Bright Side of Government

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Bright Side of Government

By Bright Side Staff

One of the great things about Bright Side is that we often get the opportunity to showcase some of the innovative things Microsoft does to make our communities a better place. Just recently for example, we had the chance to talk to Dave Grobleski, a Senior Consultant within Microsoft Public Sector's Justice and Public Safety Practice to talk about how citizen outreach programs like Tweet3po and Citizen 360 are working to keep neighborhoods safe and residents aware of their surroundings.

To give us a little insight into his brain child, Tweet3po, we asked Dave to answer a few of our questions about how it's being used by real people each day, and some best practices that can be applied at state and local governments around the country.

Bright Side Staff: Can you tell us a little bit about the genesis of this initiative?

Dave Grobleski: Tweet3po was imagined as a way to disseminate relevant, timely, hyper-local information to communities. We were sitting outside my house one day, wondering what those sirens and flashing lights were all about, when we decided to look online. We found a feed of "Active Police Calls" for the City of Orlando and marveled at its potential usefulness yet current impracticality. 911 calls for the entire city are displayed on a web page, a dozen or so at a time, refreshed every 60 seconds. We stared at the screen for about a half hour but never saw our call come through. Our thought was, if we could grab this data, figure out which neighborhood it was in, and push updates to various social media platforms, based on neighborhood or other natural community boundaries, we would have something quite useful ? and so, Tweet3po was born. I have the belief that traditional neighborhood watch does not work. Street signs and a "phone tree" have been traditionally ineffective. I have neighbors I don't know well, and I have other neighbors who go to bed very early. The thought of having to call five people and them calling five people seems very ineffective. Social media allows folks to communicate and collaborate without knowing each other. Social groups formed based on geographic boundaries allow people to participate in their communities deeply, while leveraging technologies that are already in most people's pockets. Remember, if Facebook were a country, it would be the third most populous one in the world. We thought it was a logical and largely convenient outlet for this useful information.

Bright Side Staff: What is the difference between Citizen 360 and Tweet3PO and how are they working together?

Dave Grobleski: Tweet3po is a community project that takes open government data and disseminates it in a hyper-local, relevant way via social media platforms. Citizen 360 is a Microsoft Justice and Public Safety initiative whereby we give local government agencies a platform to disseminate useful government data. Both these efforts reinforce citizen involvement, support community outreach, make our neighborhoods safer, and of course, strengthen our democracy.

Bright Side Staff: How have you seen local law enforcement agencies embrace the capabilities of Citizen 360?

Dave Grobleski: As a citizen project, I've seen surprisingly good feedback when I'm able to explain what we are doing. Most local officials "get it", but are afraid of the pitfalls of social media in general. This is why, as citizens, we work solely with public data feeds. This is data that the community has already designated as "public. We are simply trying to disseminate it in a more effective way.

As a Microsoft Justice and Public Safety initiative, the feedback has been overwhelmingly supportive. The main initiative of Citizen 360 is to allow agencies to post relevant messages to neighborhood social media accounts in a process driven way, while allowing the agency to "control the message. Our goal is to create a social media Platform that enables:

Centralized Management to review, approve and disseminate your message all on one platform.

The ability to Control Your Message with customizable approval workflows

Encouraging Collaboration across your communities using social media platforms to reach out and listen to your community.

Engaging the Public by giving citizens the ability to provide immediate, anonymous tips and intelligence

Strengthening Ties to the Community through the dissemination of information to custom groups such as neighborhood watches, businesses, and local schools and campuses.

Bright Side Staff: What are some of the hesitations or objections you've encountered with regards to open data and how do you address them?

Dave Grobleski: They typically surround the appropriateness of opening up government data in general. As a citizen initiative, Tweet3po leaves these discussions up to the community and only consumes data that has already been approved by our legislatures and local agencies. We also point to other cities like San Francisco and Chicago who are entering into broad open government data initiatives. More often than not, our message to local officials is "You can be a leader in this space, or your successor will".

We are not trying to say that the concerns of public officials are not valid. These objections are what led directly to the Citizen 360 initiative. Its purpose is to answer these concerns by giving local agencies a mechanism to control, vet and disseminate this information in a managed fashion.

Bright Side Staff: Can you give some examples of how citizens are using the technologies?

Dave Grobleski: As part of this Open Government Data and community activist experiment, we began tweeting Orlando Police Dispatch calls to neighborhood based Twitter accounts using Microsoft technologies about 4 years ago.

Then we created a neighborhood Facebook account and began spreading the word. We now have a pretty active 100+ member FB group and I've been discussing with the Orlando police department the possibilities of having an officer join the group using an official FB account. Since it is neighborhood based and community focused, it's like the 21st century version of walking a beat. However, like most agencies, they have very strict social media policies. We have a surprising amount of activity though. Everything from recycling, surveillance video and pictures uploaded, to suspicious activity and lost/found pets. It's become an active community. 911 calls are up and crimes are down in the past year.

For more information on other Microsoft Public Safety initiatives, check out their homepage, here.

By Bright Side Staff

One of the great things about Bright Side is that we often get the opportunity to showcase some of the innovative things Microsoft does to make our communities a better place. Just recently for example, we had the chance to talk to Dave Grobleski, a Senior Consultant within Microsoft Public Sector's Justice and Public Safety Practice to talk about how citizen outreach programs like Tweet3po and Citizen 360 are working to keep neighborhoods safe and residents aware of their surroundings.

To give us a little insight into his brain child, Tweet3po, we asked Dave to answer a few of our questions about how it's being used by real people each day, and some best practices that can be applied at state and local governments around the country.

Bright Side Staff: Can you tell us a little bit about the genesis of this initiative?

Dave Grobleski: Tweet3po was imagined as a way to disseminate relevant, timely, hyper-local information to communities. We were sitting outside my house one day, wondering what those sirens and flashing lights were all about, when we decided to look online. We found a feed of "Active Police Calls" for the City of Orlando and marveled at its potential usefulness yet current impracticality. 911 calls for the entire city are displayed on a web page, a dozen or so at a time, refreshed every 60 seconds. We stared at the screen for about a half hour but never saw our call come through. Our thought was, if we could grab this data, figure out which neighborhood it was in, and push updates to various social media platforms, based on neighborhood or other natural community boundaries, we would have something quite useful ? and so, Tweet3po was born. I have the belief that traditional neighborhood watch does not work. Street signs and a "phone tree" have been traditionally ineffective. I have neighbors I don't know well, and I have other neighbors who go to bed very early. The thought of having to call five people and them calling five people seems very ineffective. Social media allows folks to communicate and collaborate without knowing each other. Social groups formed based on geographic boundaries allow people to participate in their communities deeply, while leveraging technologies that are already in most people's pockets. Remember, if Facebook were a country, it would be the third most populous one in the world. We thought it was a logical and largely convenient outlet for this useful information.

Bright Side Staff: What is the difference between Citizen 360 and Tweet3PO and how are they working together?

Dave Grobleski: Tweet3po is a community project that takes open government data and disseminates it in a hyper-local, relevant way via social media platforms. Citizen 360 is a Microsoft Justice and Public Safety initiative whereby we give local government agencies a platform to disseminate useful government data. Both these efforts reinforce citizen involvement, support community outreach, make our neighborhoods safer, and of course, strengthen our democracy.

Bright Side Staff: How have you seen local law enforcement agencies embrace the capabilities of Citizen 360?

Dave Grobleski: As a citizen project, I've seen surprisingly good feedback when I'm able to explain what we are doing. Most local officials "get it", but are afraid of the pitfalls of social media in general. This is why, as citizens, we work solely with public data feeds. This is data that the community has already designated as "public. We are simply trying to disseminate it in a more effective way.

As a Microsoft Justice and Public Safety initiative, the feedback has been overwhelmingly supportive. The main initiative of Citizen 360 is to allow agencies to post relevant messages to neighborhood social media accounts in a process driven way, while allowing the agency to "control the message. Our goal is to create a social media Platform that enables:

Centralized Management to review, approve and disseminate your message all on one platform.

The ability to Control Your Message with customizable approval workflows

Encouraging Collaboration across your communities using social media platforms to reach out and listen to your community.

Engaging the Public by giving citizens the ability to provide immediate, anonymous tips and intelligence

Strengthening Ties to the Community through the dissemination of information to custom groups such as neighborhood watches, businesses, and local schools and campuses.

Bright Side Staff: What are some of the hesitations or objections you've encountered with regards to open data and how do you address them?

Dave Grobleski: They typically surround the appropriateness of opening up government data in general. As a citizen initiative, Tweet3po leaves these discussions up to the community and only consumes data that has already been approved by our legislatures and local agencies. We also point to other cities like San Francisco and Chicago who are entering into broad open government data initiatives. More often than not, our message to local officials is "You can be a leader in this space, or your successor will".

We are not trying to say that the concerns of public officials are not valid. These objections are what led directly to the Citizen 360 initiative. Its purpose is to answer these concerns by giving local agencies a mechanism to control, vet and disseminate this information in a managed fashion.

Bright Side Staff: Can you give some examples of how citizens are using the technologies?

Dave Grobleski: As part of this Open Government Data and community activist experiment, we began tweeting Orlando Police Dispatch calls to neighborhood based Twitter accounts using Microsoft technologies about 4 years ago.

Then we created a neighborhood Facebook account and began spreading the word. We now have a pretty active 100+ member FB group and I've been discussing with the Orlando police department the possibilities of having an officer join the group using an official FB account. Since it is neighborhood based and community focused, it's like the 21st century version of walking a beat. However, like most agencies, they have very strict social media policies. We have a surprising amount of activity though. Everything from recycling, surveillance video and pictures uploaded, to suspicious activity and lost/found pets. It's become an active community. 911 calls are up and crimes are down in the past year.

For more information on other Microsoft Public Safety initiatives, check out their homepage, here.

By Bright Side Staff

Earlier this month, the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) held their annual conference in Chicago and we were fortunate enough to catch up with Charlie Johnson, Microsoft's Managing Director for US Federal, State and Local Government ERP, to get his thoughts on some of the big issues facing governments today.

Bright Side Staff: Having recently attended the Government Finance Officers Association Annual Conference, what were some of the interesting topics or buzz you heard?

The GFOA conference provided a great opportunity to network with peers and share lessons learned with industry experts and other colleagues facing similar challenges. In line with the theme of this year's conference, "Winds of Change: Public Finance in Transition," today, more than ever, public sector organizations are under pressure to do more with less. Similar trends discussed in many of the sessions included topics around workforce modernization, open government, compliance requirements, and fiscal accountability.

Bright Side Staff: Interesting. Can you tell us a little bit about what you were hearing surrounding each one of those trends?

Sure. Within workplace modernization, folks are looking to address the needs for updating outdated processes and infrastructure. There were a number of discussions and presentations centered on transforming operations, like improving information access and simplifying collaborations, as well as embracing new technology, for instance, cloud-based computing. Around open government, new pressures are coming from constituents who want quick, convenient access to important information-from tax and revenue information, to government expenditures and service levels. There was a lot of talk about how to effectively provide open government by focusing on transparency and shared resources.

Compliance requirements were also a hot topic. Public sector organizations face increasing scrutiny, in areas from procurement policies to the application of funds, and must adapt to changing legislative and administrative requirements, like ever changing regulatory requirements and implementing legislative mandates, on a real time basis. From a fiscal accountability standpoint, the public's growing lack of trust in elected officials and their government has led to transparency becoming an increasingly important topic. With taxpayers and others providing sources of funding, constituents want to know how funds are being used.

Bright Side Staff: What are you hearing from Government Finance Officers about the top challenges they're facing today?

Many government finance officers echoed the same concerns and major challenges impacting their local government organizations. For starters, budget pressures and competition for funding amidst growing citizen expectations have been a challenge for many jurisdictions.

To that end, outdated legacy systems using old technologies still exist in many public sector organizations. Solutions that were once state of the art are no longer up to the job and stand-alone stove-pipe solutions are difficult to update or integrate with other solutions. They're becoming more and more expensive to operate, and they fail to meet the needs of today's public sector organizations.

Another challenge I heard a lot about while at the conference was the changing workforce. Public sector workforces will be requiring substantial replenishment in the coming years, as growing numbers of workers reach retirement age or take advantage of early retirement offerings. Until they do retire, these workers may be less technically sophisticated than younger workers. This places a premium on ease of use and training when implementing technology solutions. Given tight budgets, replacing retiring workers may be challenging, which underscores the value of technology that boosts worker efficiency and makes it possible for fewer workers to carry the same or increased workloads. And younger workers will both expect to use and be capable of using technology tools in the workplace.

Bright Side Staff: Based on results from the published GFOA ERP Survey Report, what do organizations need to do to improve the success of their ERP implementations?

In the GFOA Survey results, there was a direct correlation between extended functionality and dissatisfaction. Attempting to implement extended functionality while implementing the core ERP was a key factor that led to project delays, lower productivity, and promoted shelf-ware-software that goes unused.

Organizations need to do their homework before embarking on a project of this magnitude. Advance planning and performing due diligence on available solutions is critical. The good news is that several organizations have successfully charted this course and there are many lessons learned, as pointed out in a Bright Side blog post about the survey back in June.

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Bright Side Staff: What results in the GFOA Survey surprised you the most and why?

Actually two things surprised me from the survey. First, organizations not pre-defining what will constitute success and not defining the anticipated benefits of implementing a new system. The survey revealed that there was no true way to measure if a project was successful other than just being on time and under budget, which most projects typically failed to achieve.

Before starting a project, organizations should interview their key officials, management and other stakeholders to solicit their expectations. I would even recommend creating a desired future case study as if the project were already completed. This document would include organization's mission with their goals and objectives clearly defined and key performance metrics that the organization will achieve after the ERP project is completed. Then, at the end of the ERP project, the organization can effectively measure whether or not those goals were achieved.

The second item was the high interest in cloud computing (over 50% of respondents). There was substantial interest in cloud computing but a low adoption rate of only 18%. Reasons stated were lack of control and security, which leads me to conclude local government organizations need to be better informed on the value, benefits, security, disaster recovery and guaranteed service level agreements provided with cloud computing options.

By Bright Side Staff

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Earlier today, Microsoft Federal Specialist Team Unit Director Nina Somerville wrote a blog post on the Microsoft Future Fed blog to share the news about a set of free new templates for Microsoft SharePoint 2010 and Microsoft SharePoint Online, which are now available from a number of Microsoft partners. The templates, which help government agencies accomplish routine tasks more efficiently, include the following specific resources:

  • Workflow: Case management and clinical trial management
  • Management and Finance: Business performance reporting, compliance process support, expense reimbursement and approval
  • Human Resource Management: Employee training scheduling and materials, event planning
  • Operations: Call center, help desk, inventory and physical asset tracking and management
  • Information Management: Team work site, document library and review
  • Project Tracking: Project tracking workspace, change request management, availability calendar

Like their federal counterparts who have been affected by the White House's "do more with less" mandate, state and local governments are doing everything they can to get the most value from their current IT investments. As Nina points out, the need to optimize collaboration and information sharing, while spending less time on routine tasks, and focusing on more mission-critical activities, is crucial to achieving this goal.

To read the blog post in its entirety, visit the Future Fed blog. To learn more about SharePoint 2010 for government and to download the templates, please visit the site here.

By Bright Side Staff

For years now, the rising cost of education has brought concern to students, educators, and researchers alike. Across the country, state and local governments have been trying to mitigate this issue with important initiatives like public-private partnerships and prizes and competitions. Microsoft has always been part of the private companies working hard to ensure access to education and the resources needed to conduct quality research. Recently however, Microsoft has taken their support to another level, providing the means for innovative solutions surrounding the cloud and Big Data, both critical technologies in the research and advancement of education in this country.

Microsoft recently announced an agreement enabling member universities of Internet2, an advanced networking consortium led by the U.S. research and education community, to have free access of Windows Azure to open up additional collaborative, instructional and research opportunities in the cloud. By waiving fees that would otherwise be too costly, universities and their respective research facilities are able to have access to massive amounts of data and are able to effectively conduct the research that is so critical to innovation and economic recovery in the US.

Thanks to this initiative, universities like Florida International University, George Mason University, University of California, Davis, University of California, San Diego, University of Michigan, University of Notre Dame, University of Utah, University of Virginia, and University of Washington, are just a few of the first schools piloting research projects in the cloud on Windows Azure. Their research will focus on genomics, science, and high-performance computing and will shape the next set of researchers and data scientists in this country.

So how exactly does access to Windows Azure give universities the ability to embark on important research projects? By complying with the National Science Foundation's Data Sharing Policy and Data Management Requirements, Windows Azure gives researcher access to data in the cloud that would have been too costly to maintain otherwise. A blog post in the Microsoft in Education blog discusses the benefits in greater detail pointing out that universities can now aggregate all of their research in the cloud not just within their institution but across education. The post goes on to describe why research universities will no longer need to build out large data centers when a federal grant only pays for a couple years' worth of research. Instead, the article notes, institutions can invest in the actual research instead of those funds being sunk into capital costs.

As another school year comes to a close, there's no doubt we'll see more universities embracing big data and cloud computing this fall to meet their resource needs. As educators and researchers are asked to do more with less, it seems the cloud is once again providing the perfect fit.

By Rick Zak, Justice & Public Safety Solutions, Microsoft US State & Local Government

Many corrections departments have delivered their services without some of the leading edge technologies that other government agencies use to deliver services to their constituents. Instead, they often run decades-old mainframe and client-server systems that were developed over years and connected through a series of custom integrations. It's a tribute to the agency information technology teams that these solutions have run for so long. But today's pressure to deliver more for less is driving a change in approach and the recent Corrections Technology Association Annual Meeting demonstrated that many agencies are beginning to use technologies that were once considered too "new" for corrections.

While the initial adoption of these technologies is often to control costs their real value is getting more capability from the investments that they make. For example:

- Cloud Computing: Sometimes just seen as a way to run solutions on someone else's hardware, it's really a way to make computing a utility where agencies pay for only the computing resources they use. They can re-allocate the budget that would have gone to new hardware infrastructure and the resources to manage it.

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- Big Data: The amount of data generated is growing exponentially and is often overlooked as a strategic capability. Agencies are leveraging new capabilities to unlock the value of this data:

- user-to-user data like e-mail and blogs

- user-to-machine data like electronic medical records

- machine-to-machine data like sensors and security video

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- Analysis Tools: Corrections agencies generate enormous amounts of data but don't always have the right tools to make this information actionable in areas like facility performance and gang intelligence. While dashboards help users find the right data the new generation of analysis tools turns this model around to drive the right data to the right users.

Delivering more for less continues to challenge many government agencies across the country. Technologies that used to be considered "new" for corrections agencies may now be the key for them to achieve this mission.

To learn more about Microsoft corrections solutions helping drive this transformation of IT in corrections departments around the country, head to the solutions for government page.

By Bright Side Staff

Today at the 2012 Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) Annual Conference, Microsoft announced the results of a new survey conducted by examining current public sector organization attitudes, approaches, and best practices for Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) implementation. The overall findings, based on feedback from 268 GFOA members, demonstrated a mediocre experience with their ERP systems. Specifically, the survey of the GFOA membership was conducted to determine public sector organization experiences and expectations of ERP system modernization costs, ability to achieve ERP benefits, and implementation lessons learned to provide insight on the state of the industry.

The survey found that 58% of GFOA members said that their ERP system did fall short of expectations, or that they expect it to in the future. Additionally, the greatest issues were related to the implementation process and user adoption. Most respondents reported challenges in receiving the intended business benefits of their ERP solutions. The survey indicated that many of the organizations who have not modernized in the past decade, and plan to in the future, are unsure of the total expected costs.

Based on the survey responses, a number of best practices were identified as playing a role in ERP implementation success, namely:

Size: Simply put, the smaller the jurisdiction, the better the overall experience. With less complex requirements and operations, smaller organizations experience fewer problems and delays than the others surveyed.

Planning: Up-front due diligence lent success to endeavors. Many jurisdictions noted that they spent significant time in planning and setup and commented that this effort made their implementation projects successful.

Management endorsement: Strong endorsement from the top trickled down and positively motivated implementation efforts. Executive leadership is needed to provide ongoing communications and ensure appropriate staffing.

Vendor and implementer partnership: Having a good software vendor is critical. Organizations that closely partnered with their software implementers felt more satisfied with their outcomes.

As public sector organizations continue to work with scarce funding and limited resources, ensuring a cost-effective and successful ERP implementation has become more important than ever before. Before considering an ERP system, state and local officials should consider the following points below for success.

Keys for Success:

Think partnership - inside and outside the organization, GFOA members relied more heavily on outside consultants than their counterparts, but both attributed successful implementations to a partnership. Inside the organization, survey participants underscored the need to get buy-in from all the groups who will be using the system so they have a say in its implementation and functionality.

Consider staffing. Many smaller jurisdictions juggled resources creatively to cover operational tasks during their implementation project. Some kept project team members assigned to the existing system while implementing the new, so that day-to-day operations remain as seamless as possible. Others backfilled positions if they had the budget, or used use both employees and vendor personnel in a cooperative blending of development and implementation resources.

Stay flexible. Although software customization was not as great a problem for smaller jurisdictions as for the larger ones, it is best to avoid the expense of customization when possible. Some jurisdictions did this by updating their business practices to better match the functionality of their new ERP system.

Set expectations - and communicate frequently. When faced with change, people often find reasons to complain. GFOA members noted that the more they set appropriate expectations up front and involved everyone in the planning process, the more satisfied they were with user adoption.

Read the full GFOA ERP Survey here.

By Bright Side Staff

Last week we had the chance to read a very interesting article in Government Technology about how the city of Riverside, California used smart technology to remake it a competitive and thriving city. Once a booming center of industry, the city had since lost satisfaction among its constituents due to economic factors, pressure from population growth, and poor IT benefits. In 2005, when Riverside hired its first full-time CIO, things started to take a turn for the better.

To make Riverside more competitive, CIO Steve Reneker launched a determined plan called SmartRiverside, aimed to attract and retain technology companies. By addressing problems in the physical infrastructure and providing better access to city-wide wireless Internet, technology literacy and digital inclusion activities, and new programs to foster technology innovation and use, Riverside was able to secure a place as one of the Intelligent Community Forum's (ICF) Top Seven Intelligent Communities of the Year.

Alongside other city-wide initiatives, in 2006, Riverside received help from a Microsoft grant to start the Digital Inclusion Program, which focuses on providing low-income residents with computer skills and free refurbished computers. As of last October, the program has reached more than 5,000 families, and currently serves 100 to 150 families per month.

Using the private-public partnership that sustains technology inclusion programs like SmartRiverside has been crucial to the city of Riverside's ability to stay competitive in the digital age. In fact, Reneker encourages everyone who is thinking about developing a program like this to go ahead and implement in their location. In the article he says people will "be surprised at what it will do for your community.

Read more about the program at www.smartriverside.org.

By Bright Side Staff

Last month we told you about a great opportunity from Microsoft that allowed users to "Fly Free" in the cloud for 30 days. As a continuation of our Did You Know series, this month we're showing off another great offer from Microsoft, this time as an exclusive for state & local government organizations.

Now through June 30th, state and local government customers buying new or renewal Enterprise Agreement (EA) and EAS licenses or additional products through an EA are eligible for 0% financing. The promotion serves to help organizations make strategic decisions for their future, even in times where budgetary constraints can make it difficult. The flexible and convenient option allows organizations to conserve resources by deferring payments to next year, and ramping payments for future years.

Details on the 0% financing promotion can be found here.

To learn more about Microsoft Financing, check out their homepage at www.microsoft.com/financing.

By Kim Nelson, Microsoft Executive Director for e-Government

Over ten years ago, I began working on some of the first shared services projects in the federal government. Under then President Bush's eGovernment Agenda, federal agencies consolidated systems supporting payroll, grants processing, rulemaking and other functions. As the Assistant Administrator for the US Environmental Protection Agency, I had primary responsibility for ensuring the success of these and other projects implemented in the agency.

These projects, while the right thing to do for citizens and taxpayers, were not without peril. The single biggest issue with shared services projects was the lack of a solid infrastructure for such projects. And by infrastructure - I don't mean what's likely the first thing to come to mind when discussing technology - the hardware and network or "hard" infrastructure. The "infrastructure" I reference here is much broader - the entire government framework of policies, procedures, rules, budgeting, and appropriations needed to support a government organization. Some may call this IT governance, but I see it as a much broader issue, and generally refer to it as "soft" infrastructure.

At last month's mid-year NASCIO meeting in Baltimore, MD it was apparent that despite the fact CIOs have been working on shared services for at least a decade, there is still much to be learned, debated and achieved. It occurred to me that while many of the same issues surface year after year, there is new wave of issues now that more shared services are moving to cloud computing technologies. Like so many other areas of their professional lives, CIOs are being hit with a new wave of technology issues, before having the chance to address fully the issues already on the table.

One of the most interesting sessions at NASCIO was a breakout Discovery Session entitled "Avoid the Storm: Address Jurisdictional Issues in the Cloud. The session focused on shared services and multi-jurisdictional projects and the jurisdictional issues that may arise when these projects are enabled by cloud technologies. From the buzz at the meeting, I think the session was a real eye-opener for many attendees.

Three legal presenters, Burke Ward, Professor, School of Business Villanova University; Jim Earl, Chief of Staff, Nevada Enterprise IT Services; and Alan Wernick, Partner FSB FisherBroyles LLP addressed the pace of IT change accompanied by some of the more pressing emerging legal issues. Many of these issues are no surprise: security, privacy, data and intellectual property ownership. These have been long standing issues with shared services, but become ever more complex when dealing with multi-jurisdictional solutions often crossing state lines.

I sensed the one issue that particularly drew the attention of the attendees was the discussion around government accountability - both politically and legally - for public data. For instance, what are the state's obligations when state systems interface with the US Criminal Justice Information System How does the state consider jurisdictional risks associated with different laws and different processes in varying jurisdictions?

Clearly, governments will move to more shared services, and in my opinion, that's a good thing for taxpayers. Far too much duplication of effort exists today and with governments needing to economize, shared services offer significant savings in both development and maintenance costs. And clearly, governments will utilize more cloud computing technologies to support shared services. It is an obvious option for many government needs, reducing costs and allowing government employees to focus more time on other priorities. But, as the NASCIO Discovery Session uncovered, risk discussions and ultimate decisions surrounding what services should be shared in the cloud are complex matters and should not be taken lightly.

Government leaders considering multi-jurisdictional shared services should address important "soft" infrastructure (including legal) issues early in the decision process. Deferring difficult topics often creates larger problems later in the process, sometimes resulting in embarrassing situations that are time consuming and expensive to correct.

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