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CitySmart Blog

Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Allen Koronkowski, Practice Manager: Projects
Anyone that has been following my writings here knows that I’ve been very curious how cities were going to embrace Twitter, and I’ve found some surprising ways. Like this week, GovTech is reporting on how municipalities are using Twitter to disseminate traffic information for major roadways. What’s interesting here is not so much the traffic, as most navigation systems can route around it these days. What I find interesting is that some are using it to discuss the progress of road construction. We often just drive by such sites day in and day out, always wondering when they’ll be done. Now we have a way to stay better informed and crack the lid on those mysterious construction projects. Anyone who deals with Atlanta traffic on a daily basis knows what a relief this could be.
Monday, September 21, 2009
Tim Verras, Director of Marketing and Customer Experience
You knew it’d only be a matter of time before someone came out with a government-centric social media site and finally it has arrived. Enter: GovLoop. We’ve been toying around with it for a few weeks and there’s a lot of really great information, discussion, and folks that are using it. It’s great to see that government is becoming hip again. If you sign up, make sure you friend us!
Friday, September 18, 2009
Dave Mims, President
This month in Sophicity’s on-going travels: The Kentucky League of Cities’ 2009 Conference in Covington. I'll be meeting with folks from all over the state to discuss how technology is affecting their municipal operations. If you’re going to the convention, stop by our booth (#411) and say hi!
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Dave Mims, President


You should have witnessed our amazing (just phenomenal, really) level of play yesterday at the Georgia Municipal Association's (GMA) Annual Mayors’ Christmas Motorcade Golf Tournament. Sure we sponsored the event, but we made every effort to not retain our last place title from last year. We drove, and putted (and putted… and putted…) but still we came up short (and long… and in the water… and the woods) and did retain our last place crown with a score of 95. Good news is, we did improve our score by 26 strokes and we came off the course with just as many clubs as we began with. However, I think our crowning achievement came at the award dinner when a very nice gentleman from the City of Vidalia sat down at our table and said “I don’t mean to stereotype, but I knew you were IT guys.” I guess there’s just some things you can’t hide. =)

Check out GMA's webpage for a cool video made from photos of the event. There's even a few Sophicity cameos!
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Sophicity was a sponsor for the 2nd Annual Georgia Municipal Association (GMA) Mayors’ Christmas Motorcade Golf Tournament held September 14th in Dublin at the beautiful Riverview Park Golf Course. The $24,000 in proceeds from the tournament will go towards the Mayors’ Christmas Motorcade charity event in December.

According to GMA’s website, “the Mayors' Christmas Motorcade began in 1958 at the request of then-Governor Ernest Vandiver as a way of providing holiday gifts for the patients of Georgia's mental health and retardation hospitals. The program is also aimed at raising the awareness of the needs of Georgia's mental hospitals.” Sophicity proudly supports GMA’s efforts to help Georgia’s less fortunate during the holiday season.

Sophicity’s management team also returned once more to the field, scoring an astounding 95 (an ‘improvement’ of 26 strokes from last year’s outing) and successfully defending its coveted last place crown. Dave Mims, President of Sophicity, stated:

You should have witnessed our amazing level of play. We made every effort to not retain our last place title from last year. We drove, and putted, and putted… and putted but still we came up short, and long, and in the water, and in the woods. The good news is that we came off the course with just as many clubs as we began with.

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.

About GMA Created in 1933, the Georgia Municipal Association (GMA) is the only state organization that represents municipal governments in Georgia. Based in Atlanta, GMA is a voluntary, non-profit organization that provides legislative advocacy, educational, employee benefit and technical consulting services to its members.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Clint Nelms, Practice Manager: Network Infrastructure
The great jazz bassist and composer Charles Mingus once said, “Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that's creativity.” When it comes to IT administration, there are plenty of opportunities to make things unnecessarily complex, especially with the sheer number of different services, products, and vendors out there. Luckily, for city decision makers looking to get creative with their budget, there are also a growing number of ways to combat complexity through consolidation, presenting an attractive opportunity to reduce costs and do more with less.

Like any well-planned solution, consolidating starts by understanding the problems that the city faces. Here, the problem arises out of the basic nature of municipal government: providing a wide array of services to citizens - from public works to judiciary functions – necessitates multiple departments, each with its own specialized set of needs. In many cases, the departments are not all located in the same building, so the city evolves to separate and unique networks for City Hall, Public Safety, the Court, and other departments. While this design philosophy might have made sense fifteen years ago in an era before widespread adoption of the internet, today it can make administration difficult as different technologies, software versions, and skill sets pile up over the years. City decision makers and IT managers are increasingly looking at consolidation as a way to solve budget shortfalls, heighten security and add efficiency.

An expectation from a centralization plan is consolidating the network administration; it simply doesn’t make sense to have separate servers, network equipment, and support staff at each location. Instead, most network administration functions, including servers, backups, and maintenance can be moved to a Network Operations Center (NOC) where they are administered by a single team. Furthermore, technologies like virtualization allow many of the servers from the remote locations to be combined into fewer servers at the NOC, reducing hardware, software, maintenance, and power costs. Centralizing and standardizing the network also helps IT staff keep consistent and uniform practices in place for each department, instead of a headache-inducing patchwork of different processes and technologies at each site. The city might also want to look at all of its voice and data lines to ensure that they are also centralized where possible and that they provide the proper level of speed and service for a given department. Add everything up and you’ll get reduced maintenance costs and a simpler environment. The removal of server equipment from the remote locations will free up valuable office space, reduce a potential point of compromise or attack, and drastically reduce energy costs.

One fear that some department heads may have about using a NOC is a perceived loss of control and security over their particular domain of operations. While it’s true that the physical servers may not be located in the same building, modern network administration technologies allow the NOC to delegate security measures to individuals at the remote sites. A site administrator can still have most of the same administration access they had before; they’ll just be doing it remotely. To overcome these fears, it may help to have your IT staff or vendor give a demonstration of how this would work. Also, having all of the hardware in one location makes it much easier to secure from theft and track who has access to the server room. It may take a little education to overcome this hurdle, but once addressed, it’s easy to see how the advantages outweigh the risks.

Consolidation and centralization is a great way to add simplicity to every level of the administration by dealing with fewer vendors, heightening security via controlled access and reducing support and maintenance and energy costs. And as tougher regulations, higher visibility to the public, and tighter budgets add further levels of complexity to municipal IT management, network consolidation is an elegantly simple solution for an increasingly complex landscape - there’s no “II B.S.” [1] about it.

[1] I just couldn’t resist a jazz joke here. “II B.S.” is one of Charles Mingus’ more famous compositions. While this name first appeared on the 1963 album Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus, the song was actually a re-recorded and renamed version of the earlier “Haitian Fight Song” which first appeared in 1955 on The Charles Mingus Quartet + Max Roach.

Monday, September 14, 2009
Kevin Howarth, Director of Business Development
I'm pleased to announce that Sophicity has been one of only four vendors selected by the Georgia chapter of the Government Management Information Sciences (GA-GMIS) organization to do a presentation for the "Racing Into The Future: Driving IT Home" event during October's Fall Tech Expo Conference in Savannah. If you’re planning to attend, I'll be showing a really cool presentation about how Rich Internet Applications built in Microsoft Silverlight will change the face of government-to-citizen communication.
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Tim Verras, Director of Marketing and Customer Experience
Another bit of news from San Jose - I guess there’s a reason they call it Silicon Valley. This time around, the City is being an innovator in changing its public records laws to better handle things like email, text messaging, and social networking. The problem is that the laws for public records don’t seem to mesh too well with the modern era. Text messages can’t be downloaded and stored in a fashion to meet the requirements and, as Florida is finding out – no one is really even sure if the laws cover these devices anyway. It’s kind of odd to think of texting as a disruptive technology, but as these sorts of things become more prevalent, it will be interesting to see how city governments work to change the laws to operate along side technology, instead of against it. The other solution is simply to not let government employees use these sorts of technologies, but that’s a reality no one wants. And this battle is nothing compared to the one that will be fought, very soon now, over truly disruptive technologies like Facebook and twitter. If your city is grappling with this issue, I suggest checking out what San Jose is up to.
Wednesday, September 09, 2009
Jeramie Mercker, Director of Technology
GovTech is reporting that that San Jose, CA has recently launched a wiki planning site that will allow citizens to have a say in the city’s future planning needs. Using the wiki software, citizens can fill out a survey and add notes and photos to pages about places in and around the city. This information will be used to create the city’s Envision 2040 city planning initiative. This is a really interesting example of how cities are using wiki’s to bring citizen interaction into the next age. The more I hear about cities using this kind of innovative thinking, the more excited I get about the opportunities for real change at the local government level.
Friday, September 04, 2009
Dave Mims, President
Digital Communities editor Todd Sander has an interesting OpEd piece on the struggles that City Governments are having when it comes to cutting the IT budget. He details one case of a city that is considering passing a law which mandates that all purchases under $25k will have to be made through local vendors. While this might seem like a great idea for stimulating the local economy, it is not feasible in most places because critical services and products might not even be available locally, especially in rural communities. Instead, he advocates an outward looking approach by engaging citizens and vendors from all over to find creative solutions to problems. I think this is sage advice and we’ve even seen a few local cities, like Duluth, Ga. open up their budget process to the outside world, often to great benefit. If you’re struggling with cutting the IT budget, this is must-read.
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