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Tag: Government Technology

10 Smart Questions to Ask Vendors During Your Next IT Procurement Process

Modern technology can transform the way you work in local government, saving time otherwise spent on manual, tedious tasks. Yet any new implementation project needs to be approached with the utmost scrutiny—especially when you consider that approximately 30% of projects are cancelled before they reach completion and another 50% exceed their initial project cost estimate, according to research conducted by The Standish Group.

Throughout our twenty-four years as a company, we’ve been involved in hundreds of procurement discussions from the vendor side. In that time, we’ve realized that the communities who ask us the 10 questions below often have the most success in implementing their new solution. Today, we’re passing that information along to you.

Establish How Customizable the Product Is to Your Specific Needs

1. How easy will it be to make additional updates to the configuration after initial set up?

Most solutions require some degree of preliminary setup. Once that initial newness wears off, be sure you understand whether your team will be able to adapt the solution to evolving needs. For example, do you need the vendor or IT staff to make simple updates to the environment (e.g. updating workflows and forms)?

You should also understand the level of access your internal users will have to dedicated support, in the form of consultants or online help, to answer questions. At ViewPoint Cloud, we have a full-time team dedicated to responding to user questions and requests. Our median response time is just 10 minutes.

2. What are some creative things that we can do with this technology that will make us stand out from neighboring municipalities?

Our workflow automation platform is best-known for streamlining permitting, licensing, code enforcement and inspections—but it also does a lot more than that. The cities and towns we work with consistently invent new and impressive uses like:

  • Adding tax checks to permitting workflows to make sure people can’t get permits until they pay back taxes
  • Creating smart projects that adapt permitting requirements based on an applicant’s specific project criteria 
  • Developing in-depth FAQ sections to help applicants with their requests

Software tools need to be customizable in order to adapt and change with the evolving needs of your community. Make sure you have that flexibility early on.

Know What the Implementation Process Will Look Like—And How Involved Your Team Will Be

3. Does implementation cost extra? 

Certain vendors look to keep costs low by selling their technology solution as a standalone item. They provide no insight on how to best use the tool, how to migrate your historical data into the new software, and they do not offer support for troubleshooting or Q&A. Alternatively, sometimes vendors will sneak in ‘hidden’ implementation or consulting fees after the initial contract is signed.

Our team believes that in order to make the most of your software investment, support is a necessary component of a successful project—not a nice-to-have extra. That’s why we work with communities to create a transparent, customized service plan tailored to support the duration of platform deployment.

4. Are there additional fees for onsite training or consulting time after a certain period?

Depending on the vendor, user training is sometimes included in the cost of the product. Others offer up-front training, but charge for additional engagements after the preliminary onboarding period. Be sure you’re clear on how your potential vendor operates and whether this will impact the overall investment.

5. Will we need to have a dedicated person or team available to ensure successful technology implementation?

In many cases, large-scale technology implementation projects fall to IT staff. If you work on a smaller team, or have a small IT department supporting a large organization, figure out who internally has the capacity to act as the point-person for your project. This individual (or committee) is an instrumental partner in supporting change management and translating priorities internally and externally.

Compare to Other Industry Players

6. How does the speed of development and roadmap of this product compare to industry standard?

Modern technology companies employ roadmaps to visually share their strategic plan and the features they plan to develop next. While this information isn’t always publicly available, it’s worth asking your potential civic technology partner what their product priorities are for the upcoming year. Depending on the vendor, you and your community may even have an opportunity to shape future development through user feedback and recommendations.

7. Are our values aligned with this partner?

A small, but growing cohort of modern technology companies now exist–all focused on bringing about positive change in local government through innovation. We consider ourselves a member of this camp, as we are dedicated to bringing local government leaders best-in-class solutions. It’s worth having the conversation with potential vendors to learn about their history, mission, and motivations for working with local government.

Ask for and Analyze the Results

8. What is this vendor’s track record with other municipalities?

Modern govtech companies will gladly provide you with case studies, impact numbers (including methodology), and success stories because they are proud of their work and the outcomes they were able to bring about.  

9. How would similar communities describe working with you? 

Don’t be afraid to request references when evaluating a new solution. You should speak to a variety of communities to see how the same solution worked in different ways. Speaking directly with users will help you determine whether the technology is a good fit.

10. What is key to a successful implementation and how do I measure that?

Ask your potential technology partner to share what’s needed before, during, and after implementation to ensure success. Are there specific data points that should be collected in advance to best allow you to demonstrate progress using your new solution? If so, ask them how similar communities have tackled this, along with their recommendations as to how you should get started too.

Conclusion

As we explored in our previous blog post, getting enough consensus and internal buy-in to even decide on a technology solution is a major achievement. But after going through all of this up-front effort, you owe it to yourself, your team, and your constituents to ask potential civic technology partners the key questions above. 

Lucky for you, you now have the list! 

The Importance of “Finding your Tribe” at TLG

Leadership expert and frequent TEDTalk presenter, Simon Sinek, has a lot to say about the idea of modern tribalism: forming a social network based on certain feelings such as trust, respect, and understanding. The modern tribe today, he contends, is most often a person’s place of work, where a shared set of values provides a “sense of purpose and cause.”

This past week, we saw a modern tribe in action as local government leaders from around the country gathered in Reno, NV for the Alliance for Innovation’s 25th Annual Transforming Local Government Conference (#TLG2019).

Among the many themes from TLG, the importance of peer support and learning, finding avenues for concrete action, and building an inclusive community stand out. Here are the key highlights.


TLG Attendees Support One Another—Across Different Cities and Sates

The warm, friendly atmosphere among local government attendees was immediately apparent at TLG. There were flurries of handshakes and hugs, inquiries about smart projects, legislation changes, and challenges—crossing the divide of different cities and departments. 

One attendee described the feeling of relief this conference instills, being surrounded by a group of people who “just get it.” She spelled out the contrast between discussing day-to-day challenges with TLG’ers versus a close friend, or even a spouse. With TLG, she finds instant understanding, shared endeavors, and connections to return to for support when enacting change. Most of all, unlike general lamenting, the Alliance actually provides solutions to help communities address, implement, and improve the status quo.


The Future of Innovation Relies on Peer Learning

Joel Carnes, President and CEO of the Alliance for Innovation, encouraged attendees to utilize TLG as a connecting point for this tribe of innovators—a place where leaders are supported in their quest to achieve efficient government operations and elevate communities across the country. The Alliance’s forthcoming Innovation Leagues is a specific part of this vision, mapped out as a network of regional bodies comprised of city leaders, universities, technology companies, and other stakeholders who all have the shared goal of helping their region reach its full potential.

The Alliance facilitates peer-learning between members who want to address a certain issue and members who have already excelled in that area. To showcase how this works, The Alliance pre-selected teams from cities to present to their peers at TLG on how they achieved certain successes. Bloomington, MN, for example, shared how to work outside of the traditional org chart to strengthen workplace cohesion. Attendees raved about the presentation, filling the conference app with photos and highlights.


Private Sector Partners Should Want to Help You, Not Just Sell You

Back in 2016, the Alliance created their Corporate Partner program with the express intent of connecting local governments directly with the latest private sector technology and innovation companies committed to push meaningful member initiatives forward. At TLG, Corporate Partners contributed to the knowledge base with Learning Labs—hour-long sessions focused on municipal education and processes improvement.

We teamed up with NIC to share three innovations to eliminate pain points in technology procurement, helping navigate a necessary process many Alliance members find particularly frustrating. In addition to new procurement strategies, the session focused on shifting away from the traditional vendor/customer dynamic that is a one-time transaction. Instead, local government leaders should seek out value-based partnerships with modern companies dedicated to relationship building. This  creates a feedback loop to continuously improve government services.

 

TLG attendees gather in Corporate Partner Alley to learn about the latest govtech innovations.


The TLG Conversation Continues Year-Round

Rounding out these pre-slated Learning Lab and peer support sessions, the Alliance also offered an additional “unConference” track where attendees got to brainstorm common areas they were keen to discuss and vote on their favorites. The top ten became dedicated breakout sessions throughout the conference. Topics spanned artificial intelligence & customer service, data dashboards & how to utilize them, infrastructure for aging populations, and project prioritization through the lens of equity.

After the conference, The Atlas, an online government marketplace and this year’s TLG Technology Partner, will enable these conversations to continue remotely— helping government leaders find best-fit technology solutions to help their communities thrive.  

The “unConference” schedule, which was determined by TLG attendees throughout the event.


Conclusion

For the “doers” in local government, The Alliance for Innovation’s Annual TLG Conference provides a safe space to build an extension of their modern tribe. Leaders connect with other leaders from cities across the country and the knowledge transfer that occurs between sessions, learning labs, and conference networking provides a strong foundation for innovation between public and private sector partners. If #TLG2019 was any indication of the progress that can happen in just two days, we can’t wait to see how the TLG Tribe evolves throughout 2019 and into next year’s conference in Phoenix, AZ.

 

Process Automation Customized for You--No Coding or Consultants Required

Process Automation Customized for You—No Coding or Consultants Required

Far too many government staff members find their daily workload bogged down by inefficient and unintuitive processes and tools. Whether it’s trying to physically deliver paper documents and manually track applications, or using outdated software that doesn’t quite fit your needs and makes collaboration difficult. Local governments everywhere are realizing that decades-old tools are no longer cutting it.

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Permitting in the Age of AirBnB | ViewPoint Cloud Online Permitting

Permitting in the Age of AirBnB—When a User-Friendly System Means Results

With the near universal presence of Airbnb, there’s no denying that short-term rentals have cemented their place in modern life. For some, hosting has become a necessary second source of income. For others, short-term rentals present a form of cultural currency for meeting new people or exploring a city. However, they also represent a modern regulatory challenge for local governments—how to regulate globalized, tech-based markets within their own jurisdictions.

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IT Basics for Government Tech Jargon in Plain English | ViewPoint Cloud

IT Basics for Government: Tech Jargon in Plain English

Sometimes it’s hard to keep up to date in a world full of new technology, especially given the rapid advances in public sector applications. But technology is changing the way government works, from better customer-service to internet infrastructure to widespread collaboration on open source projects.  That’s why we made this short guide for you (or someone you know) to brush up on IT concepts both old and new.

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16 Ways Local Governments Use Social Media | ViewPoint Cloud

16 Ingenious Ways Local Governments Use Social Media

Social media has long been an integral part of daily life. We have never been so easily connected as now, and the benefits span far beyond seeing your friends’ Christmas photos and not-so-funny memes. From marketing, to journalism, to fundraising, social media has revolutionized professional industries.

For local governments, it can hold even greater prizes. Social media is part of a foundation for a new type of democracy and community participation.

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ICMA Karaoke Blog | ViewPoint Cloud

We Came, We Karaoked—We Conquered ICMA 2018

If you’re wondering what our favorite moment from this month’s ICMA conference was, there’s one particular night that stands out. (Though our conversations with thoughtful government innovators offered too many highlights to recount!) We always knew local government folks loved karaoke, but it wasn’t until this year at ICMA that we found out just how much.

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Benefits of SaaS for Government—Why Cloud-Based Software is the Future

While cloud technology has existed for many decades, it has only become popular in the government sector in recent years. Overcoming initial fears, many leading governments are now embracing adoption of the cloud as a top priority. A 2017 Gartner survey of Government CIOs around the world reported that cloud services and solutions are the technology investments most crucial to achieving their organization’s mission. For those still unfamiliar with the ‘cloud’ and cloud-based solutions like Software as a Service (SaaS), let’s dive into what these things mean and why they are so important for the future of governments.

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Online Permit Portals: The Smart City Hall

You’re an entrepreneur looking to open a food truck in your city. You vaguely recall where City Hall is, but haven’t interacted much with your local government. Your idea for a business spurs the first real introduction.

You go to the your city’s website in search of answers to these questions:

  • What do I need to do to legally operate my business?
  • How much will it cost me?
  • Where do I do it?

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The Pain of Public Procurement Policy

The Pain of Public Procurement: Policy

This article was authored by Mariam Pallathucheril and originally published on Engaging Local Government Leader’s website.

About Mariam Pallathucheril
Mariam is a summer research fellow at CoProcure and a current MPA/MPP candidate at Columbia University (SIPA) and the Hertie School of Governance concentrating in Economic Policy and Technology. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Economics and Government from Georgetown University.

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5 TED Talks to Inspire Government Innovation & Technology

If you need a little inspiration for your day, take a scroll through these 5 TED speakers and see how they are changing government innovation—and the world—through technology. If you don’t have time to watch, here are the highlights:

Myth: The private sector innovates while the public sector gets in the way. The reality is that government has often been at the head of research and funding for important technological advances. The growing industry of government technology is continuing to push envelopes, challenge long-held stereotypes, and change the culture in and around government. Public-private partnerships will continue to be crucial in advancing society.

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