Muscat Municipality (MM) is the provider of essential services to 775,878 citizens and residents of Muscat Governorate which is also the capital of the Sultanate Oman. The services render by the Municipality includes construction permit, rent contract, municipality license, building permits, parking permission and violations and the other municipal services. With such a dense population distributed over a vast area, provision of quality services to the community is a constant challenge. Good Knowledge management of the various services provided in a diverse environment is critical for the continued success of the Municipality as a service-oriented organization.
Before the implementation of an integrated knowledge-based system, the explicit and tacit knowledge resided mainly in the people (staff) and in manual documentations. Overtime retrieval of such knowledge become cumbersome as staff turnover is unavoidable due to promotion, attrition and resignation. Manual documentations, overtime, becomes a labyrinth of archaic papers, few has the tenacity to retrieve or refer to them. Tacit knowledge based on numerous years of experience remained with the staff and is lost when the staff left the organization. The following encapsulates the problems faced by MM addressing the need for an integrated knowledge-based system.
1. Silos System
MM had traditionally been using in-house developed applications for most of their business needs; these applications were originally designed to handle mere data capture functions across various diverse business groups. These systems were not tightly integrated and did not cater to the evolving workflow requirements and service delivery capability required for civic customers and other stakeholders in the arena. Over time, it led to rampant data fragmentation across various independent and isolated applications, across the organization. This resulted in unwieldy pain and expensive application support and incumbent maintenance issues.
2. Manual processes for permit approval took between 2 to 4 months
Customers who wish to obtain various permits such as building, construction, etc must submit the application personally at the Municipality’s office. They then had to wait between 2 to 4 months (depends on the application type) to have their application processed and approved. Moreover retrieval of information was very tedious as all documents were managed manually which included architectural drawings, engineering plans and structural diagrams, etc. Mistakes in documentations due to missing documents, delayed permits, led to numerous complaints and inefficiencies.
3. Duplication of work by other departments
As applications were transferred manually to other related departments, more delays were caused. Each department would also need to re-enter the details of the application as the systems were not talking to each other, creating lots of duplication work.
4. Lack of knowledge sharing and retention
Since most application and processes were developed independently, information were not shared with other departments, hence customers had to repeat the process all over again for the next department. As the silos systems were merely used for data capture, no formal knowledge management lifecycle was utilised.
Without an integrated knowledge-based system, MM was merely provided essential services to the customers without meeting the needs of the customers and improving the customers’ satisfaction and service experiences. Unfortunately with the advent of social media and rapid customisation of internet applications, the citizens and residents of Muscat are demanding more meaningful interactions with their service providers and secured transactions anytime, anywhere. MM being a service oriented organisation cannot afford to remain laidback and let the wave of changes swept right through.