December 23, 2008 By Andy Opsahl
When Boston city employees who are nontechnical want to add or change content on the Boston Web portal, they don't bother sending job orders to IT staff. They adjust the Web site themselves using an SDL Tridion content management system (CMS) that was deployed in December 2007. Removing IT workers from the process resulted in faster posting, more content on the site and 25 percent increase in Web traffic, according to Raj Pareek, manager of e-government services for Boston.
"Individual departments are creating more interesting, relevant, fresh content because they control it," Pareek said. "They publish the content and feel empowered to take ownership."
Also, once city employees post content, they don't have to worry about removing information that's due for removal from the site. Using the CMS, the employee programs a sunset date, and the CMS automatically removes the item on the correct day.
However, the solution wasn't instantly usable for nontechnical workers, Pareek said. City IT staff gave employees hours of practice time before going live with the system.
"We had a training room where people could walk in every week for a few hours and go over their material before they published it to make sure they were doing it right," Pareek said.
Pareek's team rolled out the various functions in phases among Boston's nontechnical employees.
"We didn't use the scheduling functionality in the first phase. We just edited content and published it right away. Then, slowly, once they became comfortable with the platform, we took them through the next set of features, like scheduling and sharing content between multiple segments of the Web site," Pareek explained. Learning how to use the CMS was still challenging employees, he said, but they thought the process was easy once they got past the introductory adjustment.
Implementing a new CMS has resulted in more content on the site and more frequent changes.
"They can collaborate among themselves in their departments; they can create the content," Pareek said. "Then before they publish, they can review with their peers and go back and forth and change the layout and presentation or language. All of this is without intervention of us - the technicians - and that increased productivity for all of us."
In the past, staff had to submit requests to IT workers when they wanted to update content on the Web portal. Then, IT staff executed the requests based on their best interpretations of the request descriptions. Then they ran the finished products by the requesters before posting the changes. Bureaucracy dragged down the posting process, according to Pareek.
"The main pages of departments used to be updated two to three times a week. Now they're updated two to three times a day," Pareek said.
All over the country, community leaders are looking to boost economic development through various initiatives. One key element in many of those initiatives is the use of information technology. When local governments build IT infrastructure, create e-government applications, assist high-tech startups or otherwise focus on technology, they create conditions that draw businesses to their communities and help retain skilled workers. This paper discusses and provides examples of these various ways local government can use technology to ultimately make a community more attractive to businesses, visitors and residents.