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How Everyday Innovation Can Drive Government Transformation

Man holding light bulbs, ideas of new ideas with innovative technology and creativity. concept creativity with bulbs that shine glitter.

Focusing on people, processes and technology helps governments achieve incremental and sustainable innovation. Read how three communities made small changes that brought about big impact.

Innovation is happening everywhere, but real change is emerging thanks to the diligent day-to-day work the unsung heroes of local government execute and participate in to advance their organizations’ goals.

They are focusing on bringing people, processes, and technology together to drive collaboration, efficiency, and data-driven decision-making — all with an eye on solving the critical challenges their communities face.

It’s often this type of everyday innovation that can have an outsized impact on local communities because these operational elements determine how cities and counties spend their resources and make decisions about how to improve service delivery.

Three communities — the city of Cupertino, California; Salem, Massachusetts; and Nassau Bay, Texas — exemplify how local governments can focus their efforts on people, processes, and technology to bring their organizations closer to achieving their missions.

CUPERTINO, CALIFORNIA: INCREASING TRANSPARENCY AND COMBATING FRAUD, WASTE, AND ABUSE

Sometimes an unexpected event spurs action and leads to lasting change.

That’s what happened in the city of Cupertino. After city leaders implemented a new financial system, they uncovered an 18-year embezzlement scheme by one of their former accountants. The discovery led the city to work with OpenGov, which provides a cloud-based budgeting and planning suite, to improve collaboration and transparency to rebuild trust.

OpenGov’s Budgeting & Planning Suite, which is built on flexible, scalable cloud infrastructure from Amazon Web Services (AWS), has increased visibility into the city’s finances and allowed Cupertino to become more of an open book. The company hosts most of its infrastructure on AWS GovCloud, which is designed to host sensitive data, regulate workloads, and address the most stringent U.S. government security and compliance requirements. The company has designed its solutions using its well-architected framework, which prioritizes operational excellence, security, reliability, performance efficiency, and cost optimization.

Under a shared responsibility model, OpenGov customers like Cupertino benefit from robust application, network, and infrastructure security. Cupertino has capitalized on these capabilities within OpenGov’s platform to launch several self-service and transparency tools to engage the public around financial data and give constituents more insight into the city’s decision-making process.

One such tool is the resident tax calculator, which enables residents to estimate their annual sales and property taxes and see how the city spends those revenues. A forecast transparency tool allows residents to build their own financial forecast and gain a better understanding of the factors the city must consider as it makes budget and program allocation decisions. The city has also launched a feature on its website called, “Interactive Budget at a Glance,” a dynamic, data-driven tool that provides an overview of the city’s budget.

With a cloud-based budgeting and planning platform, Cupertino has made its data more accessible and transformed it into a valuable tool for building connections with residents. The city’s efforts show how cloud modernization can help local governments cultivate greater constituent engagement; increase transparency; and take proactive steps to combat fraud, waste, and abuse.

SALEM, MASSACHUSETTS: TRANSFORMING PROCESSES TO MAXIMIZE EFFICIENCY

Like many local governments, Salem, a city of 43,000, dealt with a range of operational inefficiencies.

The city’s legacy permitting processes were a key example of this. Data wasn’t integrated, workflows weren’t properly set up, and city personnel could not easily update reports. Additionally, business permits weren’t designed correctly and public-facing information was either unclear or inaccurate.

Rather than adopt a custom, onpremises solution that would have entailed months of work, the city moved its permitting processes to the cloud and launched an online, constituentfacing, self-service portal using OpenGov’s Citizen Services cloud suite.

The move has allowed the city to process more applications and reap the benefits of more scalable, flexible, and agile permitting processes. Eight departments now use OpenGov’s cloud-based solutions to create and process permits, allowing residents and developers to submit their applications and retrieve their permits in a single place.

Salem has also benefited from new online payment capabilities that allow it to automatically create and send renewal notices to permit holders. This gives constituents a convenient, on-demand payment option, rather than having to pay in person at city hall. It also accelerates the city’s permit revenue collection.

Since moving to the cloud, Salem has processed over $1 million in permit fees — a significant increase from the previous year. The city has also increased the number of permit types it offers from 40 to 67, taking advantage of automation to adapt its workflows to new use cases and expand its offerings.

Moving to the cloud enables cities like Salem to digitize traditionally in-person services and increase their employees’ productivity and efficiency so they can focus on other mission-critical initiatives. Cloud modernization also provides another significant advantage for governments: It supports hybrid work models that will become more prevalent as government organizations transition to a new normal once the pandemic subsides.

NASSAU BAY, TEXAS: TECHNOLOGY TRANSFORMATION PROPELS DATA-DRIVEN DECISION-MAKING

Many local governments must contend with data sprawl and increasing data complexity. Information lives in disparate systems and it isn’t easily accessible. Transforming operational data into insights that improve service delivery often requires too much staff time and effort.

These challenges exist for governments of all sizes — even smaller municipalities like Nassau Bay, Texas, which has a population of 4,052.

The city’s finance team faced ongoing data management challenges because financial information lived in an on premises legacy mainframe server. With the server running out of memory, the city decided to move to the cloud rather than replace it. To modernize, Nassau Bay adopted OpenGov’s cloud-based Financials Suite with its powerful Reporting & Transparency Platform.

The upgrade has allowed the city to reduce its business risks, access real-time, accurate financial data via shared reports and dashboards, and make financial information more accessible to the public. Nassau Bay no longer relies on spreadsheets or manual processes to access financial insights — all this information is accessible on a centralized, cloud-based Reporting & Transparency Platform. The platform also stores information in a secure, isolated AWS GovCloud region for highly sensitive data and workloads, which ensures maximum availability, reliability, and redundancy, as well as data security.

Moving to the cloud has streamlined GAAP compliance for the city’s finance team. With the new platform, the city identified compliance gaps and closed them with a new Chart of Accounts. This process took significantly less time and entailed much less risk — particularly with regard to the potential for data loss — than it would have with an on-premises solution.

With cloud migration and the adoption of OpenGov’s unified platform, Nassau Bay estimates a 60 percent increase in productivity across financial management, accounting, budgeting, and reporting.

Nassau Bay’s transition shows that moving core functions to the cloud can generate significant results, and that cities can considerably reduce their business risks and inefficiencies by embracing secure cloud solutions.

CONCLUSION

Transformation often materializes in different ways. It doesn’t always have to be a big new initiative to make a significant impact in the way a city operates.

As Cupertino, Salem, and Nassau Bay illustrate, local governments can successfully bring people, processes, and technology together to increase transparency, improve digital service delivery, and more deeply engage constituents in how government works.

By onboarding secure solutions built on scalable cloud infrastructure from trusted providers like OpenGov and AWS, governments can innovate at their own pace. They can also scale compute resources to meet changes in demand or adjust their workflows and business processes for new use cases and constituent needs.

Governments can no longer afford not to adapt. Instead, they can take advantage of the cloud to bring about everyday innovation that finally transforms them into digitally driven organizations.

This piece was written and produced by the Center for Digital Government Content Studio, with information and input from OpenGov and AWS.

1. https://opengov.com/videos/from-embezzlement-toan-open-book-in-cupertino-ca/

2. https://opengov.com/customers/salem-ma-seesjump-in-permit-applications-after-exorcizing-old-software-inefficiencies/

3. https://opengov.com/customers/nassau-bay-txbuilds-one-system-one-source-with-opengov/


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