Collaboration and innovation put Melfort on the smart city map

When the City of Melfort wanted to build on its status as “a great place to live, work, and play,” they turned to the SaskTel Collaboration and Innovation Team for solutions.

The City of Melfort met with the SaskTel Collaboration and Innovation Team and learned of its initiative to evolve services to meet the emerging needs of municipalities. It became immediately clear the two groups were working from the same page and this was a great opportunity. We asked SaskTel Director Nathan Wilson to share the story.

First, tell us about the Collaboration and Innovation Team.
The overall mission of our Collaboration and Innovation team is to learn. We are a learning organization. We look to connect the silos. We know that no one organization has the answer to everything and we're in a privileged position to be talking to ministries, Crowns, businesses, start-ups from all over the province, and technology companies from all over the world. This is really about saying, “Who are the individuals and the companies we can bring together that have knowledge they can contribute?” We also want to make sure we're taking an approach to the problem that fits the kind of work we're undertaking. And, lastly, we really want to ignite innovation.

How is that different from the SaskTel of old?
It's not so much about us bringing ready-built products to market anymore, as much as it is about us engaging with our customers. Technology is so deeply embedded in everything we do now that it's more critical than ever that we work very closely with our customers to truly understand the needs of their business, and then help to bring together solutions that solve their challenges.

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How did the new approach apply to the City of Melfort?
The initial stage really started with listening and asking questions, learning about the business, understanding their challenges and their problems. We never pretend to know more about the customer's business than they do. But we do know technology. We do know customer-centric design. And we do have a wide array of contacts within the innovation and technology community that we can call upon to help us.

When we worked with Melfort, we decided to start by aligning on mindset and approach. We held a session with senior leadership from the City of Melfort to talk about strategic thinking. We talked about how the world is transforming, and how it’s up to each business, municipality, or individual to make decisions about how they’re going to deal with the level of substantial change that's happening. There's tremendous potential for those who want to embrace the change that's happening, and to look for ways to constantly evolve the business they're doing, and how they deal with their community.

What goals did you set with the City of Melfort?
One of the goals was to help the City reduce their operating costs. We also wanted to find ways to continue to make people feel safe as they lived there. We wanted to find ways to reduce the carbon footprint. And we wanted to continue to evolve the way that they engage with their citizens and their businesses, and how they communicated the services that were available to them.

Setting goals enabled us to bring in Saskatchewan businesses that complement our services. By working with Saskatchewan-based solution providers, not only are we broadening the expertise we can offer our clients, we’re supporting the mandate of the province at all levels.

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With those goals achieved, is Melfort now what you’d call a smart city?
When we use the term “smart city,” what we really mean is a way for municipalities to engage more deeply with their citizens and with the businesses that operate within their community, to really understand what their needs are, and to take a very customer-centric approach to what they put in place. Technology can be a major enabler for that.

This approach recognizes that innovation is an ongoing journey. This is not a project that you start and finish. What you really want to do is create an organization that is there to learn, that is understanding how they can constantly be finding new ways to improve. And what we want to do when we work with customers, is to help establish some of these skills, to help establish this approach, and to be a long-term partner for customers as they work forward.

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What’s ahead for the City of Melfort?
What I see in Melfort as a big positive moving forward is a community that has truly adopted the mindset and the approach that's going to position them for ongoing growth and innovation. And that truly is the key for being able to embrace the tremendous possibilities that are now open to all of us to leverage technology in new ways to deliver services.

What’s ahead for SaskTel?
SaskTel is still very much a company that is deep in technology. We have lots of technology experts. But SaskTel, moving forward, has to be about understanding the customer experience, and working to bring these components together. We want to bring in Saskatchewan solution providers to complement our overarching portfolio of services. Because we know, number one, we have a lot of great, innovative people here in Saskatchewan. And, number two, any time we work with made-in-Saskatchewan solutions, we're continuing to support more growth and more investment in this province.

If you have any questions about our products and services, please contact your SaskTel representative, request a call back, or call 1.844.SASKTEL (1.844.727.5835).

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