CitySmart Blog

Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Allen Koronkowski, Practice Manager: Projects
Government Technology is reporting that Microsoft is offering government applications on a cloud platform. My guess is it’ll take anywhere from 3-5 years for the client base to become comfortable with it as a solution. We’ll see some early adopters and it’ll grow, but based on my past experience with Software as a Service, it takes that long to get permanent traction.
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
Dave Mims, President
What do you expect to happen when financial troubles occur? You tighten your belt and make the necessary decisions to address them!
This appears to be exactly what the City of Canton, GA did.  Earlier this year the Cherokee Ledger News stated that, even after layoffs and budget cuts, the city is seeking to cut an additional $300,000 - $400,000 due to the economic downturn in late 2008.

It is now a little over three months later and the Cherokee Tribune is reporting that the City should be able to end the financial year in the black with a projected excess of $885,000 in its general fund. 

We just need a number of private businesses (and banks apparently) to figure this out as well.

Monday, May 11, 2009
Tim Verras, Director of Marketing and Customer Experience

(Tim Verras (center), and Marti Mims (right) rule the dance floor)

Sophicity was a sponsor of the 2009 TechBridge Digital Ball, a ceremony awarding non-profits that use technology in innovative new ways to help their cause. The black tie event, hosted at the Georgia World Congress Center, draws hundreds of technology movers and shakers from Atlanta’s bustling business industry. Along with a cocktail party, dinner and the awards ceremony, the event also featured a live soul band and a massive dance floor, which was promply taken over by our very own Dave And Marti Mims, Kevin Howarth, and yours truly. All in all, we had a great time.

TechBridge is a nonprofit organization that helps other nonprofits leverage technology to better serve the community and Sophicity is proud to support their efforts in making Georgia a better place through technology.
Thursday, May 07, 2009
Dave Mims, President
Joel Spolsky recently wrote an article for Inc. magazine about what differentiates prospering and failing companies today, and his title on the print version of the piece pretty much says it all: "It Isn't the Economy, Stupid." Joel outlines differentiators that some might consider common sense, "sweating the little things," or any number of other clichéd business terms, but I think he’s dead-on. 

It all comes down to character and fundamental corporate culture. Running a successful services company begins with looking out for your client’s best interest before your own, being very knowledgeable about what you offer, always being willing to help, and delivering quality each and every time. Great article, Joel!
Wednesday, May 06, 2009
Allen Koronkowski, Practice Manager: Projects, the Federal Government's information site, has moved to a new cloud computing platform that they expect will reduce costs by up to 90% and streamline operations. What’s most interesting is not so much the technology but the shift in culture it took to move away from a basic web presence built around an in-house server model to the current cloud model.

Cities are starting to look at moving some of their services to a cloud-based environment and I suspect they will face many of the same cultural problems that were found at the Federal level. While cloud computing does represent a significant change in thinking, it is surmountable with good planning, education, and implementation.

Monday, May 04, 2009
Tim Verras, Director of Marketing / Customer Experience
According to this Washington Post article, The State of Virginia’s Prescription Monitoring Program was recently hacked and is now being held for ransom by the hacker, who claims to have access to over 8 million records worth of personal data like Social Security numbers and driver’s license numbers. To make matters worse, the hacker also claims to have deleted all of the system backups, leaving the State without a proper way to get that information back. The hacker hopes to make the State pay millions in order to get the sole surviving copy of the records back.

As more Governmental services move online, the importance of proper IT best practices will continue to grow. While online services offer easier access, they may arguably put sensitive information at greater risk if it is not properly maintained and protected. We don’t yet know what kind of systems the State had in place to prevent and recover from such attacks, but this is an excellent illustration of why governments should be thinking about robust security measures and detailed disaster recovery plans that include locked down, off-site data storage.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Tim Verras, Director of Marketing / Customer Experience
Today, Google launched a service called Google Public Data, which integrates census and unemployment data directly into the search window. This is a further example of Google leveraging its vast resources to make available data that was once buried deeply within government websites. At the present time, the search can pull data on states and counties but more search options expected soon. As with many Google products, expect the company to tinker with this feature often.
To try it out simply type "population Georgia" into the Google search and the Public Data result will appear first.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Kevin Howarth, Director of Business Development
A few weeks ago, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported on an innovative idea with the City of Duluth’s budget: opening it up to citizens. Similar to the notion of open source in the technology world, the City of Duluth is hoping to gain more insights about how to save money and maximize its tax dollars by harnessing the collective knowledge of the public.

Amy Henderson, spokeswoman for the Georgia Municipal Association, said public input during a city’s budget process isn’t unusual. But of Georgia’s 536 cities, Duluth’s formal approach to resident feedback is unique. “It sounds like they’re taking it to another step,” Henderson said.

The idea of budget transparency can be scary at first, but in an unprecedented era of recession and economic crisis, cities have a significant opportunity to deconstruct their budgets, uncover wasteful spending, and seek creative solutions to help generate revenue.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Todd Snoddy, Software Development Practice Manager
I recently did a presentation at the 2009 Southern Municipal Conference, where I talked about Microsoft's Silverlight technology and how it can be used for developing league-based applications. Although I'm a techie at heart, I tried to avoid diving too deeply into the technical aspects for this particular talk. Instead, my goal was to cover things at a fairly high level, with the intended target audience being a typical Municipal League user who might be curious about how Silverlight could be leveraged from a league-based application standpoint.

Some of the things I talked about included:

  • What is Silverlight
  • Why use Silverlight for Business Applications
  • Drawbacks to using Silverlight for Business Applications
  • Alternatives to Silverlight

The bottom line is that Silverlight is an excellent platform for developing Rich Internet Applications, and it's worthy of consideration for new projects, especially for organizations that have an investment in Microsoft technologies and development tools.

You can get the slides from my presentation here: SMC 2009 Silverlight Presentation. Feel free to contact me if you have questions or feedback.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Jeramie Mercker, Director of Technology
At the April 2009 Southern Municipal Conference in Atlanta, I offered practical advice on how leagues can apply best practices to improve their software development project outcomes. Some organizations have trouble adopting better processes for a variety of reasons including justifying the perceived expense, training the team, etc. My presentation covered an introductory overview of activities that each league could implement to get started, but also, the business justification for implementing better processes.

Topics covered during this introductory level talk included:
  • Project Management, Planning and Control
  • Requirements Gathering and Analysis
  • Design
  • Implementation
  • Quality Assurance
Check out the presentation slides and feel free to follow up with me if you have any feedback. Also, check out the article I wrote about this same topic.
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