CitySmart Blog

Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Kevin Howarth, Director of Business Development

Clint Nelms, Network Infrastructure Practice Manager at Sophicity, recently published “Three Reasons Why Cities Should Consider Hosted Email” in the March 2011 issue of Texas Town & City. The magazine is published by the Texas Municipal League and focuses on a variety of contemporary municipal issues. We encourage you to read the complete article and also visit Texas Town & City online.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Clint Nelms, Network Infrastructure Practice Manager

You may have already implemented or considered cloud solutions, especially enticed by the reductions in technology costs. But many people are still concerned about security. “What happens to my data when it’s ‘out there’ in the cloud?”

Here’s Army General Keith Alexander, commander of U.S. Cyber Command and director of the National Security Agency:

“This [cloud] architecture would seem at first glance to be vulnerable to insider threats—indeed, no system that human beings use can be made immune to abuse—but we are convinced the controls and tools that will be built into the cloud will ensure that people cannot see any data beyond what they need for their jobs and will be swiftly identified if they make unauthorized attempts to access data.”

Read the entire article from Forbes.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011
Clint Nelms, Network Infrastructure Practice Manager

You may have already read about cloud computing hype, so skepticism in this Wall Street Journal article comparing it to the Industrial Revolution is understandable. It’s understood that cloud computing has distinct benefits. If you suffer headaches from purchasing and maintaining software or email on your own servers, then cloud computing’s “buy as you use” model (which works similar to utilities) can reduce your costs and increase performance without the worries of software maintenance.

However, the article also says: “Far-fetched though [the comparison to the Industrial Revolution] may sound, research published by the London-based Centre for Economics and Business Research in December seems partly to reinforce this view. It predicts that the increased productivity, job creation, business development and competitive advantage brought about by cloud computing will generate an additional €763 billion ($1.04 trillion) in economic value and will create some 2.4 million jobs in Europe during the next five years.”

These benefits are a consequence of less disruption (and more operational continuity), reduced costs (and more hiring), and lower cost of entry (which means more access to critical line of business applications that improve citizen services). If your municipality has not seriously explored the cost and productivity benefits of cloud computing, talk to your IT director or a trusted vendor.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011
Dave Mims, President

This article notes Jacksonville, Florida’s successful process of moving to a new ERP system and expands upon other cities’ experiences illustrating what can go right...and wrong...with such implementations. To maximize the investment for such a complicated project, it’s essential to follow a clear methodical process that includes rigorous requirements, vendor selection, and project management. If a sound process is followed, a city can truly make a leap forward in terms of cost savings and productivity enhancements.

For another case study on an ERP implementation, please review the City of Duluth, Georgia’s successful project.
 

Tuesday, March 15, 2011
Kevin Howarth, Director of Business Development

Security issues and social media are two unwilling dancing partners in the evolution of the communication services that are revolutionizing how we communicate. There is no doubt that entering the world of social media is a must, yet many legitimate security issues unfortunately scare off municipalities from fully participating.

However, with just a few basic IT network and security precautions, a municipality can be assured that entering the world of social media will involve no more risk than Internet access and email for employees.

  • Make sure all servers and workstations are being proactively monitored for security threats by your IT staff or vendor.
  • Make sure all antivirus, antispam, and content filtering/blocking tools are active and up-to-date.
  • Enforce existing municipal policies that cover usage and permissions.

A Compuware study last year found that around 99% of data loss incidents are caused by internal users (not external attacks). It’s easy to blame the users, but even the most savvy of users can be tricked by some of the complicated virus and phishing attacks seen on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites. We recommend talking to your IT staff or a trusted vendor to discuss methods of securing your network and making sure users are protected.

As this GovTech article states unequivocally, “...some would argue that without anti-virus, data loss prevention and scanning tools, a social media presence simply wouldn’t be possible for a public agency.”

Monday, February 14, 2011
Clint Nelms, Network Infrastructure Practice Manager

In our journeys over the past few years, we have spoken to the occasional municipality with outdated technology which places the city in a precarious state of affairs. While the example of the City of Chesapeake in this article from the Virginia Pilot is very extreme, it is not too dissimilar from some of the problems we’ve seen municipalities put off.

- Obsolete technology. Chesapeake’s is over 35 years old, but anything over 10 years old is just as ancient.
- Public safety effectiveness threatened by poor IT support and services.
- Servers and workstations failing or often being down.
- IT staff retiring or leaving who have all of the city’s IT knowledge in their heads.

Often, the longer a city waits to stay current with information technology, the more expensive it becomes to upgrade in the long run. If you feel your city might be behind the curve, talk to your IT staff or a trusted vendor for ways you might be able to lessen these risks.

Monday, February 14, 2011
Kevin Howarth, Director of Business Development
Despite the late-2000s recession and current recovery slowing down the exodus of Baby Boomers from the workforce, it is inevitable they will leave in mass numbers in the next few years. While this recent article from GovTech focuses on IT staff at the state level, the same law applies to municipalities.
 
As the article reports, the National Association of State Chief Information Officers says that 20-30% of state CIOs will retire over the next five years. In addition, “...nearly 55 percent of [state CIOs] said they were having trouble filling IT positions. Government continues to have trouble competing with higher salaries in the private sector and restrictions in the civil service system...”
 
Municipalities will see parallel trends with its IT staff over the next five years. Fortunately, there are cost-effective methodologies available to counter these hits. Information technology is too important to solely rely on full-time employees. High salary costs, the risk of knowledge leaving your municipality, and competition for IT talent will always make staffing-only a shaky strategy. A hybrid approach is best, which you can read about in one of our past articles.
Monday, February 14, 2011
Todd Snoddy, Software Development Practice Manager
Transparency has become a government buzzword over the last few years. However, what happens to that data often gets overlooked. When the public can better access and socialize over data sets, benefits are unleashed as seen by an experiment called OpenBaltimore. At the City of Baltimore, data from 21 agencies is not only shared with the public but the OpenBaltimore platform also allows users to suggest data sets, customize views, and discuss uses of the data with fellow developers and citizens.
 
As the City of Baltimore’s CIO Rico Singleton explains in a recent GovTech article:
 
“The additional functionality and uniqueness that I think is somewhat different is it gives you a tremendous ability to democratize the data and socialize it. [...] So you can create your own views, your own use of the data, your own charts. You can share that out to common social networks — whether it be Facebook, Twitter, Digg — and create discussion forums around the data.”
 
If you’re thinking about the transparency of data at your city, also think about how that data can be distributed and shared with the public. The benefits can be - literally - exponential.
Monday, January 17, 2011
Dave Mims, President

Network World recently published a great article quantifying the financial impact of deferring IT maintenance. IT often simply seems like a cost center, but it is further behind than ever according to the author. This lag affects services to citizens and city staff productivity from:

- Not replacing hardware on schedule.
- Not upgrading software or evaluating better options (email, document management, etc.).
- Letting enterprise applications deteriorate (accounting, police, public works, etc.).

The positive side to this situation is that the cost and quality of routine proactive maintenance is better than at any time in the past. For a relatively low monthly fee and a smart contract, a vendor can help maintain and monitor your IT environment while knocking out needed projects through a strategic plan led by city officials.

Monday, January 17, 2011
Kevin Howarth, Director of Business Development

The Center for Digital Government recently released the results of its annual Digital Cities Survey. Many of the top technology-savvy cities were located in the Southeast. The rankings included:

250,000 or more population

4th City of Charlotte, N.C.

125-249,999 population

1st City of Richmond, Va.
3rd City of Norfolk, Va.
5th City of Hampton, Va.
5th City of Winston-Salem, N.C.
6th City of Alexandria, Va.
7th City of Augusta, Ga.
9th City of Hollywood, Fla.

75-124,999 population

5th City of High Point, N.C.
6th City of West Palm Beach, Fla.
8th City of Roanoke, Va.

30-74,999 population

2nd City of Lynchburg, Va.
3rd City of Danville, Va.
9th City of North Port, Fla.

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