Civic News

Philly311’s new chief wants to get city agencies to use more data

On the first floor of City Hall, 60 employees handle 800,000 cases a year. There’s “a lot of room for growth” on how the city can put that data to work, says Executive Director Graham Quinn.

The Philly311 Call Center inside City Hall.

(Courtesy photo)

Graham Quinn, the Philly311 project manager who helped lead the implementation of CRM tool Salesforce at the non-emergency-information platform, has been tapped as the service’s new executive director.

Quinn, an Overbrook resident who joined 311 in 2012, will oversee a team of 60 employees who work out of Room 167 in City Hall to handle around 800,000 queries a year. From residents looking to get potholes filled to people wondering how to get a marriage certificate.

About half the volume of queries are information requests, whereas the rest are directly tied to city services like trash and street cleaning.

“Right now, we do a good job of intake of cases,” Quinn said. “The numbers are there for us as far as growth is concerned. Now I see us moving away from the app towards a more-mobile friendly experience for users.”

What started in 2008 as a hotline later evolved to include a long-delayed mobile app and a website. Access to Philly311, Quinn said, has meant a level playing field for citizens, allowing them to navigate their way through city bureaucracy.

“The next iteration is about trying to get most people to go to [the city’s recently-overhauled online portal],” Quinn said “We want to make the process more streamlined.”

Ask Quinn for his top priority as executive director and he’ll give an answer reminiscent of startup founders: Leveraging data analytics to help the city make better decisions.

“Big data is the number one priority,” Quinn said. “Getting other agencies to leverage our data. We have 800,000 interaction and there’s a lot of room for growth on what we can do with that information.”

Think of data on reported potholes being crunched to help the Streets Department shape its strategies. Quinn said Philly311 works hand in hand with the Office of Open Data and Digital Transformation.


What’s one little-known aspect of Philly311’s work? Quinn says it’s the job done by the agency’s community engagement arm.

“I also wan’t people to know that we’re always open to feedback,” said Quinn. “A lot of people leverage 311’s open data, and if there’s more data we could provide, they can reach out.”

Quinn said those interested can email the agency at philly311 [at] phila [dot] gov.

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