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CitySmart Blog

Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Dave Mims, President
We spend of lot of time on this blog discussing how governments are going digital to help add efficiency to their operations. With shrinking budgets and labor shortages, many cities have no other choice but to take a serious look at updating their IT infrastructure. Sure, it might cost more upfront, but the savings can be drastic and the "if it ain't broke don't fix it" mentality is no longer enough to justify sticking with the status quo. Take this example from the NY Times about how cities and counties around the country are going digital.

One quote, from Alameda County, Ca's Assistant Director Donald Edwards particularly caught my eye: "...government services will be increasingly automated. This is about the modernization and mechanization of services." That pretty much sums up the future pretty well. We're going to see more local government entities moving in this direction as soon as they can get over the initial shock of having to pay money for things that aren't necessarily "on fire."

Check it out and it's a great article if you're thinking of reinventing the way your city uses IT.

Monday, October 12, 2009
Kevin Howarth, Director of Business Development
While talking with all of the GMIS-GA IT folks at their 2009 Fall Conference, I heard ten topics that seemed to be on their mind:
  1. Budget cuts and retirees are reducing available staff while hiring freezes and recruiting difficulties are creating a potential labor shortage 
  2. Need for help with RFPs and finding software applications
  3. Harnessing social media
  4. Virtualization
  5. Trouble with vendors and systems integration
  6. Need for a IT business plan
  7. SharePoint implementations
  8. IP-cameras downtown
  9. Online forms, applications, payments
  10. New websites
I also wanted to thank everyone for a great conference and the opportunity to present on Silverlight. Here's the slideshow for the presentation.
Friday, October 09, 2009
Tim Verras, Director of Marketing and Customer Experience
I've been in and around the web design business since the 90's and when it comes to creating a new site, there's one mistake I see over and over again: Not listening to the audience. Remember that when you design a website, its intent is to be read by users outside the organization, and so usability becomes a key factor. Your marketing department might want a super-sexy website with Flash and animation, but never forget that citizens are coming to the site to get information quickly and consistently. This is a lesson that Fairfax County, Va. just learned as they went about redesigning their web presence. Initial sites were high design, but the user's panned them on usability. They soon discovered that the simpler they made the website, the higher the approval rating went. In the end, their website was so simple it actually won an award. All by taking the time to do focus testing and listening to their audience. As any comedian will tell you, the audience makes or brakes you.  
Wednesday, October 07, 2009
Jeramie Mercker, Director of Technology
A cautionary tale from The Big Apple. We've mentioned NYC's efforts for an open government platform in the past. But today came news that when the city released its data, it inadvertently released a slew of personal and private information into the data set. In this case it was something fairly benign - answers to secret questions for a password reset feature - but it illustrates a point: If the government is going to provide open data sets, which by all means they should, it is their responsibility to ensure that the data is properly scrubbed before it hits the public. If this would have been credit card or social security numbers, it would have been a colossal blunder, but instead NYC got a free lesson in basic data security. If your city is thinking of opening the data vaults, make extra sure that the data is fit for public consumption because once it makes it onto the net, it's there forever.
Monday, October 05, 2009
Tim Verras, Director of Marketing and Customer Experience
During my daily read through Governing's website, I came across this great post by blogger Ken Miller. He's typically focuses on change in the government sector and how difficult it sometimes is. At the end of his post, he relayed what he calls the 10 Paradoxical Commandments Of Government. Instead of commenting on them, they're so brilliant I'm just going to repost them here and them sink in:

The Paradoxical Commandments of Government

1. The reward for doing good work is more work. Do good work anyway.

2. All the money you save being more efficient will get cut from your budget now and forever. Find efficiencies anyway.

3. All the bold reforms you make will be undone by the next administration. Make bold reforms anyway.

4. There is no time to think about improving what we do. Make time anyway.

5. Employees may fight the change every step of the way. Involve them anyway.

6. The future is unpredictable and largely out of your hands. Plan anyway.

7. The press only cares when something goes wrong. Share your success stories anyway.

8. Legal will never let you do it. Simplify it anyway.

9. If you develop your people they will move on to better jobs. Train them anyway.

10. Your ideas will at best make someone else look good and at worst get you ostracized by your co-workers. Share your ideas anyway.

Friday, October 02, 2009
Tim Verras, Director of Marketing and Customer Exeprience
Earlier we discussed San Francisco’s DataSF.org and it seems to be growing nicely. Spurred in large part by Google, app challenges seem to be all the rage these days. Most recently to the game is San Francisco, which has just released the first round of its app challenge. There’s some cool stuff here, like an app to navigate the transit system, crime reports and others. Check it out for some cool ideas for adding a little bit of government 2.0 to your own city.
Friday, October 02, 2009
Sophicity announced today the release of the new website for the City of Oakwood, Ga. - www.cityofoakwood.net. Oakwood’s website was completely rebuilt using Sophicity’s Tribune City Website Manager and features a design that is representative of what this unique city brings to the state of Georgia. Stan Brown, City Manager, had this to say about the project:
“Oakwood recently went through a city-wide rebranding effort and we wanted our website to be consistent. We decided on Sophicity and Tribune because it was the best mix of service and features for the right price. Sophicity worked directly with our marketing staff to give us the exact website we wanted and delivered it on time and budget. Now we can update our own website without having to hire expensive programmers. We couldn’t be happier with how it turned out.”

Tribune City Website Manager offers city governments an easy way to maintain websites without the need for expensive web developers. Non-technical staff can easily post council minutes, agendas, events, photos, videos and more. Tribune also offers eGov features like citizen request forms, ticket payment integration and other ways to help cities reduce costs by doing more online. And as a hosted platform with a flat monthly fee, Tribune allows cities of any size to easily budget for future website costs.

About the City of Oakwood, Ga.
Nestled between the Interstate 985 corridor and the tree-lined shores of Lake Lanier, Oakwood, Ga. is in a fortuitous place – and time – to embark upon a bold vision that honors the city’s rich heritage while moving with confidence into a prosperous and well-planned future. Unique among emerging small towns, Oakwood is poised to harness the wave of fast growth sweeping southern Hall County to create a dynamic “sense of place” and destination community.

About Sophicity
For more than 10 years, Sophicity’s expertise has unleashed the potential of government IT for municipal leagues and their member cities, meeting the needs of everyone from city hall to public safety. Our senior consultants help improve budget efficiency and increase employee productivity beginning with detailed assessments that identify risks, opportunities, and guidelines for planning. Sophicity makes any IT project worry-free by defining the requirements, managing the project and implementing the right solution. At Sophicity, we put the IT in city.

Thursday, October 01, 2009
Dave Mims, President
NYC’s Mayor Bloomberg gets it. He understands that in order to save money, sometimes you’ve got to spend a little. We’ve already talked about his efforts to modernize 311 but recently he also announced an effort to combine and virtualize the city’s 55 data centers into one centralized data hub. Sure, this is going to cost millions in labor and technology, but in the first year alone the move is projected to save over $30 million – and that’s just in energy costs. When you factor in savings in office floor space, staff, and maintenance that number is likely to be much higher. The mayor clearly realizes that if the city was going to sustain the weight of its massive IT infrastructure, it was going to have to get over its departmental silos and share the resources. There are a million different ways that cities can re-invent their IT, sometimes it just takes a little bit of classic New York bravado to make it happen.
Monday, September 28, 2009
Dave Mims, President
VVrrooommm instead of Woosh, this time. We drove instead of flew to Covington, KY for the Kentucky League of Cities (KLC) 2009 annual conference last week. Just an incredible view along I-75 thru Chattanooga, Knoxville, Lexington, and then Covington, right below Cincinnati!

I had the opportunity to speak with city leaders and decision makers from across Kentucky, and again, on the mind of cities is “how can I meet my IT needs and at the same time reduce cost?” Yep, just the question that we’ve been working on really hard at Sophicity. Don’t hesitate to drop me a note or give me a call to discuss how Sophicity can help.

I didn't get to see too much of the city but I did get to enjoy a very good restaurant called Dee Felice Café (Thanks Tom!). And congratulations to Joy Roark, City Clerk, from the City of Flemingsburg, KY our $100 Outback Steakhouse drawing winner at the KLC annual convention!

Friday, September 25, 2009
Dave Mims, President
If you’re a PTI member, check out this recently released survey on how local governments are embracing social media. Per GovTech, 100 percent of the cities surveyed are using wikis internally. That’s honestly quite a surprising statistic but it’s one I’m glad to see. At Sophicity we’ve used a wiki to great effect for knowledge sharing, operations, and other administrative functions. It allows us to get new folks up to speed faster than ever and it makes sure we don’t lose any of the knowledge that the geniuses here are always cooking up. How are you using a wiki at your city?
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