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Arvin Talwar

It’s the last Monday of August, so we’re wrapping up the month with a very special #MeetTheTeam Monday. Please welcome Catalyst’s Founder, Managing Principal, and CEO, Arvin Talwar! 

Arvin founded Catalyst in 1992 after working and traveling as a consultant. He was eager to dive into the “messiest, most challenging projects” because he found them to be the opportunities through which he would learn the most. However, in his experience at different firms, he noticed a gap between tech leadership and business leadership. With the goal of bridging the gap between technology and business, Arvin started our company. 

Throughout Catalyst’s nearly 30-year history, Arvin notes the most memorable and rewarding experiences have been the times when Catalyst, a small business, won large projects while competing against “brand name” consulting firms. It goes to show that a company’s reputation must extend beyond how many offices it has or how many thousands of folks it employs; instead, the skillset, drive, and experience of the team is key to meeting and exceeding the expectations of clients. 

Arvin has continuously advised the Catalyst team throughout the company’s history to treat every client like it is our only one. This guidance has become a Catalyst “creed” of sorts. 

Outside of Catalyst, you can find Arvin reading or watching documentaries, noting his favorites are pieces about business leaders and athletes. He is also a third-degree black belt in Hapkido and now instructs young people in martial arts.  

We thank Arvin for creating the workspace we know and love today. His constant encouragement and advisory of our team has contributed to our success tremendously. 

Request, Respond, Report: How Chicago’s 311 Uses Salesforce Reporting

In December of 2018 our firm, in collaboration with Chicago’s 311 and Department of Innovation and Technology, launched the City’s modernized 311 system CHI311. We’ve talked a lot about how this modernization improved the system overall and brought a multitude of new functions to the residents of Chicago. But how has this new system benefited the city departments that rely on it day in and day out?

Since the launch of CHI311 the overall closure rate service requests has increased from 82% to 94% 1. Overall system improvement has a lot to do with that, but transitioning from a mostly manual, paper-based process to a fully digital system has had long-reaching benefits. We can talk specifics when we look at the Department of Streets and Sanitation. In the old system, scheduling the removal of graffiti took 45 minutes to an hour. With CHI311, it takes just 10 minutes.

It’s clear that moving to the cloud-based Salesforce has improved efficiency, but it’s also given departments more access and control over their data than before. As a user-friendly, accessible and intuitive platform, city users can use Salesforce to easily create, manage and view the reports they need to serve Chicago residents better.

Let’s take a look at how Salesforce reporting has benefitted departments city-wide.

CHI311 hosts a wealth of data that informs important metrics: total open requests, total requests closed yesterday, number of requests coming in from the portal vs. call, etc. The data points are endless. When a user logs into the Salesforce-based system, the first thing they see is their “dashboard” which provides an at-a-glance look at metrics. Users can also subscribe to their dashboard and have it sent to their email on a set frequency, so they can receive data straight to their inbox.

Reports are not a ‘one size fits all.’ Metrics that are important to the Department of Water Management, may not be as helpful to the Department of Transportation. Since Salesforce dashboards can be configured based on the needs of the department, division and even the individual user, we can ensure that each city user has access to the metrics they need to keep tabs on their work and make changes when needed.

Chicago’s 311 Uses Salesforce Reporting

Send Reports
Sending reports on a set frequency ensures department leads always have access to the metrics they need, when they need them. Many city users receive their reports first thing in the morning so they have all the metrics they need to manage and inform their crews for the day. Reports, usually sent daily or weekly, often include metrics such as ‘# of requests opened yesterday’, ‘# of requests completed yesterday’, and ‘# of requests with missed milestones’ to help departments track their closure rates.

This is an improvement from the legacy system, where users were required to log into a separate reporting system to set and view their reports. With all of the reports directly in Salesforce, users can remain in one system as opposed to logging in elsewhere to access what they need. Reports in Salesforce means users can click on a Request Number and navigate straight to that record for further information.

Report Builder
To create and manipulate reports in the legacy system, the user needed to, at the very least, know SQL. This hindered everyday users and required reliance on a small number of users to create reports and manipulate the data. One of the biggest draws to Salesforce is the fact that it’s user-friendly and can be easily adopted by those who are non-technical. With the proper permissions, users within CHI311 can leverage the drag and drop features in Salesforce’s Report Builder to create unique reports that satisfy their individual needs. With the ability to create unique reports, city end-users can view the metrics they need on a day-to-day, week-to-week, or month-to-month basis and adjust their operations as needed.

Chicago’s 311 Dashboard

With easier access to system data and an increased ability to create reports, more system users than before can make informed decisions that benefit city department and the city residents they serve. Have you used Salesforce Reporting before? If not, we invite you to join the Ohana, and check it out for yourself!


Mike Anderson

We return for another #MeetTheTeam Monday with one of Catalyst’s Software Engineers, Mike Anderson!

Though his “specialties” are .NET and Java solutions, Mike is an expert-level problem solver who is eager and quick to learn new technologies in order to get the job done. Mike’s interest in tech was spurred during his freshman year of high school, where he spent his days working on a Macintosh LC. Before long, Mike was building websites and helping his physics friends with C++…and the rest is history!

Outside of Catalyst, you can find Mike adventuring with his wife and son (pictured above), trying out a local brewery, or jamming on either acoustic or electric guitars. Rock on, Mike! 

Audrey Mathis

Let’s give a warm Women in Tech Tuesday welcome to Audrey Mathis, the Director of 311 City Services at Chicago’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications (OEMC). 

Audrey oversees the City of Chicago’s 24/7 non-emergency 311 contact center, the agency responsible for addressing City service requests and offering information regarding city programs, initiatives, and events.

Audrey attended college at the Illinois Institute of Technology, and then accepted a position with the City of Chicago. Over time she worked in several departments with an emphasis on project management and eventually joined the 311 team before being appointed 311 Director nearly nine years ago. Citing the trailblazing astronaut Dr. Mae Jemison as inspiration, Audrey notes that we can create a more inclusive tech industry by advocating for and focusing on STEM programs for women in minority communities beginning in the early elementary school levels. 

Outside of work, you can find Audrey singing, spending time with family and friends, and discussing good reads with her book club. 

Sarah Emas

It’s the last Women in Tech Tuesday of June! To close out this month, we’re recognizing our Senior Salesforce Consultant, Sarah Emas. Sarah manages Catalyst’s 311 product; as such, she engages with users and stakeholders to get their feedback, and then relays their insight to Catalyst’s development team to make the suggested enhancements.   

Since she interacts with clients so extensively, Sarah recalls some of the most influential advice that she has ever received is to never use acronyms in front of the client. She explains that acronyms can confuse clients and make them feel like they’re not making an informed decision. The underlying advice there is to always make clients feel as comfortable, empowered, and knowledgeable as possible, and this is a practice she brings to her day-to-day work at Catalyst.  

Sarah advises fellow women in STEM to speak up in meetings and offer ideas to supervisors in a one-on-one setting. Perceived inexperience can hinder a lot of women from leaning in, but Sarah notes that everyone, including and especially those with a fresh perspective, can be integral to bringing great ideas from idea conception to project closeout. 

Stacey Mansker-Young

Stacey joined the City of Chicago’s Department of Innovation and Technology 18 years ago, where she currently serves as the Deputy Commissioner of Policy, Planning, and Management. In this role, she holds the awesome responsibility of overseeing the Project Management office, Technology Policy Program, Information Technology Strategy Committee, Information Research Services, information and communications, and organizational change management.

Stacey’s career path in technology started during her high school years, in which she participated in STEM programs; she ultimately minored in Computer Science in college. Both experiences allowed Stacey to see first-hand that women were excelling in technology, giving her the confidence and assurance that she could successfully carve out a space for herself in male- dominated industries.In order to instill this confidence in other women, Stacey advises fellow women in STEM to use their voice and positions of power to stand up and empower one another. Advocating for access to STEM education, fostering networks of support, and opening up opportunities to fully lean in are the routes through which we can increase women’s representation in this field. Outside of the office, you can find Stacey volunteering at Ronald McDonald House Chicago with her family, as well as supporting the Glass Slipper Project, Mayfair Academy, Chicago’s Food Bank, and Working in the Schools.

Catalyst Launches Chicago’s New 311 System, CHI311

chicago 311

Chicago, IL – Catalyst Consulting Group, Inc. (Catalyst) is excited to announce the recent launch of the City of Chicago’s new 3-1-1 solution, CHI311. The new system was developed in nine months in partnership with Chicago’s Department of Innovation and Technology (DoIT), 311 City Services (311), thirty-three city departments, and Salesforce. The new cloud-based solution consists of a Salesforce-based constituent relationship management (CRM) system, a new community web portal, and Chicago’s first-ever resident-centric mobile application. Chicago residents can visit or download the CHI311 App for iOS and Android today to explore neighborhoods and submit new requests to the City of Chicago.

CHI311 is the product of intense collaboration with DoIT, 311, thirty-three distinct city departments, and Salesforce. “We are honored to be a part of this revolutionary system overhaul that was spearheaded by Chicago’s Mayor, Rahm Emanuel,” said Arvin Talwar, Managing Principal and CEO of Catalyst. “This successful launch was a true partnership in every way, and we are humbled to be part of this journey.

Catalyst worked closely with over 30 city departments that interact with 3-1-1 to understand their operations and needs for the new system. Team members analyzed over 1,000 existing service request codes, the unique processes held by each department, and the external systems they use to dispatch and manage their service delivery.

To develop the new system, Catalyst leveraged Salesforce’s Service Cloud and Field Service Lightning to deliver an intuitive work order management system to support CHI311. “The Catalyst team put forth 110% over the course of the past year to create a system that provides meaningful change for Chicago residents,” stated Catalyst Managing Principal & COO, Timothy Smith. “We can’t thank DoIT, 311 and the citizens of Chicago enough for entrusting us with this truly transformational system implementation.”

CHI311’s cloud-based scheduling and dispatch tools replace paper-based processes and provide Commissioners and Alderman with real-time access to field worker data. Additionally, custom-developed code detects duplicate requests from users. This saves tremendous city resources by eliminating re-work, improving resource management, and preventing costly duplication of efforts by city field workers.

Similarly, the Chicago-branded community web portal and mobile app provide users with an intuitive and holistic view of all service requests worked by the City of Chicago along with the status of those requests. Through CHI311 users can now view requests created across the entire city providing more transparency than ever before on the work that is being done throughout Chicago’s neighborhoods.

The new CHI311 increases city transparency, improves the city-resident relationship, and fosters communication and collaboration between city departments. Catalyst is excited to continue to work closely with DoIT, 311, city departments, and Salesforce to support the new system and push updates that consistently enhance and improve the 311 experience for all users.

Salesforce calls its community of partners and customers “Ohana,” the Hawaiian term for “family.” The Catalyst team is thrilled to have worked so closely with Salesforce and the City of Chicago, and we graciously extend the invitation to all Chicago residents to join the Ohana. You can visit or download the CHI311 App for iOS and Android today to explore your neighborhood and submit new requests to the City of Chicago.

About Catalyst Consulting Group, Inc.
Established in Chicago in 1992, Catalyst has earned a stellar reputation as a consulting firm that leverages expertise in information technology and business strategy in both the public and private sectors. We are a minority-owned small business certified by a number of agencies and organizations across the United States. Our mission for 27 years has been to drive our clients’ organizations forward by transforming processes, increasing operational efficiencies, and maximizing return on investment.

Catalyst has a rich history of using technology to transform the way municipal services are rendered to constituents. Our service areas include, but are not limited to, Salesforce development, CRM system implementation, 311 system best practices, custom application development and support, mobile development, user experience, information security, and infrastructure support. Catalyst’s work on the City of Chicago’s 311 modernization is an initiative that holds the title of the largest Salesforce 311/CRM implementation in American history.

About the City of Chicago – Department of Innovation and Technology
The Department of Innovation and Technology (DoIT) is the City of Chicago’s central IT organization, providing a number of technology and telecommunications services to departments, the Mayor, Aldermen, residents, businesses and tourists.

DoIT supports Mayor’s Emanuel’s vision to realize Chicago’s potential as a city where technology fuels opportunity, inclusion, engagement, and innovation for all by:

• Facilitating creative thought to improve existing City processes
• Designing and implementing systems to power processes and services
• Leveraging data to drive decision-making and improve City service delivery
• Piloting and evaluating new technologies
• Producing and contributing to open source projects
• Supporting public access to technology at City facilities
• Building strategic partnerships

About Salesforce
Salesforce is the world’s #1 Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform. Our cloud-based applications for sales, service, marketing, and more don’t require IT experts to set up or manage — simply log in and start connecting to customers in a whole new way.

Catalyst Listed in Upcity’s Top 8 Salesforce Consultants

Chicago, IL – Catalyst Consulting Group, Inc (CCG) is proud to announce it was recently featured in Upcity as one of the Top 8 Salesforce Consultants in Chicago.

The UpCity team analyzed Salesforce consultants in Chicago to find the most reputable partners for small and medium-sized business owners. As an IT consulting firm, Catalyst has a team of experienced tech professionals that are certified in Salesforce. Catalyst has utilized the Salesforce platform in many projects, such as for the Cook County President’s Office, Service, Inc., and the current 311 modernization project with the City of Chicago Department of Innovation and Technology (DoIT). The 311 modernization project involves moving the city’s 20-year-old 311 system over to Salesforce. Catalyst has over 10 years of combined experience working with Salesforce workforce management and over half the members of the Catalyst Salesforce team hold certifications in Salesforce.

As such, Catalyst is honored to be featured in UpCity’s list as a top Salesforce Consultant in Chicago’s thriving tech industry. We will continue to bring our extensive Salesforce qualifications, familiarity, and development experience to our clients to help them navigate the ever-changing waters of the fast-growing technology industry.

You can view the full list here.

About UpCity
Now in its seventh year, UpCity covers 300+ local US markets and Canada, ranging from major cities, like New York, to cities of approximately 75,000 people. With 150,000 small-to-medium businesses coming to its marketplace monthly and having vetted and validated over 15,000 agencies, UpCity is the most trusted, and most turned-to, source for local businesses seeking digital marketing agencies and professionals to help them meet expansion and customer acquisition goals.

UpCity helps agencies grow and run their businesses, via strategic counsel, scalable revenue and marketing services, and operations tools.

About Salesforce
Salesforce is the world’s #1 Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform. Our cloud-based applications for sales, service, marketing, and more don’t require IT experts to set up or manage — simply log in and start connecting to customers in a whole new way.

About Catalyst
At Catalyst, building meaningful, valuable connections with our clients and partners is just as important as the technology solutions we create. Taking the time to understand the ins and outs of your business isn’t just something we like to use in our sales pitch. It is embedded within the core values of our firm. It is the first step in our business approach and it is how we’ve sustained long-lasting relationships with our clients for the past 24 years and earned our reputation as a top salesforce consultant.

Each member of our team brings an innovative approach to the solutions we develop, is committed to your business and is easily accessible when needed most. Let us be the CATALYST that sets you on the course to success without compromising what makes you, you. For more information please visit our website at:

Cindy Talwar

Welcome back from the long weekend, folks! Believe it or not, it’s Tuesday…#WomenInTech Tuesday to be exact. Today, we recognize our Office Manager, Cindy.  

Cindy handles a variety of accounting functions and general administration in the office to keep the wheels of our firm turning. She is also responsible for the monthly payroll, employee benefits, on-boarding tasks for new team members, and supply inventory. Cindy was brought on board when “temporary” help was needed in 2005…here she is in 2019, as integral to the day-to-day functions of our company as ever! 

Cindy advises women in tech to always believe in themselves and take advantage of opportunities to lean in. 

When she’s not in the office, you can find Cindy at work in her garden, crafting, cooking, and snuggling up with her best furry pal, Toby. 


Nicole Nicholson

We’re back for another #WomenInTech Tuesday feature! Say hello to Nicole Nicholson, who is one of Catalyst’s stellar Project Managers and our Marketing Lead. 

As a PM, Nicole plays a critical role on our City of Chicago 311 modernization initiative. She manages the external/public-facing components of the project, particularly the CHI311 mobile app and the Community Portal available at, keeping the end user and their experiences using our platforms front-of-mind at all times. Internally, she leads the marketing efforts for our firm. In both roles, Nicole leverages the creativity cultivated from her content management and journalism background.  

In fact, Nicole’s background informs her approach to advocating for diversity in STEM. She insists that people who don’t have an educational background in a “pure” STEM field can certainly carve out a place for themselves in this industry. Nicole is a living example of this advice, and she has been a superstar on the Catalyst team for the past 5 years because of it! 

When she’s not in the office, you can find Nicole rock climbing at @brooklynboulders or diving into her next good read.