GovTech: Accela’s New Offerings Handle Licensing, 311, Visualization
Check out Accela CTO Renato Mascardo’s op-ed below!
By Renato Mascardo
Security Magazine- November 19, 2020
Government can no longer afford to pursue monolithic, exquisite technology solutions. Given rising citizen expectations and the fast-changing technology landscape, state and local governments need to work closely with key stakeholders, including both citizens and IT vendors.
This vision – call it “Connected Government” – will drive IT modernization. It’s a relationship-based approach to technology that will help state and local governments meet the immediate challenges of remote work and virtual citizen service, while also helping government IT leaders keep pace with innovation.
Given the potential power of a Connected Government approach to IT services, it’s worth taking a deeper dive into how this mode of operation works.
Basics of Connected Government
Certain fundamentals, or the “brilliant basics” as I like to call them, help define a Connected Government IT strategy and form the metrics of success and feedback mechanisms for continuous improvements. These key pillars include:
Performance – The stability, quality, and security of the platform or applications. Does the service run at the levels needed to support effective citizen engagement? If someone goes to a website, is the site there, and does it respond in two seconds or in 15 seconds?
Quality and accuracy – When government relies on a vendor to deliver an application or service in the cloud, the outcomes of that process should be predictable and the service has to deliver high quality outputs. In a truly connected relationship, these outcomes are verified through agreed-upon test cycles, with government leaders and the vendor working hand in hand to ensure accuracy throughout the system.
Security – There’s a temptation in government to assume that certain IT deployments are inherently secure and therefore the vendor’s responsibility. In fact, security is a two-way street – it’s the very epitome of what it means to have a connected relationship, not just with vendors but also citizens.
Citizens need to trust governments with their data, and in turn governments must have rigorous standards around security and privacy. The best way to get there is via a collaborative approach – a connected ecosystem in which government and industry are true partners.
Making it real
Having defined a few of the key pillars of Connected Government, what does it actually mean for state and local agencies to build an IT strategy based on cooperation and collaboration?
Much of the work here will involve government and technologists working hand-in-hand to define the metrics of success.
In security, it’s important to have up-front conversations about standards. Governments often have to adhere to specific standards, which must be upheld by their primary vendor and any subcontractors. A program of ongoing audits should be put in place to ensure these standards are being met consistently.
A similar approach is required in performance and quality. All partners in the ecosystem need to collaboratively develop the metrics to define acceptable uptime, accuracy, predictability, data quality. Government and vendors can also work together to implement the ongoing reviews and checks to ensure quality service over time.
A platform approach
One way to realize this vision of Connected Government is via a technology platform designed specifically to foster collaboration between agencies and technology providers.
A cloud-based platform provides agencies with the flexibility and scalability to enable innovation, without the need to invest in new technology. Relationships evolve over time, and the relationship-based approach to IT adheres to this basic rule. COVID-19 has shown us how citizen needs will change, and new technologies will emerge. The right platform enables government to adapt and grow its IT engagements over time in response to evolving use cases.
Time is of the essence these days. Citizens expect their interactions with government to mirror the commercial world, and government cannot afford to lag behind. With a platform ensuring strong connections between government and its IT partners, agencies get a significant time-to-market benefit.
Benefits of a Connected approach
Agencies could see a number of other meaningful improvements as a result of pivoting toward a Connect Government approach. A collaborative mindset can drive increased citizen participation, more informed decision-making, and more government accountability. It also gives governments the ability to leverage mobile capabilities to support remote work and virtual citizen service.
A Connected Government also is inherently a more secure government, in that it responds to the realities of a diverse and highly complex threat landscape. Simply put: There’s security in numbers. In a constantly-shifting security environment, no one ever has all the answers. No one has complete visibility across the multiple threat vectors that could be leveraged against government targets. By working in close cooperation, government and technologists can deliver security at a higher level all across the enterprise.
As government moves away from elaborate purpose-built systems and into the collaborative world of the cloud, it makes sense for IT to revisit the way it organizes its vendor relationships. By viewing IT as a relationship between key stakeholders, Connected Government offers civic leaders a way to make the most of their cloud investments, elevating citizen service and improving productivity and security across systems and applications.
Check out Accela in the article below!
By Andrew Westrope
GovTech- June 15, 2020
When local governments reflect on 2020, one of their takeaway lessons might be the importance of adaptability. Although gov tech giant Accela had this in mind before agencies from coast to coast had shuttered their offices, the company today announced a new civic application to help fire departments make prevention work more flexible.
Accela’s new SaaS tool for fire prevention is its eighth in a series of civic applications, starting March 2018, all of which aim to replace paper-based processes with digital workflows and automated steps. The company’s news release said the new fire prevention application streamlines aspects of fire plan reviews, inspections and fire permitting, and it includes mobile tools for team inspections and training.
Aaron Williams, Accela’s senior director of solution architecture, said the application is essentially for anything a fire department needs to document, permit or inspect, which in many places includes thousands of occupancies a year. He said normally this would involve reams of printed paper, hand-delivered inspection notices, clipboards, file cabinets and potentially a lot of staff time.
“That used to be a three-week process for them to do a sweep of annuals, and now that three weeks is almost entirely gone, because all you have to do is store it in your system,” Williams said. “This will automatically schedule the inspections on the annual date, and the inspections are routed out to the stations over the Internet through our software and performed on mobile devices. You’re essentially eliminating paper entirely from the process.”
He said the product comes in three iterations: an entry-level “fire essentials” package, which can transition a department off of a paper process in a matter of weeks; a more robust “fire extended” version with more features and dashboards; and a “fire enterprise” version for inventory management and team inspections of higher-occupancy structures like high-rises and stadiums.
Accela has been selling software to expedite fire prevention processes for years, but under the original series of “civic solutions,” now being phased out in favor of new civic applications. Williams said Accela’s original civic platform of solutions was a development tool that gave governments the ability to configure their business processes, but some of those configurations became hard to maintain.
“What happened is, the solutions evolved with agencies internally over time, and they were as good as the last IT department. … The machine got so big and so complicated, you needed more people to maintain it,” he said. “With civic applications, you don’t need that product manager anymore, because Accela has that product manager, focused on building that product, fixing bugs, enhancing features.”
Besides being the next application in the series, Williams said the new fire prevention software was partially inspired by other work with government agencies through COVID-19, asking them what they needed. He said a lot of them had to close their offices that handled permits, so they were looking for mobile, digital alternatives.
“They needed to get online, like, tomorrow, or in the next few days. So we created generic solutions where you could just set the thing up, not very invasive for your staff,” he said. “A bunch of people used it, and we saw the opportunity to do the same thing with fire.”
Accela’s news release corroborated the idea that governments are going mobile: More than 80 percent of the company’s new customers since the pandemic purchased solutions in the cloud, and 66 percent of its entire customer base is in the cloud.