January 2, 2013 By Steve Towns
Can government agencies create better technology by acting a little more like Silicon Valley startups? That’s the idea a handful of cities are running with -- one used by some of the nation’s hippest companies -- in an effort to build offerings that work better and reach citizens faster.
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The city of Palo Alto, Calif., is stealing an idea from the commercial technology industry to improve services for its residents. In this video, city CIO Jonathan Reichental offers lessons learned from Palo Alto’s use of Lean Startup principles during several recent technology projects. The Lean Startup approach – which lets users test unfinished versions of new apps and websites – is routine in the commercial space. Now it’s catching on in government.
Palo Alto put Ries’ concept into action earlier this year to finish a long-running website redesign. Although the project was nearly done, a continuous cycle of internal changes kept the city from wrapping it up. “We could have spent another year making it perfect,” Reichental says. But instead, the city released the unfinished site side-by-side with its existing website, inviting users to try it and offer a critique. Citizens eagerly tested out the new site and offered their feedback, which was used to fine tune the project. Not only was the project finished much faster, he says, the final product worked better too.
This Digital Communities white paper highlights discussions with IT officials in four counties that have adopted shared services models. Our aim was to learn about the obstacles these governments have faced when it comes to shared services and what it takes to overcome those roadblocks. We also spoke with several members of the IT industry who have thought long and hard about these issues. The paper offers some best practices for shared government-to-government services, but also points out challenges that government and industry still must overcome before this model gains widespread adoption.