembers following the outcomes and reflecting on her own contributions.

“Getting to go on their website and seeing our system there was really cool…thinking, I actually tested this, that was awesome!”

Providing the experience that complemented his studies, the internship experience offered Jim real-industry context to the material he was taught in class.

A lot of the topics that we were talking about in class were things that I had either touched or actually interacted with on some projects, which was really cool to see.

The Catalyst Difference

In their decisions to stay with Catalyst, all considered the company culture. Albeit operating in a remote setting, Catalyst offers the opportunity for workplace relationships and growth in its small size. Each former intern noted how they were well supported in their work.

Jim remembers a time that he needed a helping hand on a project’s task, and without a second thought he was met with help from another team member. He says the positive attitudes of everyone he encounters is one of the things he likes most about Catalyst. “Everyone is willing to help, and I absolutely love that. It’s a very nice culture.”

“You can actually establish better relationships rather than just being an employee ID number in the system,” Anthony said in contrast to large firms. He feels that the culture also allows for employees to exercise agency and growth. “You know, if you want to try something else, Catalyst is pretty open to letting you try something new, a different workstream, a different type of project. It’s not a big ask to access different sorts of experiences.”

Ola feels that her experience as an intern allowed her to learn and that the trajectory of her personal and career growth has only shot higher since.

“My first project being a full-time employee at Catalyst was for Chicago Public Schools project, so that was really cool for me, being from the Chicago suburbs and currently living in Chicago.”

She recalled that she had no experience with Salesforce when she first got the internship, but now she is seeing projects through from beginning to the end, the whole progression from a blank Salesforce canvas to a finished solution.

Looking Forward to their Futures

As we are approaching the end of the 2022 year, we asked Anthony, Ola, and Jim to reflect on their goals for the future. They all agreed on, “Growth!”

At Catalyst, we create impactful solutions that the community calls trailblazing, solutions that make a difference for our clients who serve everyday people. With teammates like Anthony, Ola and Jim, we are excited our upcoming year and for their futures with us, as well as the possibilities for future interns!

Giving Thanks with Catalyst Founder and CEO, Arvin Talwar

Dear Catalyst Friends and Family:

I love this time of year: food, football, family, and friends. It is everything I love, packaged in a nice long weekend.

It is also a great time to reflect and for all of us to take a pause and be grateful. No matter what you are dealing with, take a moment or more to look around your world and appreciate all the things that make you – you.

Me? I always try to focus on “the Journey.” Life is complicated and messy. There is always something that dominates your mind and cycles: family, work, health

Life happens when you are planning other stuff. This will never change. In my own life experiences, I focus on how to best deal with my challenges versus, “Why do I have to deal with them?” Not easy, but it works.

Part of the recipe to enjoying the Journey is being grateful.

We are all an amalgamation of our experiences. Our experiences are formed by all of those that we relate to or with. Think about that. There are 8 billion people in this world, and your journey and experiences are likely formed and driven by a handful.

If you spend time with these people, you probably like or love them. Otherwise, why are you spending time with them? I get we can’t ONLY spend time with people that positively affect our Journey. But, for those that do positively affect your Journey, be grateful and thank them.

For me, my family is my MapQuest for my Journey. They set my life route. It is what I try to follow…every day. Detours happen almost every day, but I usually always get where I want to go, guided by their love and support.

My Catalyst Family is critical to my Journey. I love and am proud of what we have built here at Catalyst. I get very excited as we welcome new family members. I want to thank all of you for being part of my Journey. I miss seeing our office full of energy, laughter, and, yes, tension. It was invigorating and exhilarating. I hope we continue our onsite office visits in to 2023. I am so grateful and so lucky to have you all in my 360.

I wish you and your families a happy Thanksgiving. And please tell them how much you appreciate them and how cool it is to be on your Journey — with them.

Happy Holidays,
Arvin K. Talwar
Founder and CEO of Catalyst Consulting Group

Spotlighting Mohammed “Mo” Khan and Celebrating His 17 Years at Catalyst

Meet Mohammed Khan, affectionally known here at Catalyst as “Mo.” He first started working with Catalyst as a contractor, and shortly after, became a full-time employee as a consultant. That was 17 years ago. To commemorate his work anniversary, we met with Mo to reflect on what his history with Catalyst has entailed, what has meant the most, and what he has to say about our approach to projects and clients.

He took us back to the very beginning, recalling his start as a contractor. It is evident — his nearly 2 decades here have been years of growth and facing challenge with determination.

“My responsibilities grew year after year. There were so many different projects that I was involved in, and that actually gave me the experience and confidence to grow and do more,” he describes.

Over the years, he has recognized that each project and client’s expectations are different, but our motivation is to ensure that we meet or exceed their expectations. It is what he feels sets us apart from the competition.

“We try to meet and exceed client expectations. We are always dedicated to our customer service,” he says.

Each employee has unique strengths, and our combined skills as a team sets us apart from others.

He testifies that our team executes with a level of care that meets the highest standards.

We asked Mo what project has meant the most to him. His response?

“Actually, I enjoyed working on every project that I was a part of. It’s always a challenge to work in a very demanding and dynamic environment, but it keeps the rhythm going for me.”

You’ll see it quoted on our website: we aim to treat every client as if they are our only client. Mo’s enjoyment of and dedication to each of his projects throughout the years is a testament to how well he aligns with our team’s mission. If he must choose, he says his work with the CDA has meant the most to him.

“I enjoyed working with the talented teams, the ideas that were shared between the team members to tackle any issue.”

17 years calls for reflection on the times that have felt transformative, and several come to mind.

When we start taking small steps towards our goals or projects and complete them successfully, then it’s not hard to take the big jump.

He credits our leadership team for our evolving perspective and dynamics, constantly iterating to create the best traveler experience possibility at Chicago’s O’Hare and Midway.

“We serve them and make sure that we provide the services that the general public needs, and it’s enjoyable work.”

Mo’s personal motto? “Let’s get it done!”

He says this mantra sets a positive energy for the team when tackling a new project.

“It’s an opportunity to learn, build new relationships, meet new people, and get to know the client’s needs and how we can provide a custom solution.”

Ultimately, Mo wants us to know, “It’s just an honor to work with talented people.”

We thank Mo for his dedication throughout the past 17 years. His loyalty to Catalyst doesn’t go unnoticed!

Catalyst Is a Three-Time Salesforce Partner Innovation Award Winner

Catalyst Consulting, a proud Salesforce Partner, has been awarded this year’s Salesforce Partner Innovation Award for the Public Sector category. The team has been recognized for the implementation of the City of Toronto’s non-emergency service center, “Toronto At Your Service,” built on Salesforce. The award will be presented at Dreamforce on September 19-21, 2022, in San Francisco, California.

The Partner Innovation Award for the Public Sector recognizes Catalyst and the City’s innovative use of the Salesforce Ecosystem and dedication to enhancing the constituent service experience.

As part of this “Toronto At Your Service” modernization, constituents can now access Toronto 311’s nearly 600 service offerings through various convenient channels online. The deployment of Salesforce’s Social Studio tool will also enable the City to meet constituents where they are at – on Twitter – and enhance its ability to deliver customer service via social channels. As a result of our collaboration and revamp, there is now truly “no wrong door” through which constituents can receive service, and they can reliably expect a response from the City each time, regardless of how they initially reach out. In the name of transparency, constituents can track the status of requests from start to finish and receive regular updates on the request’s progress via email and text. Constituents and staff alike will benefit from a Knowledge Base for easier access to City information, while more advanced reporting will support data-driven decision making that boosts staff productivity and constituent satisfaction.

Catalyst Consulting has been empowering governments by providing elegant solutions and implementations to complex issues since 1990. This marks the team’s third win, also taking the Partner Innovation Award for the Public Sector in 2019 and Transportation in 2020.

Reflecting on what contributed to the award win, Catalyst’s Founder and CEO Arvin Talwar noted, “We strive to treat every client like they are our only client.” The Salesforce Partner Innovation award highlights this approach and drive for elegant solutions within the Salesforce ecosystem.

Catalyst is both humbled and honored to win the Partner Innovation Award for the Public Sector, and the team thanks the innovative leaders at the City of Toronto for their partnership.

In Memoriam: Bill Brandstatt

The Catalyst team mourns the loss of our colleague and friend, Bill Brandstatt, who passed away on May 22, 2022.

Bill gave ten years of hard work and dedication to our team and will be greatly missed. He will be remembered as a great mentor to all of us at Catalyst, and more importantly, a beloved father, fiancée, son, and brother.

We will always cherish the time we had with him.

Please keep Bill’s family in your thoughts. Your support is deeply appreciated as his family and friends go through this difficult time.

In Celebration of Black History Month

In honor of National Black History Month this February, we sat down with longtime friend of Catalyst, Ellen Turner, Founder, President and CEO of the William Everett Group (TWEG) with over 20 years’ experience in IT and the public sector. TWEG is a Black-owned, women-owned consulting firm based in Chicago and has been a close collaborator of Catalyst for several years.

Conversations like these help us gain perspective on the challenges, advantages, and importance of minority-owned businesses working in the government technology space.

Here’s what Ellen remarked in our interview.

What path led you to founding TWEG?

After spending many years working and starting other firms, I decided that I wanted to create a women and Black-owned management and technology firm. Over the years, it was clear to me that there was a market for such a firm. I had worked hard to ensure the success of others and thought perhaps I could do this for myself.

I also had some very specific goals and purposes for my firm: I wanted to focus on offering careers in consulting to folks in brown and Black communities. In all my years working with and for consulting firms, I still believed there were not enough opportunities being afforded to people in those communities.

I also wanted to engage in work that fulfilled my need to be in the public sector and a quasi-public servant, as well as working on projects that helped improve the lives of people in our communities.

It was wonderful to find a group of highly qualified team members that shared my aspirations.

When your team is working with a public sector client, how do you keep accessibility and inclusion front of mind? How do you make sure your solutions work for all constituents?

The beauty of having a diverse consulting firm is that we don’t have to work hard to achieve this goal. We think very strategically and intently about where and who we place on our consulting engagements. Sometimes it can be intentionally in an environment that isn’t particularly diverse. We believe that most people are caring and appreciate the opportunity to learn and engage with others and to understand the experiences of people who may have different life experiences.

We find that this helps everyone grow and become better leaders and colleagues.

What public figure, living or deceased, do you look up to most and why?

Of course, the main person was my grandfather, William Everett Rozelle. He was most admired for his love for his family, his dedication to our community, and his influence on my dreams. The person I also admired the most is President Barack Obama. His presidency, which I thought I’d never live to see, gave me so much hope for my children and grandchildren. My grandchildren grew up only knowing at first that there was a Black president, and it seemed very normal to them. I was elated and so encouraged for the future.

In your opinion, what unique perspective do minority-owned businesses bring when deploying public sector technology?

Most minority-owned firms have worked extremely hard to start and maintain a business. They have had to make investments of their hard-earned dollars and have such a deep desire to showcase the fact that we perform as well as Tier One firms (sometimes because our teams come from those firms).

We don’t take the opportunities that we win, whether as a prime or subcontractor, for granted and we truly have the desire to succeed. When we do, our clients also win.

We have a deep understanding of their challenges and look at them as partners that we advise in a way that will help them shine. We genuinely care and want to prove that they can get great value and performance from our companies.

What advice and/or resources would you recommend for underrepresented youth who are looking to work in the government technology space?

Part of our company’s corporate giving and culture is preparing the next generation of youth in at-risk communities for working in consulting and particularly government technology. We connect with students from the Chicago Public Schools, City Colleges, Chicago State, and the Austin community to offer them an opportunity to shadow our teams. They learn the discipline of working on projects that require a great deal of listening, patience, and high standards. We showcase the projects we have worked on that relate to their lives directly, so they understand how this work improves the lives of others and those that live right in their homes and neighborhoods. It is extremely rewarding.

As technologists in the public sector, we must always strive for inclusivity, accessibility, and transparency in our solutions, which includes learning more about underrepresented communities and constituents alike. Thank you, Ellen, for taking the time to chat!

This blog is a continuation of our reflections on the importance of minority-owned businesses in the government technology industry. Check out our celebration of Asian American History Month from May 2021 here.

Catalyst Launches the City of Toronto’s Salesforce 311

After 18 months of development, the Catalyst team is humbled and honored to announce our latest addition to our Salesforce 311 portfolio – the City of Toronto.

As part of this “Toronto At Your Service” modernization, constituents can now access Toronto 311’s nearly 600 service offerings through various convenient channels online. The deployment of Salesforce’s Social Studio tool will also enable the City to meet constituents where they are at – on Twitter – and enhance its ability to deliver customer service via social channels. As a result of our collaboration and revamp, there is now truly “no wrong door” through which constituents can receive service, and they can reliably expect a response from the City each time, regardless of how they initially reach out.

In the name of transparency, constituents can track the status of requests from start to finish and receive regular updates on the request’s progress via email and text. Constituents and staff alike will benefit from a Knowledge Base for easier access to City information, while more advanced reporting will support data-driven decision making that boosts staff productivity and constituent satisfaction.

The excitement will continue through the remainder of 2021, as our custom-developed 311 mobile app will launch in the near future to enable constituents to reach their local government with a few swipes and taps on their smartphone.

In celebration of the launch, Catalyst Founder and CEO Arvin Talwar noted, “Being able to provide Canada with a Catalyst 311 solution is incredible, not only because we get to show our commitment to our northern neighbors, but also because Toronto will see a great rise in their internal efficiencies and stronger relationships with constituents. Thank you to the Catalyst team for creating such an amazing solution for Toronto. We are grateful for the Toronto team’s partnership and look forward to nurturing the future of constituent engagement with them.”

In developing 311 solutions, the Catalyst team can fully demonstrate our passion for deploying transformative solutions that fully encompass how great public sector technology can, and should, operate for internal and external users.

We express our deepest thanks to the City of Toronto and Salesforce for their partnership.

For more about Catalyst’s approach to 311s, check out our “Tale of Two Cities” 311 webinar and our case study for our implementation of the City of Chicago’s 311.