Executive Spotlight: Interview With David Zolet, CEO of CentralSquare Technologies

David Zolet
David Zolet

David Zolet, chief executive officer of CentralSquare Technologies and four-time Wash100 Award recipient, recently spoke with ExecutiveBiz about his new position with the company, the effects of COVID-19 on the GovCon market and his company’s upcoming initiatives.

“We’re committed to doing our part to make sure the men and women on the frontlines of this pandemic can do their jobs safely and keep their communities healthy.”

ExecutiveBiz: How has CentralSquare integrated new technology to combat COVID-19?

“We offer a number of software solutions that minimize face-to-face interactions between law enforcement officers and the public. In the current pandemic, these solutions are being used to promote social distancing and reduce the spread of COVID-19. During this pandemic, we are offering these specialized software solutions at no cost to our public safety customers. A couple of them include:

  • Our CentralSquare Citizen Reporting application is an online reporting tool that reduces person-to-person exposure by enabling citizens to report crimes directly to law enforcement without having to go to a police station. In the current pandemic, CentralSquare Citizen Reporting is enabling citizens to connect with law enforcement while staying safe.
  • Our mobile apps, CentralSquare Fields Ops and CentralSquare Freedom, give first responders greater situational awareness of the rapidly changing environment in their communities. These apps not only provide insight into active and pending calls that may come into a 911 center, but also show alerts regarding history of COVID-19 exposure, before a first responder arrives on the scene. This keeps our first responders safe and prevents the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

All of these solutions are easy to use, which makes them the perfect tools for rapid deployment without the need for additional hardware. To accelerate the use of these tools, we’ve also expanded our training and support. We’re committed to doing our part to make sure the men and women on the frontlines of this pandemic can do their jobs safely and keep their communities healthy.”

ExecutiveBiz: In your recent appointment as CEO with CentralSquare, how has the client/product relationship shifted?

“In the services space, where I’ve spent much of my career, our product was the people who provided our clients specific high-skill services. At CentralSquare, our product is pre-built application software that includes the best practices we have gathered over 8,000 customers. In a services business, we are continuously focused on having the most talented people solve unique problems for each client.

Here, we have the most talented people, understand what is happening across clients, learn how their needs are evolving and distill that into crisp, best-in-class software that can be deployed across hundreds of organizations. Though there is the complexity of building broadly applicable products, the core remains the same – deeply focus on our client’s problems and find talented people to build software that solves those problems.”

ExecutiveBiz: What are some of your top priorities for CentralSquare after assuming the leadership role?

“We are focused on three key priorities:

  • First, we are becoming more customer-centric: We are creating a relentless focus on understanding the customer needs, deepening engagement with our customers, and continuing to gain their trust as a long-term partner. With greater insight into our customers’ needs, we will ensure that every product we offer delivers a high return on investment and provides a seamless experience for all public servants.
  • Second, we are investing in data and analytics that directly impact critical needs such as improving safety for officers and their communities. Today there is a tremendous amount of data that is generated across various connected devices. Unfortunately, when an officer is responding to an incident, he or she needs actionable life-saving insights rapidly generated from all this data. Our data science teams are using machine learning to convert vast amounts of data to actionable insights that improve situational awareness for officers when they are responding to any incident.
  • Third, we will focus on making User Experience (UX) a core pillar in every product we build. Enabling all public sector customers to have consumer-grade tools, i.e. easy to use software that provides smooth and seamless experiences, is becoming central to all our plans. We have built a powerful UX team that spends hundreds of hours with police officers, building inspectors, permitting teams, among others, to understand how they use technology and how we can build solutions that not only provide value but also delight our customers.”

ExecutiveBiz: How has the customer response been since the development of some of these new technologies and data integration?

“The number of law enforcement personnel and local government employees across North America has increased by less than 0.5% in the past decade. However, public safety concerns, such as active-shooter incidents have increased by over 30 times since 2000. And, wildfires have destroyed more than a million acres in the past few years. This is also coupled with rising citizen demands, such as the expectation to have immediate, seamless interactions with local government. So with limited resources and growing demands, every public sector organization is trying to multiply the impact of their work with technology. As a result, we have seen a tremendous response from our clients for our efforts. And the impact is truly phenomenal.”

ExecutiveBiz: How will CentralSquare acquire new talent and train your workforce under the current circumstances with the global pandemic?

“At many organizations, including CentralSquare, the pandemic has accelerated working remotely.

Our teams have shown they can be as effective and efficient working from home as they are at the office – in some cases, even more so. We are doubling-down on technologies that enable us to stay connected and continue to feel a part of the team during this time.

For example, where possible we join by video instead of just audio. It has been impressive how our team has not missed a beat and adapted to this new normal. So we’re looking at how we can leverage the work from home environment to improve our employees’ experience.

On the training part, we continue to invest in our employees, using smart learning management systems. For example, we asked for ideas on how we would plan a major sales training remotely, and the ideas that our employees have contributed are innovative and amazing – including small FaceTime breakout sessions, virtual networking and rapid online polling to see what’s resonating in each session.

The past several weeks have opened up the possibility of how we can hire and train talent that may not live near our offices, which opens up a much wider array of potential candidates for us. Overall, we will continue to stay close to our employees to keep learning what’s working, what’s not and fine tune the way we serve our customers.”

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