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Why Use Microsoft Surface in Public Sector?

Even as long as I have worked in the software and technology field, I'm sometimes surprised by the reaction of people to new products. Microsoft Surface elicits the strongest responses of anything I have seen in the last decade.

When people read about it, they wonder why they would want a 250 pound PC, or what could be an iPhone for Paul Bunyon. They ask why public sector customers would be interested at all in this device.


When they see it in person, however, it's a different story. Simply put, Microsoft Surface is irresistible. People of all ages want to touch it and find out what it does. It truly is a different way to interact with a computer.

As for public sector, they key seems to be visualization of information. The Microsoft Single View Platform, weaving together Virtual Earth with business intelligence and line of business systems, is powerful on the Surface. The ability to activitate map layers and show data in new ways is exciting even to a jaded observer of the tec…

Finding Public Sector IT Best Practices

I never cease to be amazed at the amount of information available to anyone with the Web, a search engine, and some time to dig. There are huge bodies of work from management consultants which are freely available, especially for the public sector, where laws call for open access.

Associations for government agencies such as the Federal CIO Council, the National Association of Counties, National Association of State Chief Information Officers, local councils of government and the state associations are a great place to start. For example, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has published a guide on e-permitting. Harvard University hosts a site for government innovation. Portland State University published a collection of best practices that includes insight on solving traffic congestion and increasing public transportation ridership.

A great way to start a new project is with research on what has gone on before. We can learn from the successes and failures of othe…

How to Save $1 Million Right Now

In our challenging economic environment, state and local governments are likely to face increasing demand for services at the same time as tax receipts shrink from reduction in property values and transaction-generated revenue such as sales tax.

To succeed, government leaders must think outside the box, taking lessons from other governments and from the commercial sector. What does this mean in practical terms, and how can agencies continue to fulfill their missions in light of tight of shrinking budgets?


First, I think this is a time to reassess priorities and cut spending on projects that don't serve the core goals of your agency. Many state and local governments can find $1 million or more in information technology funding that can be saved. For instance:
Use it or lose it. Computer hardware and software don't usually improve with age. If you bought something that has not been put in the hands of users in twelve months, you are not getting value from your technology upgrades. …

007 Gadget Coming to Your Conference Room Soon

We are more excited about Microsoft Surface than any hardware we have seen in a long time. It is irresistable to people of all ages and truly is a different way to interact with a computer than a keyboard and a mouse.

You may have seen Microsoft Surface or other touch screen devices on CSI, MSNBC, or even in the latest James Bond movie. Don't be surprised if one pops up in you conference room.

Infostrat has developed a number of solutions, and we are posting videos of them like this:



Check out our YouTube channel to learn more about this innovative technology.

A Third Option

Today one of my clients told me that word of xRM (Microsoft CRM as a development platform) is starting to spread. He said that other state and local governments have been contacting him to find out how he is solving business problems with an option that lies between writing custom applications from scratch or settling for the features of an expensive packaged line of business solution.

With budgets tightening around the world, government agencies need more cost effective ways to address the needs of constituents. Could xRM be part of the solution? My clients think the answer is yes.

Even as deficits rise, especially as economic conditions worsen, the demands for government services will continue to grow. This is true at all levels of government, but particularly for local government, because it touches citizens directly. Local government must respond to demands for services, and budget shortfalls are not a sufficient excuse not to take action.

I suggest that before the New Year you cat…

Getting Your Feet Wet in the Cloud

When it comes to new technology, the first time is often the most difficult. I remember my reluctance to give up bank tellers and try the ATM, or even the way I used to get a receipt printed every time I paid for fuel with a credit card at the pump.

It took me a long time to trust online transactions, but eventually I became comfortable forking over payments to companies I had known only since my last web search. Now I'm much more likely to buy online than at a store.

So it will be with cloud computing. The first transaction will involve the greatest deliberation, consideration and worry. If the experience is positive, more forays will follow.

If you want to test out cloud computing, find a few services to pilot. It's not hard to find something that is inexpensive and low risk. Go ahead and sign up to give it a go. Here are some from Microsoft that are worth a look today:

1. Office Live Workspace view and share documents online
2. Live Search Maps publish your collectio…

Cloud Computing Excuses

I have been conducting an informal poll on cloud computing around my office and with consultants from other information technology consulting firms. I start by asking about the recent cloud computing announcements from Microsoft and other market leaders.

Everyone I have spoken to tells me they are excited about cloud computing and want to learn more about it. Microsoft's investment in development of cloud computing infrastructure makes it more legitimate and puts it in reach of more developers. Even my government customers tell me cloud computing is interesting and the shape of things to come.

Then I ask "who do you know who is using cloud computing today?" and I get a blank stare. I hear about some major customers cited by the vendors but none of my contacts knows real, live customers personally who are betting on cloud computing.

Part of the problem is that we are still waiting for the technology and the business model to solidify. Microsoft allows developers to us…

Cloud Computing -- Big Bang or Slow Evolution?

Nothing is bigger in terms of high tech buzz than cloud computing, as I mentioned in my last post. It is definitely the flavor of the month and all the major online, hardware and software vendors are finding their niches in the cloud ecosystem.

Cloud computing is really nothing new, but rather the ongoing evolution of Software as a Service (SaaS) or, if you go back a bit further, application service providers (ASPs) which took the baton from Internet service providers (ISPs). Hey, if you want to go for broke, you can trace cloud computing further back to pre-Internet packet switching networks like CompuServe. Just don't send me email to 76011,1362 -- my first email address on CompuServe.

We are not likely to witness a stampede to the cloud, but rather a slow migration, one service at a time. Businesses for the most part still prefer to host their own email, for instance, although the majority of consumers use cloud-based email services. Smaller businesses are more likely to …

Microsoft Heads for the Cloud

Microsoft often uses its Professional Developers Conference (PDC) as a launching pad for major product announcements. This week at the PDC in Los Angeles, CA, was no exception. For most of us, the most far-reaching news is Microsoft's venture into cloud computing with a new operating system called Azure. Developers can now get their hands on the community technology preview version of the software and begin learning how it will be relevant for remote hosting of web applications.

Microsoft is not the first vendor to offer cloud computing, but it has many advantages over the first pioneers of the field. The community of Microsoft developers is large and active. Using familiar tools such as Visual Studio will unleash tremendous activity as well as harness the existing code base of .NET applications.

A number of services from Microsoft will be available right out of the gate, drawing on the Microsoft Live services. These include authentication, collaboration and document manageme…

Microsoft Citizen Service Platform

As I mentioned in my article on the Microsoft Single View Platform, this year is a particularly rich one for new frameworks and platforms out of Redmond. In particular, I cannot recall so many initiatives that are directed toward the public sector.

One of the most important of these is the Microsoft Citizen Service Platform (CSP). Microsoft describes it as a solution set for local government to improve services to citizens and enhance interagency communication. Like SVP, CSP does not include any new products and there is nothing new to buy. Instead, it illustrates how local government can use the Microsoft products they may aleady own to stand up citizen self service portals, case management systems, document management and enhanced communications.

CSP is a European import. It began with the Microsoft global public sector organization, and achieved early wins in the United Kingdom, Portugual, then spread to the Caribbean, Australia and other countries. The United States is a new f…

Austerity Brings Efficiency

There are many reasons to bemoan the bursting of the real estate bubble, the crash of the banking system, and the U.S. recession. But there will be benefits from this mess as there always are when we enter this phase of an economic cycle. Businesses based on euphoria are not good businesses in the long run. We will witness the disappearance of many businesses based on hype rather than delivering real value to their customers. Surviving businesses will find new ways to make their operations more efficient and effective.

Government will also benefit from austerity by being forced to prioritize and to become more efficient. Programs will be cancelled, and those that survive will learn to survive with reduced funding. Although government agencies themselves rarely face extinction in the way that businesses do, they will be reorganized. Elected officials, on the other hand, know that they could be one election away from spending more time with their families.

How can government agenc…

Microsoft Launches Single View Platform

For those of us who have chosen the Microsoft platform, the good news is that we have many products from which to choose. Microsoft has an array of server and client products, as well as online services, that cover everything from collaboration to commerce, business intelligence to geographical information systems, personal productivity to accounting.

Sometimes the sheer number of choices can be daunting, so Microsoft is initiating new offerings that help us weave the various products into cohesive solutions. The goal is to bridge the gaps between product groups and provide additional documentation and code to integrate multiple Microsoft products.

The most recent release for government customers is the Microsoft Single View Platform (SVP). This helps you put information into geographic context. It provides:

Data visualization
Real-time or near real-time data links
Integration data from multiple, disparate sources
Access controls
Interoperability with other systems
The heart of SVP is integr…

Dynamics CRM: What is this XRM Thing?

In my white paper, I discussed using Microsoft Dynamics CRM as a development platform for solutions that go beyond the traditional definition of customer relationship management. This trend is getting wider exposure and has resulted in a new acronym, XRM, where the X stands for whatever solution you might need which is a good fit for the CRM platform.

As Dylan Haskins reported in his blog, David Yack the CTO of Colorado Technology Consultants, published a book a few weeks ago called CRM as a Rapid Development Platform.

As I talk with clients and technologists, I'm finding more and more creative uses to which they are applying Dynamics CRM. For instance, this year alone I have seen public sector solutions such as:
Government recruitingConsumer fraud case managementElectronic permittingTask managementEvent managementAsset managementNuisance abatementContagious disease tracking, and Field inspectionDoes this mean that CRM is a Swiss Army knife? Yes, in a way it is a flexible tool th…

Introducing Gov and the City

For more than twenty-eight years, I have lived in Washington, DC, the biggest government city of them all. I created this blog to share my thoughts on government, not only federal but also state and local government. Specifically, my areas of interest is information technology for government.

I came to DC back in 1980 to pursure a career in public affairs. I earned a Master of Science in Foreign Service at Georgetown University, with a concentration in international security affairs.

My first job outof graduate school was at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), at that time associated with Georgetown University. I started as a research assistant, then worked through the ranks to research associate and ultimately fellow in international security affairs. I wrote books and papers and spoke to conferences.

What a heady time it was, back at the beginning of the 1980s, especially for a foreign policy wonk. The United States had been battered overseas, and morale w…