Shawn Slack has been at the City of Mississauga for more than 21 years, starting as a project director when the city was making a push to put all of its services online. Retrospectively, that was one of the acorns that led to Mississauga’s future as a smart city.
“We were really early adopters of moving to the cloud,” Slack says. “We went to a fully-hosted solution with an integration partner. In 2002 that was pretty progressive. That was where things really got started for me, and for driving digital transformation for the city.”
He went on to lead the city’s first customer service strategy, including the implementation of 311, the contact call centre for the city. Counter services were overhauled and accessibility issues addressed. Understanding customer needs, Slack explains, is a core pillar in digital transformation. As is training – the city has adopted Lean Six Sigma for continuous improvement, with new employees being trained as white belts on hiring, and a program that supports progressive training for yellow, green and black belt. “Continuous improvement,” Slack imparts, “is a big part of our culture.”
When it comes to leadership, Slack’s stripe is very much about alignment. Alignment across the organisation, alignment with public expectations and views, alignment with the city seen in context. The city built out a city-wide fibre network, for instance, working with municipal and industry stakeholders to make sure that the network met the needs of the public service. It pays to think ahead. “That 20-year investment, the capital investment is completely paid back every two years. And we’re avoiding about CA$4.5 million in lease line costs per year because we have fibre to all our facilities.”
The City of Mississauga isn’t stopping there. “We’ve built out an LTE network here,” says Slack, “which is a dedicated cellular Public Safety network for first responders, a partnership between Peel and Halton Police. And we’re advocating to have that built out across Canada.” Slack claims, “Being able to demonstrate public safety and first responder use case is part of the plan to influence a full roll out across Canada. I think that’s leadership too - taking some risk to drive an important agenda.”
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