Government Technology

Effective Strategies for Renewing and Upgrading Old Portals

Upgrading Portals

January 2, 2008 By

"It's got good bones but the years have caught up with it. There's a lot to work with here, so let's get started." Such is the commentary that begins each episode of the popular long-running public television series "This Old House." Much the same could be said of public sector portals, many of them developed a decade ago at the beginning of the e-government (or government improvement) movement.

The Center for Digital Government has been a keen observer of state and local government portals since their inception in the mid-1990s. With a wink and a nod to the TV series that started the home improvement revolution, and a tip of the hat to the thousands of public servants and their private partners who labored tirelessly on the first generation of e-government services, this white paper takes a fresh look at "This Old Portal." It too has good bones and great possibilities when considering the future of public service delivery.

When Norm Abram, Kevin O'Connor, Tom Silva and the "This Old House" crew show up, they refresh component by component. By the time the foundation has been reinforced and new plumbing, electrical, and window and wall treatments installed, the project emerges as one that respects and reflects the history and the local uniqueness of the original structure, and is thoroughly modern in meeting both the standards and expectations of contemporary families in contemporary communities.

For those same reasons, it is time for a "This Old Portal" renovation. While Norm, Kevin and Tom are concerned with doors, windows, plumbing and electrical, a structural refresh of the government portal also begins at the foundation, followed by a component-by-component renovation:

- The cornerstone of the foundation, governance is vital in establishing structural strength and defining the parameters within which the structure is built, maintained and sustained. It can be fairly compared to homeowner associations in covenant communities. The good ones are worth much fine gold; the ones that don't work (or may be just indifferent or unable to execute their responsibilities) are perpetual sources of frustration.

Executive Championship
- The person in view here is the equivalent of the homeowner -- the one person who has the vision for what "done" looks like, who holds the contractor and the crafts people to account, rolls up his or her sleeves and lends a hand when there's trouble, and tells the kids to wipe their feet before going inside. It's their house; they have to live in it.

- As with homebuilding, this is the blueprint. The architecture is the set of technical drawings used to make the champion's vision and the artist's rendering a reality.

Infrastructure and Capacity
- From the electronic equivalents of floor joists to roof trusses, these are the structural components that ensure the home will be big enough and strong enough to handle everything its occupants demand of it.

- Matching funding with needs is why there are "starter homes." They help owners build equity, become familiar with homeownership and begin to think about what kind of home they'll need next for their growing family. Along the way, they confront the trade-offs associated with getting into the house, keeping the bills current (or paying operational expenses) and finding a way to set a little aside for continued improvements. There is no single right answer, but any number of combinations of build, buy or lease options allow owners to go it alone or partner up.

Curb Appeal
- Defining a suite of services appropriate to how people live and how businesses operate by setting priorities and selection criteria for what to build, when to build it, and how it should look, act and

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