Wednesday, June 11, 2014

SIPA Board Announces Interim Executive Director


SIPA Board Announces Interim Executive Director


The Colorado Statewide Internet Portal Authority (SIPA) announced today that Gregg Rippy will join SIPA as Interim Executive Director until a full-time executive can be brought on board.

“The Board is pleased that Gregg Rippy is able to join the team and assist SIPA during this transition,” said Jack Arrowsmith, Chairman of the SIPA Board. “Gregg has been involved with SIPA in the past and he will be able to step in and have a positive impact immediately.”

Gregg was SIPA’s first Executive Director in 2004 and again served in that role from 2005 to 2009. During his time as Executive Director he set up the original partnership agreements, positioned SIPA for growth, and was responsible for the creation of the first official state web portal - www.colorado.gov. Prior to SIPA he had many roles in state and local government agencies across Colorado including being a State Representative from Glenwood Springs, serving on the Western State College Board, and being President of the Federal Mineral Lease District for Garfield County.

“SIPA is a wonderful organization and I am happy to be able to assist the organization during this transition. My goal is to provide a steady hand and allow the SIPA team members to continue to focus on its customers and provide the best service possible,” Rippy said. “SIPA is a great asset to Colorado and its role in providing innovative solutions to local and state government agencies is unique."

Gregg will start as Interim Executive Director on June 27, 2014 and will work with the Board of Directors to recruit a permanent Executive Director. For more information please visit SIPA’s website (www.colorado.gov/sipa) and follow them on social media.  Any questions regarding this transition can be directed to SIPA’s Communication and Customer Manager, Meghan Stinton at 720-409-5636 or meghan@cosipa.gov.

Friday, June 6, 2014

SIPA Board Announces Resignation of Executive Director


SIPA Board Announces Resignation of John D. Conley

Denver, Colo. - Friday, June 6, 2014 - The Colorado Statewide Internet Portal Authority (SIPA) announced today that John D. Conley will leave his position as Executive Director next month. After five years leading SIPA, John will be transitioning into new opportunities within the private sector.

“John’s leadership and ability to form partnerships have allowed SIPA to enjoy considerable growth the past five years and we are thankful for his time with SIPA,” said Jack Arrowsmith, Chairman of the SIPA Board. “John has always been an advocate for governments and his commitment to excellence is unsurpassed and we wish him well as he takes on new opportunities.”

When John joined SIPA in 2009 it had 17 customers, managed the official state web portal - www.colorado.gov, and supported approximately 24 websites. Under his leadership, SIPA has grown to provide services to more than 270 governments across Colorado, is the largest government email provider, supports more than 200 websites, and has partnered with the private sector to enable services including; mapping solutions, payment processing, electronic signatures, digital transaction management solutions.

“The opportunity to work for SIPA these past five years has been tremendous and I am thankful for all the experiences,” Conley said. “The best part of the job was always serving state and local governments and helping them find innovative solutions to serve the residents, businesses, and visitors of Colorado."

Through partnerships with Google, Mobile Pulse, Colorado Interactive, Salesforce, Docusign, and other companies, SIPA is seen as a technology license and service provider to governments throughout Colorado. Leveraging its economy of scale to negotiate agreements SIPA saves its customers $6 million annually through cost avoidance.

Throughout this transition, SIPA will continue to serve Colorado governments and uphold its mission to provide efficient and effective services for citizens through the use of modern business practices and innovative technology solutions.   A search for a replacement is underway and more information will be made available on SIPA’s website (www.colorado.gov/sipa) and its social media outlets in the coming days.  Any questions regarding this transition can be directed to SIPA’s Communication and Customer Manager, Meghan Stinton at 720-409-5636 or meghan@cosipa.gov.

About SIPA

Established in 2004 by the Colorado General Assembly, the Statewide Internet Portal Authority (SIPA) is a self-funded, government organization that serves as the oversight body of the Colorado.gov web portal. Colorado.gov is the gateway to Colorado government and it is intended to be Colorado's single most comprehensive delivery channel for electronic government (e-government) services. SIPA strives to accelerate the adoption of electronic government services by placing more government services, products and information online and provide efficient, effective services to the residents of Colorado. In addition to free websites built on the Drupal 7 platform, SIPA provides technology solutions including; Google Apps for Government, electronic payment processing (echecks & credit cards), geospatial maps, CRM tools, and cellular mapping solutions. For more information about SIPA, visit www.colorado.gov/sipa.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Minimalism

I was recently reading Without Their Permission How the 21st Century Will be Made, Not Managed by Alexis Ohanian who is the founder of reddit and has been involved with a lot of different sites over the years. 

In the book there are a lot of tidbits and points about how to start a business in this day and age, how to leverage the Internet, and other areas you would expect from someone who has found success. It is a good quick read and worth picking up if you work in technology, business, government or any field that relies on those areas to deliver a service. 

What I found to be the most interesting part of the book was the concept of a "minimal viable product" or "MVP".  Ohanian says to "build the simplest possible solution to a problem, and lanch it." If we apply this message to websites, mobile applications, or all the other solutions governments need to build we should remember to stop worrying about getting everything just right and worry about getting it out the door in working order. Once deployed it can start solving the problem and changes can be made based on feedback. According to Wikipedia, the term was first coined by Frank Robinson and is a product that has just those core features that allow the product to be deployed, and no more. 

As I was reading the book, I found myself constantly thinking about the free version of Gmail that came out in 2004. It ran as a Beta product for years and Google was always making tweaks, releasing new features, and shutting certain features off. Despite these changes though the consumers loved the product and wanted to get one of the coveted invitations to start their very own gmail account. It was a brillant strategy and fits right into the MVP model. A product was released that could do email differently from how it was being done by any other product, they released it to a small population, and they created buzz by forcing people to have an invitation to use their product. I still admire this process today and think about it often when I am working on projects and deploying new services for government entities across Colorado. 

There are lessons to be learned by government agencies both throughout Alexis' book and the Gmail example. Many governments are applying the concept of MVP today and many others should look to it as part of how they roll out new services or new processes. The great thing about today is the cost of rolling out a new product or service has dminished from 30, 20, 10 or even 5 years ago thanks to advances in our communication systems and technology solutions. With the flexible, cost effective, and connected tools available to us now we should be rethinking how each and every process is structured, how it could be adjusted and changed to use the new tools available (tablets, smartphones, social media, etc...). When working on new ways to do the old processes or new ways for entirely new services we should always remember that the first solution is only our starting point. We need to think more like Gmail and find ways to get a small set of the population using the solution. Once they are using it and giving feedback we need to make adjustments and improvements, and along the way we should make being part of the pilot group a benefit not a burden. 

If you are interested in talking more about the concepts discussed in this book or think you have a project that it should be applied to let me know and we'll set up a conversation. If you are interested in getting a copy of this book for yourself and work in a Colorado government organization send me your name, work email, position title, and phone number. Your information must be received by Monday, June 16, 2014 at 12:00 p.m. to be entered into the drawing to be one of five to receive a copy. Submissions should be sent to sipa@cosipa.gov

Monday, May 19, 2014

Pacific Updates and Releases



When we started building the Pacific Web Content Management System (WCMS) we had a few ideas and guiding principles. We wanted:

A modern system;
Real time content updates;
A single code base;
Configuration over customization;
Easy to use administrative interface;
Deployment speed;
Flexible;
Ability to continue the no-cost model to our partners; and
Continual improvements.

There were some members of the team that thought I was crazy and I am certain there are some that still do based on these principles. However, these ideas are foundational to good customer service. Everyone wants a solution that works for them and that works well. I wanted to be able to deliver that and the team did too even if we didn't know exactly how we were going to do it. Here is an update on some of our ideas and principals.

A modern system:
The Pacific WCMS is built on top of Drupal. It is a great system that is now on verison 7 and verison 8 is right
around the corner. Using Drupal, we are able to offer all of our customers the modern conveniences they have come to expect with websites such as responsive design, social media integration, blogging, fillable forms, document search capabilities, and much more. 

Real time content updates:
Done! Gone are the days of waiting for 9:00, 11:00, 1:00, or every odd hour to publish content. With the Pacific solution our customers can post content at 9:01 and remove it at 9:02 if they desire. It is awesome to watch government agencies be able to post breaking news and updates as it allows them to engage with the residents, tourists, and visitors of our state. 

Configuration over customization: 
Getting there, but not there yet. We have some customizations, but are developing plans to remove them as quickly as possible. They're just messy and are always getting in our way of being awesome.

Easy to use administrative interface:
Easier - Yes, Easy - nah!. Come to find out loading tons of data and making it look pretty takes a lot of buttons, clicks, and features which means there is a lot going on with the interface. We'll always be making it better, but it's not what I would call easy. However, easy for me may be hard for the next person so I guess it's all relative. 


Deployment speed:
I have to say we nailed this element very nicely. Thanks to the hard work of our partners at Colorado Interactive and our external partners at Acquia, Elevated Third, and Monarch Digital we are able to deploy at a pace that is hard to believe. The Colorado Parole Board's website was launched in 10 days and that includes loading their content. We migrated some smaller sites in 2-3 days and we can provision bare bone sites in as little as a couple hours if needed. Compare this to the old days were it took weeks or months to get a site up and going. 

Flexible:
Mission achieved! While we present a framework and some structure to people as part of the no cost solution we have seen some really creative designs and enjoy watching people push the envelope. It is great to give people a tool that they have fun with. 

Ability to continue the no-cost model to our partners: 
Completed. By going with Drupal and leveraging our great partnership with Colorado Interactive we are able to continue to offer this service at no cost to our partners. 

Continual improvements:
This may be the best part. Since launching the service in January we have continued to update and improve
the system. This is not a team that sits around and their work is amazing. They have completed 6 releases in 5 months and those releases have included ~50 bug fixes, feature enhancements, and permission settings. This is a tremendous value to our partners. These releases have been for minor improvements although some big things have been included to assist our partners. The really exciting releases will happen twice a year with the first one up this coming September.

Overall, I am very pleased and proud of this solution. I think it brings an unparalleled tool to our local and state government partners. I am looking forward to watching how it evolves over time.

If you are interested in learning how your organization can receive a website solution from SIPA check out our website at www.colorado.gov/sipa

Monday, May 12, 2014

Customer Profile: Pitkin County

Pitkin County is located in central Colorado and the Pitkin County Public Safety Technology Department manages 4 separate Google Apps domains for the Pitkin County Sheriff's Office, Aspen-Pitkin County Communications Center (“911 Center”), Aspen Fire Protection District, and the Town of Basalt Police Department.  These Eligible Governmental Entities (EGEs) serve the citizens of Pitkin County which has a variable population by the season.  Pitkin County signed an EGE Agreement with SIPA in August of 2009, and the 911 Center was the first to receive Google Apps from SIPA about 3.5 years ago.  The 911 Center had success; and so, the Pitkin County Sheriff's Office and Aspen Fire Protection District acquired Google Apps about a year later.  About 6 months to a year later, the Town of Basalt Police Department received a micro-grant from SIPA for the initial deployment costs for 13 Google Apps accounts.

The current organizations using the applications have been super pleased for several reasons including saving money, opening up a level of accessibility and continuity of experience across different devices, and the increased collaboration opportunities.  Further, as Mr. Rushing states “it just works” as everyone who uses Google Apps can customize it their way. The implementation process continues to get easier over time, and most people have experience with Gmail and if even if they don’t, Google has a straightforward user interface that makes it easy to learn and navigate.

The applications used the most by staff members are email and Google Docs as they allow for internal and external collaboration. With Google, documents and calendars can be shared with other members of the same organization since they are on the same system and they can even be shared with outside individuals as long as they have a free Google account. Google Apps enable a police officer or sheriff deputy to look through emails for a policy change, contact information, or find out who is on-call; thus, enabling the EGE to deliver service more quickly and efficiently. Google Apps are especially useful for the 911 Center as real-time information for scheduling and calendaring is available in one document, which helps with figuring out who is on-call and their contact information.  

Google Apps also provide the ability to sync all contacts and made it so the 911 Center operators and first responders have information right at their fingertips and more readily accessible than ever before.  Mr. Rushing believes this has reduced the number of mistakes as the information is always up to date. Mr. Rushing believes the cost savings is about 50% as it costs $80 to $100 to provision an email account on an in-house server and with Google Apps you are receiving other services including video conferencing, chat messaging, word processing and much more for only $47 a year through SIPA.

Pitkin County will likely use SIPA in the future for other services.  Overall, Mr. Rushing is pleased with the price which saves the governments he serves valuable dollars and he is satisfied with the level of customer service he receives.  He explained that John Conley (SIPA’s Executive Director) is very active in the Colorado IT community and “he is a personal point of contact if there is an issue or question.  The level of connection is really reassuring.”


To learn more about SIPA or how your organization can acquire Google Applications for Government visit our website at www.colorado.gov/sipa

Monday, May 5, 2014

Customer Profile: City of Dacono

 City of Dacono
The City of Dacono is located in northern central Colorado and southwest Weld County. The City of Dacono serves as the local city government for its 4,200 citizens and signed an EGE Agreement with the Statewide Internet Portal Authority (SIPA) in October of 2011. Since the first deposit was received at the end of April 2012, the city has been using payment processing services provided by SIPA.

Through the payment processing service the City of Dacono is allowing citizens to make online payments via credit cards for most city services. Services that require additional documentation to be completed still necessitate over-the-counter interaction. For example, an individual may need to show proof of insurance to clear up a traffic ticket with the police department. With this service the city is processing payments for utility bills, charitable contributions, and citation/traffic violations via their website.  The city also offers over-the-counter payment processing provided by SIPA such as for business licenses after a person completes an application. Prior to implementing this service the city was only able to accept cash or paper checks at their office.

Through this payment processing service provided by SIPA, citizens can make online charitable contributions to the Santa Cops Fund, Veterans Memorial Fund, Cultural Enhancement Fund, or the Library Fund.  The Santa Cops Fund is a yearly event put on by the Dacono Police Department, which receives donations throughout the year from businesses and local citizens. Around Christmas time, people can come in and apply to be part of the program, and if approved, the money is used to buy their gifts.  The city has a day the kids come and pick up their gifts from Santa and his elves.

The city’s goal with offering this service was to increase the payment options available to its citizens and making it more convenient to do business with the city around the clock. Prior to receiving payment processing through SIPA, the City of Dacono did not offer the option of taking credit cards.  Since the city started using payment processing, the use has really picked up.  A lot of people use payment processing on a regular basis or others may pay a fine at the last minute as to avoid having to go to court.  The use of payment processing also helps the City of Dacono recoup payments quicker. Payment processing saves time for the citizens and also for the city’s staff as the less checks the city has to process, the less trips its staff makes to the bank which gives them time to perform other tasks.

The City of Dacono heard about SIPA through the Colorado Municipal League, as well as Kelly Stroh, the Finance Officer for the City of Dacono, had been doing her own research for a cost processing center to use, and reached out and made a phone call to SIPA.  She explained “Because SIPA provided the lowest cost processing fees to pass along to the customer, it became clear that it was the best solution for our City.  We did not want to burden our customers with exorbitant fees which in turn would make the payment option less desirable to utilize.” Additionally, Ms. Stroh described the implementation process for acquiring the service through SIPA was super easy, there were no growing pains whatsoever, it took no time at all before people were comfortable, and everything was seamless and smooth.

 Online PaymentsOn behalf of the City of Dacono, Ms. Stroh is pleased with the ease of implementation as it was very smooth, very seamless, and very easy to understand.  Also, reconciling the bank statements has also been easy as Ms. Stroh has worked with other companies in the past and it was a very tedious task.  With the payment processing provided by SIPA, the city just sees what was charged and does not see the processing fees coming through, which makes it very easy to reconcile bank statements.  She relayed the City of Dacono has had very few errors and payment processing has been a fantastic thing that the city has done.

For more information about the City of Dacono, please visit its website available at www.ci.dacono.co.us/.

If you are interested in learning how your organization can work with SIPA to deliver payment processing to your customers please visit the Services section of our website.


Monday, April 28, 2014

Digital Transaction Management: Electronic Signatures

Frequently, we hear about a new technology that is going to revolutionize the way companies do business or how people will interact with one another. Certain technologies start off directed toward the consumer and then begin to spill over into business and finally they arrive in the government space. Take the iPad as an example. When it first came out it was gobbled up by consumers and the applications available on the iPad were heavily slanted toward entertainment. Nowadays you can find it, and devices like it, in the hands of accountants, journalists, real estate agents, police officers, and many other professionals. This is true with Google ChromeCast, Facebook, Twitter and many other technologies. They started out with the consumer in mind and they were eventually (some faster than others) adopted by businesses and governments as well. 

A new technology from Docusign flips the consumer first model and brings a solution to the market that could have immediate impacts on how governments do business if they adopt it into their organizations. The Digital Transaction Management solution from Docusign offers organizations a way to keep their business transactions 100 percent digital. With more residents, businesses, and tourists wanting to conduct business from tablets and other mobile devices the traditional way of filling out paper work and receiving a wet ink signature is quickly becoming outdated and antiquated. Governments need to think about new ways to receive the information they need from a fully connected and mobile society. 

I was recently at a conference, hosted by Docusign, where I sat through a presentation from the Utah Department of Transportation. They are an early adopter of the Docusign solution and the results they are experiencing are nothing short of tremendous. When they were chasing paper documents for signatures on contracts for new construction projects it would take them an average of 37.5 days to collect all the necessary signatures. This is after everyone agreed that the contract was ready for signature. This means that the construction project everyone thought was needed and had  budgeted money for took more than a month to start because the paperwork had to be routed to various individuals for signatures in triplicate. Once the Department implemented Docusign the 37.5 days was reduced to just 4 days. This represents an 89 percent reduction in time. I think that is amazing and more importantly it means that construction projects started sooner thereby putting people to work quicker and allowing construction companies to better plan their activities and cash flow. 

The above is just one example of how Docusign and their Digital Transaction Management solution is changing how governments are able to do business. Now that the story of Utah has you thinking about ways you can shorten your process for collecting signatures let's take a deeper look into what it is and how it works. Here is a short video from Docusign that does a great job explaining the solution and its ease of use.  



This video demonstrates how there is the old way to do a business transaction and a new way. Using Docusign you can send, sign, and manage documents and transactions from any device at anytime. With the solution you can email documents that require a signature to the individual who is then able to sign the document using an electronic signature that looks and feels like their real hand written signature. Here are some screen shots that show how it works.

In the first image you can see that sending a document is easy and convenient. You can easily and quickly send documents from your desktop or mobile devices. You simply upload the document you need to have signed, add recipients from your contacts, place tags or the fields that need to be completed like a signature, title, and date, and send the document on its way. 

Docusign: Send a Document

Once you have sent the document, the next step is for the recipient to sign the document electronically. The recipient will receive an email alerting them to a new document awaiting their signature. They will click on the link to open the document, follow the system prompts or tags that the sender established, and confirm their actions. Once that is completed the document is automatically sent to everyone that should receive a copy of the executed document.

 Docusign: Sign a Document

After the document is sent, you are able to manage the document from the Docusign dashboard. From here you are able to check the status, run reports, and see audit trails. When the document is completed by both the sender and signer(s) the document is automatically saved and you can access them from anywhere at anytime.

Docusign: Manage Documents

Personally, I think this should be a standard and adopted by all governments across Colorado and beyond. Signing for an inspection, hunting license, or any of the other myriad of documents that have to be signed when receiving governments services is made easier if done electronically. There is no printing off 3 copies, no worry of losing the paper trail, no files to maintain in a dark room and everyone receives a copy that can be quickly searched and found when needed. 

Electronic signatures are legal in Colorado and could be used today with little need to create entirely new processes or hire additional staff.  For the legal authority regarding electronic signatures please read the following sections of the Colorado Revised Statutes (C.R.S) 24-71-101 and 24-71.3-118. The Statewide Internet Portal Authority made the move to a digital transaction management solution a couple of months ago and already we are seeing vast improvements with the collection of documents, faster processing times, and better document tracking. What use to take 3-4 weeks is now taking a couple days and in some cases just hours. If you want to hear more about what SIPA is doing or learn about how a digital transaction management solution could benefit your organization please email sipa@cosipa.gov and we'll be in touch to work with you.