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CitySmart Blog

Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Dave Mims, President
Woosh! That’s the sound of Sophicity running all over the map as we meet with cities across the Southeast. Most recently, Kevin Howarth and I went to sunny Orlando for the Florida League of Cities 83rd Annual Conference. It was the perfect way to meet with city leaders and decision makers to learn what’s on their minds and I congratulate FLC for putting on a great conference.

As we move into the second half of the year, the cities we spoke with seem to be echoing what we’ve been hearing all along: How can we get our hands around IT costs? It’s a question we’ve been working really hard on at Sophicity and we've come up with a number of great ways to help. Curious? Drop me a note or give me a call so we can chat about it.

While we didn’t get a chance to visit Epcot for a ride around the world, we did enjoy the beautiful weather and great food. And congratulations to City of Crestview, Fla. Councilman Charles Baugh for winning our drawing! We hope he enjoys a nice steak dinner with his family at Outback ! Charles, we suggest the Bloomin' Onion.

Friday, August 14, 2009
Jeramie Mercker, Director of Technology
A few months ago, I wrote about a new initiative of the federal government, Data.gov.  This is an interesting project as it aims to provide a wealth of public information online in a variety of formats for free. When I originally checked out the site, there were only a handful (around 40) of types of data available but now the government has greatly expanded the site with more data and better tools. Of particular interest is the recent release by the FBI of the 2007 Crime Statistics. They offer it in a number of different formats, including ones that can be overlayed on Google Maps to get a visual representation of the data. While the government has made this information public for a long time, never has it been more accessible and easier to dig in and find interesting new ways to use it. I'll certainly be keeping on eye on this one...
Monday, August 10, 2009
Kevin Howarth, Director of Business Development
Trends are working against a city’s information technology infrastructure even if the city does nothing or keeps to the status quo. But taking advantage of flat monthly operational-cost IT services means the following:

  1. Lower, affordable, monthly costs for exactly what is needed. Pay monthly for needed hardware, software, and services. IT is scalable – add or subtract users as necessary, and the cost is adjusted on the fly.

  2. Clear, transparent ROI. Information technology has matured into a transparent reportable investment. A cost analysis of the money spent for traditional hardware, software, and services can be outlined and compared against a flat monthly operational-cost model. When this cost analysis is performed, many cities often uncover an opportunity for instant cost savings.

  3. Included, no-cost hardware and software upgrades. With “pay as you go” IT service models, there is no longer any worry about upgrading hardware or software. With a city’s monthly costs, all upgrades are included.

  4. Minimized risk of data loss and security breaches. With an IT environment that is monitored and maintained with consistent, upgraded, quality hardware, software, and services at a monthly cost, the burden of data retention, security, and maintenance falls upon the service provider. Recovering from theft or a disaster can be much quicker and more cost effective for the city.
Friday, August 07, 2009
Allen Koronkowski, Practice Manager: Projects
I’ve been writing a lot about Twitter lately, especially when it comes to how its being used in the government sector. As many of you may know, Twitter (along with Facebook and Myspace) was attacked last night by a Denial of Service attack originating in the country of Georgia. When I heard this, I began to think about how that could impact the efforts of New York and LA, which are starting to use Twitter for important roles within the operations. As a response to this GovTech has a great article about why governments might want to put some serious thought before using Twitter. What if it goes down? What if it gets hacked? All of these questions need to be firmly grasped before any Twitter project starts. If you’re thinking of using Twitter, I suggest you give the article a read.
Thursday, August 06, 2009
Tim Verras, Director of Marketing and Customer Experience
The FCC today hosted a talk about the future of E-Gov and Civic Engagement. Among the things discussed in the fruitful talk were:
  • Key new technologies for government operations?
  • How government operations could change if there were universal broadband?
  • How can access to broadband amplify the goals of open and accessible government (increasing public awareness and participation in government)?
  • What are new uses of broadband that would further open government and civic participation?
  • How do new media, including social networking tools, advance civic participation, and are there limitations or concerns associated with such use?
  • How can broadband infrastructure and services improve citizen access to local and national news, information, dialogue with government and other citizens, transactional efficiency, and participation in governance?
  • Does access to broadband increase the ability of the average citizen to make her voice heard by the government and other citizens, and if so, how can this be advanced?
  • What are the benefits of video streaming or video conferencing of government meetings to enable participation by those who cannot attend a meeting in person (because of distance, cost, disability, illness, and the like)?
  • Are there other applications of broadband technology that can improve civic participation and how can they be encouraged?
While the meeting has already passed, you can grab a recorded version.
Tuesday, August 04, 2009
Tim Verras, Director of Marketing and Customer Experience
As you know, at Sophicity we’re all about helping municipal governments manage their IT infrastructure in a way that’s cost effective, responsible, and transparent. We’re always trying to cook up new ways to ensure our customers get the most from their technology and it’s something we try to take to our personal lives as well. One great example is our very own Allen Koronkowski (Practice Manager: Projects). You may know him as a frequent writer on this blog, but to many in the Atlanta-area, he’s simply known as Mr. K, The Cookieman.

It all started when Allen wanted to teach his kids fiscal responsibly and the rules of business. Instead of giving them a lecture, he created a cookie company and let them learn firsthand how to run a business in a responsible manner. They set up shop at the Marietta Square Farmer’s Market on the weekends and sold delicious cookies based on their secret family recipe. His sons each had shares in the company and were allowed some measure of decision making power in its operation. The end result? Not only did his kids learn the ropes but his cookies are quickly becoming all the rage. So much so, in fact, that the Marietta Daily Journal just wrote an article about him! He’s a great project manager, a great dad and we’re happy to have him heading up our consulting practice. Now if we could only get him to start giving us free cookies…

Friday, July 31, 2009
Tim Verras, Director of Marketing and Customer Experience
This one hits close to home for me – quite literally. GovTech is reporting that Oakland County, Mi. has cut $600k from its IT budget this year simply by soliciting cost cutting suggestions from its employees via an internal blog administered by the county’s CIO. Oakland County, just north of Detroit’s West side, is perhaps the most active county in Michigan and, more importantly, is where I lived for a number of years. When the economy gets tough, this is exactly the kind of innovative thinking I like to see. Employees are the ones in the trenches doing the work and so it’s no surprise that they often have incredibly simple yet effective ideas on gaining efficiency. If your municipality is facing looming budget cuts, this might be a great way to tap into the brain power of your employees.
Thursday, July 30, 2009
Jeramie Mercker, Director of Technology
The Federal Government IT sector was sent scrambling this week when the Washington Post broke the news of a report given to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that peer-to-peer file sharing software installed on sensitive government computers by employees, was responsible for inadvertently releasing vast amounts of data into the public. It was identified as a major problem at all levels of the government including the FBI. This is another red flag for cities, which deal with sensitive data like police records and evidence files. Have a discussion with IT staff or vendors about locking down such file sharing applications on the network to prevent this data from going public. One more reason to have strong IT policies in place throughout the organization.
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Allen Koronkowski, Practice Manager: Projects
I found this template from a government department in the UK, which includes guidelines for setting up Twitter, by defining purpose, metrics and other important considerations.  If you’re interested in finding out who in government is already on Twitter, you can go to www.govtwit.com for a complete list.  In Georgia, there are many cities using it of varying size, such as Atlanta, Marietta and Tyrone.  Many state representatives are on the list as well.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Allen Koronkowski, Practice Manager: Projects
Lately, we’ve been seeing an uptick in interest from cities reviewing their voice and data contracts, looking for ways to save money. If it’s been a while since you’ve even thought about it or if your contract is coming up for renewal soon, our experience is that money savings here is “low hanging fruit.”

At first, you might be inclined to create an RFP, since that’s how contracts are bid and you may be required to do this. The danger, however, is that if you don’t know what your needs are and you are unfamiliar with the technical terminology, you won’t understand the responding proposals and won’t have the information your City Council needs to make an informed decision. This is when an unscrupulous vendor might move in to take advantage.

You have several options to avoid this:

  • Ask Your Current Vendor: You can ask your current vendor for help, but they may only be able to price what you tell them you need.
  • Find a Broker: Brokers can help you find the best deal, but they may have pre-existing relationships with certain providers, limiting your choice and not necessarily acting in your best interest.
  • Independent Consultants: Their interest is finding you the best deal possible and in order to do that, many of them will perform a comprehensive needs analysis before doing anything else. Some of these consultants work for an hourly rate, but many of them are paid by the vendor you select, which doesn’t cost you a dime!

If you’ve been paying attention to Sophicity, you know we’re big on objective analysis, so we recommend the third option—especially those that are paid by the service provider you select. Voice and Data plans are not our specialty, but they are a critical component of your network infrastructure, which IS our specialty. If you have any questions about navigating these waters, let us know—we’re glad to help.

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