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Austin, Texas, Offers Tips for Local Digital Transformation

The city of Austin is one of 150 government agencies and institutions throughout the state of Texas that has utilized GTY solutions for digital transformation. Here's why and how Austin has gone more digital.

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GTY Technology recently announced that its technology solutions are being used by over 150 government agencies and educational institutions throughout Texas to support digital transformation.

In the case of Austin, the city has adopted the GTY subsidiary CityBase, a cloud-based platform used to simplify payment processes.

Other cities have adopted CityBase to modernize billing, with a notable example being Indianapolis. Firms like CityBase are gaining popularity in the government space for their ability to reduce cost and risk. Now, with the availability of federal funding, additional government organizations may decide to follow suit.

DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION IN AUSTIN


As GTY Chief Revenue Officer Craig Ross explained, the pandemic caused a major shift in how government operates and delivers services, as constituents needed to be able to access services from anywhere, and governments had little time to prepare.

Citizens are looking for the ability to self-serve, Ross said — and to do so outside of the traditional 8-to-5 workday.

Changing the way government communicates and interacts with constituents has been a key component of Austin’s digital service transformation, according to Mark Caraway, information systems division manager.

One significant step in the city’s efforts was the selection of CityBase in September 2020.

The intended outcome is to move payments and other services to a secure, cloud-based platform. Such a platform can help with payment of permitting fees, collection of hotel occupancy taxes, public information requests and other services.

According to Caraway, the decision to use CityBase came from a desire to improve services for both the end user and the city internally. Caraway pointed out that payment processes work better on citizens’ mobile devices with CityBase.

“It was just a more modern, more responsive site for the end user,” Caraway explained, adding that while the old payment site was still working, it lacked in other areas like mobile experience.

For the city, the cloud-based system has done three main things: saved money, allowed the city to avoid developing a new system and reduced the city’s risk.

One potential challenge Caraway mentioned is a disconnect in the timing of virtual service delivery and acquiring payments. For instance, when people would receive a permit in person, payment could be collected at the time of the permit release. For things like digital permit services, the city has had to ensure business processes could be modified to work effectively with online payments.

PAYMENTS IN THE CLOUD


Ross said the state of cybersecurity in America has increased the speed at which governments have adopted cloud solutions.

For Austin, Caraway explained that having the cloud-based CityBase platform, which takes payments outside of the city’s network and off the city’s servers, keeps the city in payment card industry compliance and helps reduce risk.

Ross also noted that as StateRAMP gains ground, GTY is working to ensure its business units like CityBase will be StateRAMP-compliant while maintaining their current FedRAMP compliance.


Austin’s experience, as well as that of many other Texas entities in the process of digital transformation, reflects a nationwide trend of moving to modernize. Ross anticipates that available funding through the American Rescue Plan Act will play a role in the continuation of this trend.

Another trend Ross expects in 2021 relates to the rapid adoption of new technologies during the pandemic. Ross said that while some government entities simply accelerated existing modernization strategies, others who had to make rushed decisions last year may take a step back to adopt different technologies that can better serve them.

He explained that some government organizations may think adopting new technology will be a blanket solution for issues they face. This assumption can create problems, especially if leaders fail to consider the change management involved.

His strategy for those looking to modernize? Identify what issues need to be solved, how progress can be measured and what the target outcomes are — and do so prior to implementing a new tech solution.

“I think organizations have to be careful to not assume that technology by itself solves the issues they’re looking to address,” said Ross. “You can’t tackle everything you might want to deal with from a digital transformation standpoint at once. Prioritize it.”
Julia Edinger is a staff writer for Government Technology. She has a bachelor's degree in English from the University of Toledo and has since worked in publishing and media. She's currently located in Southern California.
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