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Granicus Moves Into Digital Services With U.K. Acquisition

Granicus bought the London-based company Firmstep, which has nearly two decades of experience setting up online services for local governments in the U.K. Now Granicus aims to bring Firmstep's platform stateside.

Granicus already made software for governments to communicate with residents, help them follow their elected officials’ activity and build websites. Now, they’re getting into digital services as well.

They’re doing it through an acquisition. On April 4, the company announced it’s acquiring the London-based company Firmstep, which has been helping local governments in the United Kingdom move their services and forms online for about 18 years.

That means, as Granicus CEO Mark Hynes puts it, his company will now offer “a unified digital experience for citizens and residents.”

From a citizen’s perspective, it might work like this: A dog owner learns through a Granicus email that their city council is considering an ordinance that would make registering their pets mandatory. They watch a Granicus video stream of the council meeting where the city passes the ordinance. The dog owner then goes to a Granicus-built website, where they use Granicus-built services to register their dog.

“When you combine the communications aspect of what we do with the [digital services] aspect of what we do … you get to inform them that it exists and you get to reduce all the overhead and all the energy that the in-person government worker has to deliver,” said Susan Ganeshan, Granicus’ chief marketing officer.

The move appears to put Granicus in more direct competition with other companies that work in the website-digital services-forms nexus in the U.S., including NIC, ProudCity and SeamlessDocs.

But first, it has work to do. Firmstep has about 300 customers, almost all of which are in the U.K. — the handful of U.S. governments it serves have been through partnerships with Granicus, according to Ganeshan. About 40 customers use both Granicus and Firmstep already.

For the other 260, there will be a cross-selling effort to get them to start using Granicus products like agenda management, meeting streaming and website content management. And for the existing Granicus customer base of more than 3,900 — mostly in the U.S. — the company will be working to make American versions of what Firmstep was already doing in the U.K., and then selling those to the customers already using Granicus.

The Firmstep platform comes with pre-built applications, but customers can use it to set up services unique to their needs. When it comes to that kind of customization, Hynes said Firmstep takes a drag-and-drop, no-code approach.

The company has already identified more than 50 online services Firmstep has set up in the U.K. that can be easily reworked to quickly launch in the U.S. They include pet adoption and registration, 311 and citizen relationship management, park facility reservation and trash service sign-ups.

“There’s far more similarities than differences between the U.K. and the U.S. … residents still care about trash pickup and trash services, they care about potholes,” Hynes said.

The deal will also mean a location and employee expansion for Granicus — it’s picking up a London office and 60 Firmstep employees, all of whom it expects to stick around after the buyout. As a result, Granicus’ employee count will top 500 for the first time.

It is also Granicus’ fifth acquisition since Vista Equity Partners bought it in 2016 and merged it with GovDelivery.

Granicus did not disclose how much it paid to acquire Firmstep.

Ben Miller is the associate editor of data and business for Government Technology. His reporting experience includes breaking news, business, community features and technical subjects. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in journalism from the Reynolds School of Journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno, and lives in Sacramento, Calif.