budgeting season for many cities, and information technology is a line item
that often get scrutinized during this time. Technology has evolved rapidly
over the past five years not just in terms of speed and capabilities but also
with how typical costs are structured. So, what do these technology shifts mean
to city budgets?
up with technology can be frustrating, the benefit of technology's
evolution to cities is a lower price for more capabilities. For example, with the advent
of cloud computing (a truly disruptive technology), the entire model of
technology budgeting is shifting from capital to operational expenses.
To see where
you might be able to save costs, both in the short-term and for the long haul,
we explore a few potential ways to slash your city’s budget with newer
surface, it can seem that these technologies might increase costs, especially
if you haven’t taken a look at your technology assets in a long time. Many
cities even don’t include IT as a budget line item (or bury it in other areas
of the budget). However, by eliminating hardware, revisiting contracts,
switching to cloud software subscription models, shifting to a proactive predictable
IT support model, and automating manual processes, you open up the possibility
to seriously and positively impact your budget.
To talk more about city IT budgeting, please contact us.
In the past, we’ve talked about many aspects of document
management, sometimes hinting when certain aspects (like indexing) affect
search. But let’s tackle the art of document management searching itself, since
it’s something city staff will perform constantly as part of their daily work.
Often, city staff can grow disappointed when they expect
document management searching to work like Google. That’s a bit unfair, since
Google’s search engine is the best and most sophisticated in the business.
Plus, Google is indexing and showing search results for the entire Internet in
the best way they feel suits most people’s needs.
Since your documents are your own assets, that means you’re
responsible for taking steps to make them searchable and findable. Some of
those aspects are automated depending on the type of document management system
you choose. But others need your business input along with the help of an IT
expert, document management expert, and (in sophisticated cases) an information
For most small and medium cities, the following tips will get
you started on building a foundation for making your documents easier to search
within your document management system.
As you can see, search technology can become complicated
rather quickly. However, your IT staff or document management vendor can help
guide you through the search capabilities of your document management system.
In many cases, providing better searching for city staff is easy but tedious as
you decide the rules and implement tagging and metadata. However, the reward is
the better search results. No longer will you be frustrated that you only
receive a bunch of random results that only contain an exact search phrase.
Instead, you’ll see relevant results based on your own tagging and empowered by
smart use of technology.
For more information about document management searching, please contact us.
encompasses a lot—everything from new buildings that take years to build to
fixing potholes. Because of that broad scope, it can be difficult to focus your
public works content on your website. As a result, many city websites cover a
broad range of topics that confuse people seeking out public works information.
public works pages may include utilities, parking enforcement, or some overlap
with planning and development content, we’re going to use this post to
address content that assumes you’re communicating about soon to start or in
progress public works projects. However, our first tip will remind you of the importance
of deciding what is and isn’t public works content, and how you will present
that content to citizens.
short-term projects or simple ongoing maintenance and repairs, many of the
above tips apply on a smaller scale but you can also apply some of our customer
service tips from previous blog posts about city website content. Overall, it really helps if you decide what content public works
includes and stay consistent with that focus. If your citizens seem better
helped by calling the information something different (since many people don’t
tend to use the phrase “public works”), it’s perfectly valid to explore ways of
organizing and presenting your public works content in language that your
about public works website content in more detail, please contact us.
As we’ve grown accustomed to email over the years,
one of the ongoing struggles has been the user’s desire to keep all of their
emails versus the reality of hitting the limits of storage space. This has
traditionally been a real problem for cities. With tight budgets, cities often
needed to cap email storage space at a certain limit. That meant deleting
emails to make sure cities had enough space for new and incoming emails.
Not today. As this infographic shows, the price of storage -
including email storage - has dropped to ridiculously low levels. It’s not
unusual for a modern cloud email system to provide about 50GB of storage for
businesses. That’s enough storage for employees to pretty much save every email.
Cities need to take advantage of cloud email’s
extremely cheap storage not only for the user benefits but also because there
will no longer be any legal reason to delete important emails. For example, the City of San Diego had an email deletion policy when they were using their more obsolete email
systems with limited storage space. The public is in an uproar now and wants
the city to keep all important emails. The city has no choice but to agree with
the public because the email storage technology now exists to do it.
To get a glimpse of the many email storage problems
that go away with cloud email, here’s a sampling of some common problems that
you probably struggle with if you have an outdated email system.
Cities with aging on-premise email solutions or
“discount” email software provided by their local Internet Service Provider are
going to become less scalable and more untenable in the future. Since
government is getting pressured by both citizens and the law to switch to the
cloud for transparency, security, and budget purposes, now is a good time to
explore cloud email. It will help eliminate many of the problems listed above
and also possibly reduce your email budget by a significant amount.
To talk about cloud email in more detail, please contact us.
With so many security threats taking place in cyberspace
through the exchange of bits and bytes, it’s easy to overlook the physical side
of information security. While viruses, phishing, and hacking into servers all
take place in “virtual” reality, many serious threats to information also happen
within good old normal reality.
A recent article in SC Magazine is representative
of a need for IT professionals to align both information and physical security.
Employees and other people with inside access to organizations are the source
of many information security breaches, so your physical security needs to
complement your information security to provide the best protection against
It’s easy to assess your current physical security state,
and the list below may help you identify some gaps at your city.
By reviewing the items above, you can
turn them into a checklist to begin assessing the quality of your physical
Remember, your physical security helps
complement your information security. It’s like yin and yang. Make it hard, if
not impossible, for a person to access or damage your equipment, and you’ll
find that you’ve mitigated many of the risks that lead to most government
To talk more about physical and
information security, please contact us.
When cities purchase hardware and software, they sometimes
look at the maintenance and support fees as “additional” costs. “Additional”
becomes “optional,” and cities sometimes pass up on these fees. It’s
understandable, especially because we all sometimes feel that vendors are
trying to upsell us by charging us extra fees for things we don’t need. In
extreme cases, cities occasionally use unlicensed or pirated hardware and
software to avoid such extra costs.
However, yearly maintenance and support fees are
absolutely essential costs as part of purchasing hardware and software. By not
having this support, you risk hardware and software failure that cannot be
fixed—or that will only get fixed through an expensive hourly fee. Either way,
you’re hurting operations and increasing your risk of unpredictable IT costs.
Here are a few important points to keep in mind about the
importance of hardware and software maintenance and support fees.
words, you want to pay for the hardware and software maintenance and support
agreements. True, it can seem hurtful to your budget—10-25% per year of the
original purchase price. But if you accept that as part of the price of hardware
and software, the investment makes sense in order to ensure that your hardware
and software stays optimal and up-to-date.
cloud software can eliminate many of these problems by removing the need for
hardware and reducing your overall software costs. But since some hardware and
software is not yet in the cloud, we highly recommend that you continue to
follow the advice above to make sure you are getting the most out of any
hardware and software investments that you must purchase for onsite use.
more about hardware and software maintenance and support costs, please contact us.
In many places across the United States this past winter,
the so-called polar vortex led to freezing cold temperatures and dangerous ice
storms. In Kentucky, a large part of the state shut down because of a snow and
ice storm. Throughout the South, a place unaccustomed to the severity of many
of these storms, citizens were left stranded on roads and unable to navigate
the ice with their cars. Schools, government entities, and businesses shut down
rather than play dangerous guessing games about having employees come into the
office or not.
Atlanta especially received a lot of negative national
attention when motorists were stranded on roads for more than 24 hours in some
extreme cases. Learning a harsh lesson about government communication and
coordination, citizens were awaiting important information not only through
traditional media outlets but also through timelier government website and
social media updates. Since so many states had city closures because of this
severe weather, we’ve provided an overview of some ways that cities can learn
from the harsh winter and use technology to better communicate with citizens
during such stressful events.
During Atlanta’s January ice storm, many citizens unfortunately
found out they couldn’t rely on Georgia’s state government for timely, updated
information. For example, Mayor Kasim Reed pointed out that his city could only
take action within certain geographical boundaries inside Atlanta’s city limits
because of the metro Atlanta area’s decentralized organization of cities,
highways, state government organizations, and schools. Until that decentralization
problem is solved (like in New York City), you’ve got to step in as a powerful
communication channel for people in your city.
Some quick tips include using your website to:
While it’s useful to update your city’s website as a
central repository of important information, you need to also make an effort to
broadcast and push that information out through social media channels. People
are always checking Twitter and Facebook to stay up-to-date during severe
weather, and it helps when your city is part of their news and information
To augment your website communication efforts with social
For any employees who absolutely don’t need to be on
site, teleworking provides them the ability to serve citizens and communicate
important information without coming into the office. If you’re not equipped
for teleworking, and if employees must come into the office to access and
communicate city information, then you’re at a serious disadvantage in a
disaster. After all, it’s during a disaster that citizens need cities the most.
If your city operations are easily crippled by bad weather, then your city is
not able to serve citizens when they need you the most.
While you can read
our past articles about teleworking for more information on how
to provide this benefit for your employees, some tips related to bad weather
Covering the basics of your website, social media, and
teleworking capabilities will help your city shine in severe weather. Citizens
look to cities for help during snow and ice storms but grow quickly frustrated
and disappointed if those cities appear to be out of touch. With the right
website, you can push out updates on your homepage and through Twitter and
Facebook. And your employees should be able to do all of this from home,
essentially keeping your city staff connected and working despite not being
able to come into the office. With modern technology, this kind of business
continuity and real time response to severe weather is absolutely possible.
To talk more about how your technology is able to handle
a snow and ice storm, please
Once seen as a perk, teleworking appeared at first as a
luxury but not as a normal way that people should work. Today, many
organizations actually look at teleworking as a great way to increase morale, give
employees more flexibility with family and personal time, and, yes, reduce
costs with less office space and overhead.
While we’ve talked many times in the past about technologies that help enable teleworking, one of the key
obstacles is making sure that employees are definitely “at work” while working
remotely. That means the human interaction side of working needs to be
supported by technology, just like the individual productivity side.
In this post, we cover some of the aspects of teleworking
collaboration that technology has enabled and made easier when employees work
From tools that are old hat to emerging tools such as Yammer,
there are now a variety of ways to keep employees connected when they work
remotely. While it’s still good to have human interaction, we live in such a
volatile schedule-heavy world where people have different demands, family
needs, and personal challenges. Plus, in a still struggling economy, it’s hard
for people to always live close to where the jobs are. For your city, if you
can make it easier to hire excellent employees who happen to live farther away,
you can actually hire better talent, keep those people happy, and also increase
the productivity of your city by improving collaboration. No more waiting for people
to come into the office—you’ve got technology to help you meet and communicate
To talk more about collaboration technologies, please contact us.
In this new series, we will talk about the benefits of
transitioning a common technology item to the cloud—starting with servers. As
cities have started to consider the cloud as a way to reduce costs and increase
efficiency, they’ve especially looked at one of the most expensive investments
in their technology budget: servers.
When a city’s servers are hosted onsite, it’s always an
expensive line item. Servers take up space, cost money to purchase, and require
maintenance, upgrades, and eventual replacements. However, leaving all these
problems behind by moving into the cloud might seem too good to be true.
Having transitioned many cities from onsite servers to the
cloud, we’ve outlined some of the key benefits you may experience when making
Moving from onsite servers to the cloud is one of the biggest
technology culture shifts we’ve seen since getting involved in this industry.
It’s a shock at first to see the servers that your IT staff or vendor has taken
care of for years “disappear” into the cloud. However, with more and more
federal, state, and local government entities not only embracing the cloud but
also finding extraordinary value in this shift with reduced costs, increased
security, and higher quality maintenance, the end game after making this
transition leads to a more efficient, better-run government.
To talk more about transitioning from onsite servers to the
cloud, please contact us.
You’ve probably experienced the frustration of making edits
to a document and submitting it to someone, only for them to say, “Oh, wait.
Edit this one instead. Jim added his edits to the older version.” “What?” you
scream. That means you need to go back to the older version, incorporate Jim’s
changes, and then reincorporate your changes. What a waste of time!
Modern document management systems include versioning—a
method of keeping track of various versions of documents as edits are made
along the way. Versioning provides a host of benefits that get rid of a lot of
document editing headaches. Since versioning is one of the key features of a
document management system, we’re listing a few of the biggest benefits in this
Once cities get the hang of document versioning, it becomes
an essential feature of document management that helps out the workflow process
when editing. Nightmares go away. No more wondering who has the most recent
document, or if you should be editing it or not. Plus, it’s nice to know where
to find the most recent version, stored in a convenient, centralized location
where everyone has access to it.
If you’d like to talk more about document versioning, please contact us.
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