CRM Contributes to Homeland Security

In the context of homeland security municipalities across the United States have had to update and upgrade their emergency response systems--particularly in fielding what are known as first responders: police, firefighters, and other emergency services personnel. In Erie County, NY, officials are turning to CRM to put their processes into action. Erie County--which is located in the western part of New York State and includes Buffalo--is in the preliminary stages of deploying CRM to handle regional alerts, control essential inventory, and manage resources and personnel critical to emergency situations. One portion of the plan, part of a far-reaching, county-wide SAP implementation that has been under way for the better part of a year, includes a call center to handle all county emergencies. The project kickoff--under the banner of SAP's Public Services division, and with consulting assistance from IBM Global Services--began in October 2002. The first phase of the project involved replacing the county's legacy applications for dealing with financials, procurement, and human resources, which amounted to a county-wide ERP upgrade. County officials were unavailable for comment, but according to John Marcinko, a project executive at IBM Global Services who served as the on-site project manager for the Erie implementation, what the county had on hand were "some very aging legacy systems and some home-grown [ones]," including a great number of stovepipe applications that couldn't trade information. But in the current climate, municipal technological infrastructure has to encompass more than just mundane business processes like HR and billing systems. They even need to extend beyond the centralized city services that cities like New York and Baltimore have gathered in 311 call centers over the past few years. According to Steve Peck, president for SAP Public Services, Erie's project will be "a lot different [from] 311 [systems]," which he says are limited to passive information gathering and distribution. In Erie, Peck says, "there will be full-process interaction." The county has 94 volunteer fire departments, with roughly 4,000 firefighters receiving training each year at one of three training centers. More than 3,000 mobile and portable radios are part of the county-wide communication system. Erie County's Division of Emergency Medical Services handles the dispatching of all ambulance calls in Buffalo, coordinates those calls throughout the rest of the county, and is responsible for training all ambulance crews, emergency medical technicians, and paramedics. The idea is to have all that activity take place within the CRM system. Peck says building trust was critical. "The CIO brought to the table the police chief and a lot of the other officials. They knew that if they could deliver on the vision of the original system implementation," it would give police and first responders the confidence that they could deliver the technology. The first phase of the project is now nearly complete. IBM Global Services helped county officials to develop a five-year plan, and 2005, according to Marcinko, is Year One in that vision, with the mySAP CRM portion of the plan slated to play a large role. SAP's Peck says that the CRM portion of the plan shows "how you can go beyond the vision of just sound financial and human capital management." "There's a great deal of interest," Marcinko says, "[but it's] hinged on budgeting and funding. A lot of this would be funded through the federal grants under Homeland Security." The county has already received a grant from the federal agency--the question now is, what's the right way to put it to use? "They're trying to understand what CRM can do for the county," Marcinko says. "A way to be a better, more-efficient government entity." Related articles: CRM.gov
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