Technology, Transportation and Transformation: Change Management and Things to Consider

Originally featured in the January 2023 issue of Parking & Mobility Magazine.

By Sarah Ratcliffe, Senior Vice President of Product Management at Passport

Change is inevitable, so the saying goes. With change, it’s natural to expect uncertainty. Change can impact roads, public spaces, infrastructure, and government functions at the local municipality level.

Using technology to transform parking, transportation, and mobility can be one of the most significant instances of change in local governments. To build rates and zones, manage revenues, deliver permits, and develop enforcement programs requires many employees and stakeholders across a municipality. These solutions become the backbone of systems on which budgets and residents depend.

While the pandemic created parking and transportation challenges, the unpredictable return of commuters and travelers in 2022 has been an equal challenge ultimately requiring local governments to seek solutions that can offer flexibility at the curb. Implementing new and progressive ways of managing the curb are more prevalent than ever, but one thing is the same; the change that is required to adopt those solutions.

Change can be a source of significant anxiety among staff and if not acknowledged and managed, can have a negative impact on productivity long after changes are made. If there is a sense of job insecurity, being left behind, or being unable to learn, change can instill fear; it can have repercussions on any learning that needs to take place during the transformation process, and that can also disrupt the systems in place.

We could spend much time debating how the change initially occurs. Instead, let’s look at a few ways to make technology advancements in your municipality more intentional, less invasive, and even a pleasant experience for those impacted by it.

Identify Factors When Changing Your Technology

First, pick a technology that will sustain change and adapt to the progress of your municipality. When we think about the change that will impact municipalities during the next ten years, the idea of replacing the software that operates a parking, enforcement, or mobility department to accommodate those changes at the pace they will happen simply doesn’t make sense. Besides, it has already begun.

With the increasing number of scooters and bikes in cities, rising emissions tolls, and more dynamic curb use for Transportation Network Companies (TNC) and commercial fleets, the pace of change has picked up. Many of the fixed-point solutions in this space are not prepared to manage the combination of paying, parking, ticketing or permitting that needs to happen to manage the curb effectively.

Prioritize Platforms

Next, change will require revenue and opportunity costs during the implementation. There are many ways to mitigate this cost, bringing us back to the type of technology you are implementing. Flexible platform technology built with a services-first focus can drive a smooth transition by allowing integrations that create a bridge from one technology to another.

For example, software that makes its products and data offerings available to other entities via public APIs to integrate, build on and respond to in real-time. Combining the ability to process payments seamlessly across multiple providers with the sophistication of the platform’s rate engine allows cities to change rates across all their payment providers easily. Centralizing all parking, enforcement, permit, payment, and other mobility data to one platform helps increase revenue, is convenient for customers, and supports equity.

Suppose you’ve been part of a hard cut-off for a solution transition, especially in a municipality. In that case, you know the extreme revenue hit, adoption curve, and financial challenges that can impose. Your technology provider should include a transition timeline that allows–even with the bureaucratic challenges of procurement–an effective solution to limit the disruption to people, processes, and payments that are critical to your fiscal financial plans.

The Human Factor

Third, cities should consider people when implementing technology change. The cost of switching technology is high— it’s not just the fatigue on employees; it also includes the user fatigue that can impact adoption and compliance as most of these solutions extend to residents. There are a few things you can do to limit and mitigate that effort:

  1. Clear communication of the value.
  2. Open dialogue and forums for complaints, concerns, and discussion.
  3. Set clear and specific goals and expectations.
  4. Make it fun, community-focused, and clear.
  5. Communicate 4-5 different ways.
  6. Assure change takes time and establish plenty of post-change forums for continued learning.
  7. Don’t train too early.
  8. Use iterative and hands-on learning, do not execute formal binders of procedures unless necessary or leave long periods between formal training and use.
  9. Prioritize people over revenue.

Consider the Process

Finally, let’s reimagine the procurement process based on outcomes and not requirements. We often hear that to commit to making a change, the pain of change must be less than the pain of the status quo. In government technology change, however, that isn’t always the case. Government technology procurement through antiquated RFP processes can have an outcome of “change for the sake of change” rather than progressing solutions forward and making a positive impact.

While many cities are trying new techniques to procure, there are many instances where RFP processes can result in unintended consequences. For example, if you conduct a feature and requirements-heavy RFP process, recognize that the technology you request today may be outdated and full of constraints by the time you implement your solution. Municipalities desire innovation, yet RFPs can create a barrier to entry that eliminates players. Without flexible evaluation, a procurement could solve for one narrow fixed solution when a platform offering can solve problems across multiple departments more quickly.

A well-known quote from Bill Gates says, “We often overestimate the change that takes place in two years but underestimate the change that can take place in ten.” This is true in the mobility space now more than ever as technology applied to machinery, including vehicles and infrastructure, means acceleration of mobility as a service, micro-mobility, micro-delivery, and autonomy.

The good news is that software as a service (SaaS) has enabled an important reduction in change fatigue: software solutions with solid platform-based foundations will endure the test of time. Today’s software products procured by municipalities must be flexible, iterative, and agile enough to adapt to new business needs. Platforms can offer significant ease of scaling, changing, and enduring policy change in a city by making business rules easy to change in one place and share with any integration.

For more thought leadership content, visit Passport’s Resource Center.