Monday, June 17, 2013

Interim Report of the Mayor’s Advisory Committee on Information Technology

John Kender, Chair of the IT Committee, presented this report to the Mayor and Council on June 17, 2013

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

This is the second report of the Mayor's Advisory Committee on Information Technology, on our activities during our second half-year of operation.

We recommend that the boro make a number of website changes, based on our interviews with boro personnel and on our survey of citizen website users. We recommend that the boro elicit a proposal from, and then contract with, PrimeMRM. This is based on their informal response to our discussions with them about our study. We find that this should result in a timely and inexpensive attainment of most of the objectives requested by boro staff and boro citizens. Total cost is estimated to be approximately $6000, for professional services exempt from RFP requirements.

We also summarize the status of the technology audit that we have started. We have responses from nearly all departments, and have begun analysis.

A summary of our monthly meetings concludes the report.


WEBSITE UPGRADES

We recommend that Council approve the following improvements to the Leonia website.
In the big picture, it appears that PrimeMRM has the capacity to implement most of what staff and users have requested, as long as PrimeMRM is freed to re-implement the website to conform to their native website support software. Trying to further strain their software, just to maintain the inherited look and feel from our previous ineffective website, would render many of these changes inefficient and, in some cases, impossible.

We note that a recent survey of New Jersey town websites by Monmouth University (http://www.monmouth.edu/polling) placed Leonia at 290 out of 540, that is, in the lower half. We have much room to improve. We are confident from the technical discussions, demonstrations, and informal estimates by PrimeMRM that it is likely that we can now adopt very many of the state-of-the-art features already enjoyed by other municipalities. Given PrimeMRM's current and promised low maintenance costs, and its eagerness to use Leonia as a loss-leader showcase of their improved municipal website support systems, we are also confident that the boro's money will be well spent.

We detail the improvements and their estimated costs. We also freely offer our consulting services during any negotiations leading to contract, and during any subsequent implementation and testing.
We recommend the following from our October list:

  • 0. YES: General redesign of website to enable the use of additional existing PrimeMRM software. (This does not appear explicitly in our October recommendations, but is a prerequisite to all that follows.) The cost for redesign is estimated in the appendix at $1800. We note that even at the reduced per-hour rate given in the estimate, this charges a bit more than two days effort. In our professional opinion, this is a very substantial discount.
  • 1. YES: Decentralization of website posting and revision authority. This functionality is available after expansion of PrimeMRM infrastructure. The cost for expansion estimated in the appendix under "User Entitlements" is $1250. This is reasonable, and it addresses the primary complaint from current staff about their inability to "own" the information about their department.
  • 2. YES: Expanded two-level (urgent versus informative) e-blast. Available under existing PrimeMRM software, and included in the cost of redesign.
  • 3. YES: More effective front page links for "one-click" service. Available under existing PrimeMRM software, and included in the cost of redesign.
  • 4. YES: Trilingual functionality. This can and should be implemented using existing PrimeMRM software by having three parallel websites: www.leonianj.gov, hangugeo.leonianj.gov, and español.lenonianj.gov. However, this is estimated in the appendix at $1850, and the burden of translating the pages is left to the boro. The alternative design, of selectively translating only some pages, would require the expansion of PrimeMRM infrastructure, would be more costly, and still would not address the translation problem.
  • 5. NO: Part-time IT administrator. Overtaken by events, and not part of the website redesign. However, PrimeMRM would supply support for the website under reasonable hourly charges, which have not yet been discussed.
  • 6. YES: Front page links for targeted populations. PrimeMRM was pleased to learn of our analysis of user needs (namely, those parent-related and those homeowner-related), as this will expedite the redesign of the front page. Available under existing PrimeMRM software, and included in the cost of redesign.
  • 7. NO: Improved "report a problem" services. The difficulty expressed by some users seems to do with speed of boro response, and not with the website. Further, analysis of the user surveys indicates that those people who complained were disgruntled about many other things as well. Therefore no major changes are suggested, but see item 15 below ("trouble ticket acknowledgement").
  • 8. YES: Increased use of electronic forms and electronic payments. Electronic forms are already available under existing PrimeMRM software, at no additional charge. Electronic payments are available under existing PrimeMRM software, estimated in the appendix at a cost of $250 per form for design. PrimeMRM already uses Authorize.net, a reliable payment gateway.
  • 9. YES: Keeping the website current and easily searchable at a reasonable cost. Ease of updating and an expanded search facility are already available under existing PrimeMRM software, and included in the cost of redesign. Existing monthly charge of $99 will be continued. Current hardware and software support for PrimeMRM systems appears adequate.
  • 10. YES: Consolidation of other boro social media. This can be easily accommodated by providing links to these other media, as with item 3 ("front page links"). However, this appears to be primarily a political problem, in that it is difficult to restrict departments from creating their own Facebook, Twitter, etc. accounts. It is hoped that a more useful and up-to-date website will render some of these secondary media superfluous, if departments feel that they "own" their webpages, after the redesign and expansion, as in item 1 ("decentralization").
  • 11. YES: Local business promotion. One of the major advantages of the redesign. This is available under existing PrimeMRM software, but would be an additional charge on top of redesign. It has two components. The first is a customized search facility for Leonia-related businesses, estimated in the appendix at $250. The second is a customized banner manager for Leonia-related businesses, estimated in the appendix at $375. The boro would have to establish policies for who is allowed to be included in the website search facility, and what are the advertising terms and rates for the banners, but we recommend the $625 charge as being very reasonable. We do not anticipate any initial need for a more advanced banner service.
  • 12. YES: Links to IQM2 on the front page. Already available under existing PrimeMRM software, and included in the cost of redesign. This is just a special case of item 3 ("front page links").
  • 13. YES: Technology audit. In progress, and not directly related to website upgrades.
  • In addition to the October list of recommendations, during the discussion we explored:
  • 14. YES: Boro calendar support. (This does not appear explicitly in our October recommendations, but arose during our discussions with PrimeMRM.) Currently, the Board of Ed calendar, which doubles as the Leonia Boro calendar, is created separately, sent to a printing company, and then later adapted for use on the website. It appears possible that the calendar can be developed under existing PrimeMRM software, from which it can be easily exported to the printing company, and then automatically incorporated into the website. The advantage of hosting it on the website is that it would allow users to set up personalized email reminders for specific events of interest, and would allow up-to-date additions, deletions, and modifications with little additional effort from the staff. This was not fully discussed, so there was no estimate given in the appendix, but we recommend that this be pursued further.
  • 15. Yes: Trouble ticket acknowledgement. (This does not appear explicitly in our October recommendations, but arose after our discussions with PrimeMRM.) We recommend that the current "Submit a Problem" function be augmented so that people using it are automatically sent an email acknowledgement of their submission. This was discussed after our meeting with PrimeMRM, so there was no estimate given in the appendix, but we recommend that this be pursued further.
  • 16. YES: Webmanager. (This does not appear explicitly in our October recommendations, but arose after our discussions with PrimeMRM.) We recommend that Council appoint a member of the staff as Webmanager, whose responsibilities would be the oversight of website content and the website provider, in order to ensure timely content, uniform style, and quality service, both from the boro to its citizens, and from the PrimeMRM to the boro. These duties are certainly part-time, and may be added to those of an existing qualified staff member.


TECHNOLOGY AUDIT

Here is the status of the on-going technology audit.
We have created and distributed to all departments a form to collect information on department hardware, software, and special requirements, such as state-mandated application software. We have received back completed forms from all but one department.

We have begun the review and analysis of these completed forms. We are particularly concerned to investigate the age and adequacy of each department's IT infrastructure. From this, we anticipate we will be able to recommend an appropriate replacement policy and schedule for both hardware and software, highlighting any infrastructure that is already beyond its useful lifetime.

We will also investigate potential cost-savings by consolidating software licenses, and by moving to open source versions of existing software where appropriate. Additionally, we
anticipate making recommendations about software security and back-ups, maintenance costs and personnel, and staff training.

MEETINGS

Here are the principal findings of the monthly meetings since our last report.
October, 2012: We present our first report on our interviews with boro staff and on our analysis of our survey of website use.

  • November, 2012: The boro's activities are interrupted by Hurricane Sandy. At this meeting, based on feedback from our Council liaison, we prioritize our recommendations. These include the hiring of a part time IT staff person, since the office of the Boro Administrator assistant was then open. We also begin the construction of a form for a technology audit of the boro.
  • December, 2012: We are informed by our Council liaison that an IT staff hire was unlikely. We re-prioritize our recommendations accordingly, and continue with the development of the technology audit.
  • January, 2013: With the members of the Finance Committee of Council, we explore the legal and financial consequences of our recommendations, and begin to draft an RFP for website improvements.
  • February, 2013: The boro administrator agrees to do the technology audit. Our council liaison asks the boro administrator to agree to decentralize control of website postings.
  • March, 2013: The technology audit begins. The boro administrator suggests that we explore the feasibility of implementing our recommendations with the existing website provider, PrimeMRM, who charges $99/month.
  • April, 2013: We have a long and detailed meeting with PrimeMRM, going over all 13 website recommendations. All appear feasible under existing or somewhat improved PrimeMRM software, although the cost for each will vary. Some additional functionalities not in the recommendations are also explored. PrimeMRM is eager to redesign Leonia's website as a showcase for its expanded municipal website software, and is willing to do so at well below market rates. PrimeMRM is asked for an itemized estimate of charges.
  • May, 2013: The PrimeMRM estimates, which are attached as an appendix to this report, are received and discussed, and some ruled out as being too expensive. Committee agrees that remaining functions are important and cost-effective, and should be recommended to Council. No RFP is required as these upgrades are considered to be a professional service.
  • June, 2013: This report is finalized and approved. The status of the technology audit is reviewed. We recruit a new member to replace two members who have resigned.

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