San Francisco Saves $75,000 on Car Washing

June 28, 2010

Innovation software platforms aren't just the domain of Fortune 500 organizations; even local government is getting into the act. I recently had the opportunity to speak with Chris Vein, CIO of the city and county of San Francisco, about an effort to use crowdsourcing to address some of the city's woes. Chris is one of the most forward thinking CIOs I've ever met and he had some interesting insights into the value of innovation management.

Faced with budget cutbacks, the city of San Francisco created a website, ImproveSF.org, to find ways the city could balance their budget. The campaign behind the site was created with the intentions of lowering costs in city government, which in turn would eliminate some of the financial stress felt at that level. Utilizing the site, city employees were permitted to sign in and enter their suggestions on how to best cut costs and increase revenue. Once submitted, others could comment and vote on the ideas to determine the essential "winners."

The results were astounding, once again affirming the idea that the best innovation comes from the most unlikely sources. There were more than seven hundred participants that played an active role in trying to find a solution. Four thousand votes were cast to determine the final outcome. There were four suggestions, which have been or will be implemented in order to achieve the actual objective – improving the city's financials. The city of San Francisco should realize a savings of $90,000, he says.

The four best received concepts were broken into two divisions. The first intended to cut costs while the second set out to raise more funds. The winning suggestions, as announced by Mayor Newsom, were amazing:

  • The City Government phone lines will no longer utilize music on hold, which surprisingly cost the city more than $900 per month (they are obviously not using VoIP service).
  • Ok, get this. Are you reading? This is amazing! The city government was paying out $75,000 per year to wash municipal vehicles! $75,000 per year was spent to wash cars! That will not be happening any longer.
  • In order to increase the funds coming into government, credit cards will now be accepted should you decide to invest in some city and municipal ("MUNI") merchandise. Buy a T-shirt today – charge it!
  • To further raise incoming funds, excess city property and vehicles will now be auctioned and sold to the highest bidder.

All joking regarding the poor spending habits of government aside, this kind of interaction between upper management and front line employees is exactly what business needs. San Francisco selected Brightidea, the leader in innovation management software, but whether it's Brightidea or any of the other 20 some odd ideation platforms engaging employees and customers today in developing new ideas isn't a choice it's a requirement.

By David Greenfield

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