Ben Franklin, information access and mobility
Founding Father, Benjamin Franklin, was a renowned innovator. Raised in a large family, Franklin had a real appreciation for frugality and "doing more with less." Interestingly, Franklin also believed in shared access, and he never patented his inventions because he felt they should benefit the larger community. Franklin's ethos of frugality and sharing continues to ring true today regarding the management and delivery of information from local governments.
One of the roles of government is to act as an information broker for both citizens and other units of government. The need to expand information access is top-of-mind. But, like any other initiative, it has costs associated with it — costs that budgets may not be able to contain. So, how do you make information access more elegant and do more with less? Here are five steps to approach this endeavor:
1. Build an information platform and remove barriers. Information should be developed into a platform that includes both structured and unstructured content. In fact, this is the methodology that the current federal administration suggests in the "21st Century Digital Government Platform" Memorandum. An information inventory should be conducted. The identified assets should be managed at the enterprise level, so that silos of content can be broken down. Content should be treated as data.
2. Be client-minded. Governments have many clients, internal and external. The most important is the citizen. For citizens, government websites are notoriously complicated and difficult to navigate. Ideally, websites should be built to deliver information dynamically. Citizens are used to a consumerized web experience and are expecting governments to deliver in the same manner. The ultimate goal should be to absorb the complexity of the information for the citizen and deliver it in a consistent and easy-to-navigate manner.
3. Mobility. Content is increasingly being consumed through mobile devices. As information brokers, governments need to be prepared to deliver information that can be deployed through various devices. The best practice is to choose a flexible delivery method (often a portal) so it doesn't matter how the information consumer chooses to engage. Smart portals can tell which device is engaging them and format content accordingly.
4. Governance. When it comes to information access and mobility, balance the need for controls and security with the need for work flexibility (i.e. remote access). Put together a stakeholder committee to help determine what this balance should be. Use this committee to define and refine your standards.
5. Choose a flexible information presentation mechanism or several. Most governments use portals and intranets to present information. Be sure to keep flexibility in mind when making your choice of presentation technology. Customer-facing services for mobile use might be your priority today, but tomorrow will bring requests you have yet to consider.
Kimberly Samuelson is director of government marketing at Long Beach, Calif.-based Laserfiche. The company creates enterprise content management solutions. More than 30,000 organizations worldwide — including federal, state and local government agencies and Fortune 1000 companies — use Laserfiche software to streamline documents, records and business process management.