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Tag: Local Government Resources

Change Happens at the Edge

As a modern, nimble company working to disrupt an entrenched govtech industry, we’re always looking to partner with local government innovators cultivating positive change in their communities. 

We work to help cities and towns across the country modernize their tools, and in doing so improve the lives of their employees and constituents. Moving the wheels of large institutions is hard, so we are interested in the conditions that support proactive change. 

How does innovation happen within a department or an organization? Across a region, society, or industry?

I was intrigued after recently learning about, author and management consultant, John Hagel’s idea that change happens at the edge. The underlying concept: mainstream anything becomes like a black hole. It consumes what gets close, absorbs all energy, and continues to grow larger.  

The core is where the power has amassed, and it absorbs and conforms most of its surrounding environment. Diversity and innovation cannot thrive in this vacuum, and so existing processes, ideas, and power structures becomes increasingly entrenched.

“Because of the relationship between mass and gravity, this means [black holes] have an extremely powerful gravitational force. Virtually nothing can escape from them—under classical physics, even light is trapped by a black hole.” *

Not only do black holes absorb all surrounding energy, but they also cloud the ability to envision something new. 

“This creates an observational problem when it comes to black holes — scientists can’t “see” them the way they can see stars and other objects in space.”

Over the last couple of decades, the rise of the internet and modern software have disrupted the “black holes” in most industries. With decentralized access to consumers and cheaper scalable platforms, new companies have quickly diversified competition and improved the quality of products and services for the benefit of consumers. 

The Disruption Taking Place Within Govtech

Unfortunately, the public sector (particularly state and local government) has been one of the last areas to benefit from these gains.

Many of the large, entrenched companies that have dominated the govtech industry for the last several decades have become an increasingly large black hole. Despite providing subpar products and services at exorbitant prices, companies like Accela and Tyler Technologies have continued to own the market at the expense of cities and towns across the country.  

Outdated procurement laws, originally designed to provide transparency and accountability around government spending, have not only hindered the growth of new players, but have also provided a continued advantage for the black hole (dinosaur companies that have mastered the art of navigating complex procurement processes). 

Local Government Now Driving Change with Decisions

So how do leaders create change against the gravitational force of the black hole? How do local government innovators and leading govtech companies foster healthy competition that will develop products of the same caliber as consumer software?

Hagel argues that change happens at the edge, or in other words—change happens when leaders move away from the core.

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Hagel argues that change happens at the edge, or in other words—change happens when leaders move away from the core. A small minority of leaders hit the core, and instead of being consumed, they will ricochet off into space to create their own satellite. 

“Sometimes as matter is drawn toward a black hole, it ricochets off the event horizon and is hurled outward, rather than being tugged into the maw. Bright jets of material traveling at near-relativistic speeds are created. Although the black hole itself remains unseen, these powerful jets can be viewed from great distances.”

Safer from the gravitational pull of the black hole core and with clearer vision, these satellites are breeding grounds for innovation. And the successful ones will start amassing energy from the core, bringing the equilibrium into greater balance. 

Your Spend Is Your Vote

Visionaries across the public and private sectors are moving away from this core. Smaller, nimble govtech companies are now leading product development by providing modern, user-friendly software products and services at competitive prices. Municipal innovators are now searching farther and wider, seeking to provide agile, user-centric solutions to their employees and constituents. New government marketplaces and procurement tools are popping up to help connect these groups, and help them build the products that will soon benefit the majority. 

Government officials are starting to bravely invest in these modern, nimble companies, because the risk of investing in yesterday’s technology is starting to outweigh the ‘risk’ of investing in a company that may be newer.

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In a marketplace, your spend is your vote. Government officials are starting to bravely invest in these modern, nimble companies, because the risk of investing in yesterday’s technology is starting to outweigh the ‘risk’ of investing in a company that may be newer. Leaders see the gap between public and private sector services widening, and they know the positive impact that investing in new technologies will have on their communities for years to come. 

To all of the visionaries working to make your corner of the world a little bit better: the time is now. Together, we have the power to build the world we want to live in. 

*source for all quotes: Redd, N. T. (2019, Jul 11). What Are Black Holes? [Web log post]. Retrieved Jul 26 from www.space.com.

Are You Working with GovTech “Dino-software”?

We refer to government technology that is outdated, cumbersome, and no longer serving the needs of local government users as “Dino-software.”

The name may be fun, but the consequences to local communities are nothing to joke about. Use the resource below to spot the five warning signs that it might be time to upgrade your government technology partners.


Dino-software is government technology that is outdated, cumbersome, and no longer serves the needs of local government users. ViewPoint Cloud advocates ditching antiquated technology partners and instead selecting modern, nimble software companies that support communities.

Click here to download a digital copy of the infographic.

At ViewPoint Cloud, we advocate ditching antiquated technology partners and instead selecting modern, nimble software companies that will actually make daily tasks efficient.

Ready to make the switch? Check out the resources below to help you modernize and improve constituent services with new technology.

1. Don’t Invest in New Tech Until You Ask Your Internal Team These 10 Questions

2. 10 Smart Questions to Ask Vendors During Your Next IT Procurement Process

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! 

[Webinar] Tiny House Villages as a Crisis Solution to Homelessness

Sharon Lee, Low Income Housing Institute’s (LIHI) founding Executive Director, joined the National Association for County Community and Economic Development (NACCED) and ViewPoint Cloud to speak on tiny house villages as a crisis solution to homelessness.

Watch for a history and how to guide, sharing how Seattle developed its innovative Tiny House program to quickly and affordably provide shelter to people living on the streets, and how other communities could do the same. LIHI went from one village to ten in three years, learning valuable lessons in construction, management, and key partnership formation along the way.

Read: A Government’s Guide to Tiny House Regulation

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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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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10 Free Software Tools for Local Government | ViewPoint

10 Free Software Tools for Local Government

With rigid budgets and procurement processes, local governments sometimes have to wait years to upgrade their technology. Luckily, with a world of developers and creative ideas, there’s a whole market of free software tools at our fingertips. From designing more engaging social media posts to better intra-office communication, these easy-to-use tools can be integrated into your regular workflow without spending a dime. To help you do this, we’ve rounded up a list of 10 free tools your local government can use to start working more productively and creatively right now.

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Marijuana Regulations Permitting and Licensing Guide | Local Government Resources - ViewPoint

A Local Government’s Guide to Successful Cannabis Regulation & Licensing

Cannabis regulation remains a controversial subject across all levels of government, but there’s no denying the fact that the tides are changing in favor of legalization. The 2016 election seasonwhere a historic number of states passed ballot initiatives legalizing marijuanaseems to have been a tipping point, and the pro-legalization movement is showing no signs of slowing down.

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