Mostly, says Geoff Plummer, it’s more of the same.
Plummer, director of Information Systems with the District Municipality of Muskoka, took a look at information management for CIO Government Review last year.
Today, he says, the functional requirements for a government information system are basically the same.
There are changes, however: The Oracle Collaboration Suite (OCS) installed by Muskoka has meant greater flexibility and improved access for users.
Plummer reports that senior staff can now access their e-mail via Palm Treo from anywhere in the enabled world. That was a paramount concern, because their job requires them to spend a lot of time travelling to other municipalities and urban centres where at any time they may be inaccessible by phone or email.
There have also been improvements in the way all government employees access the information they need due to advances in collaboration technology.
“We (IT Services) were mandated by Council to provide e-mail access to all staff regardless of location,” Plummer said. “Also, we were to provide access to our Intranet Site. Both have been easily accomplished via our OCS Portal. Also, it provides for much better access when working out of the office.”
Muskoka has also been able to set up internal FTP sites for better dispersion of District information not only to District staff but to the six area municipalities. That program is currently being rolled out.
Through the OCS and wireless network, the District is now able to provide connectivity for their entire mobile staff.
Although Geoff Plummer’s exposure to municipalities outside Muskoka is limited, and he normally focuses on other issues such as core applications and not necessarily on collaboration, he did offer insights on the possibility of another type of collaboration solution.
“I do know that the other area municipalities are facing the problem Muskoka was facing a year ago and we are currently in discussions with them to see if there is any interest in using the district system,” he said. “The OCS suite will support multiple domains, and this allows the area to maintain their identity.
“Should they decide to utilize our application, they will benefit from improved security and protection as well.”
Plummer understands that financial resources are a constant issue for any IT department.
“Financially it is a big issue with the area municipalities, and they cannot afford a high level solution. Hence, the reason behind the District offer. Due to the licensing that Oracle is providing, it has enabled Muskoka IT Services to make this offer and it now becomes an attractive cost effective solution for them. We will get a much better ROI with more participants as well.”
The tools that OCS has provided Muskoka allow for better information flow to all staff and has greatly reduced the necessity for paper flow. Staff are able to pick up information without coming into the office.
“It’s a great timesaver and an environment saver as well.” Better communications and the ability to reach all staff has resulted in fewer errors, improved productivity and – because direction is not verbal but in “black and white” – less misunderstanding.
“For example, when an out-of-town situation developed, I was able to resolve it because I had access to the information required via OCS. The alternate being that I would have been forced to return to the office to handle the problem. The situation was entirely resolved remotely.”
Muskoka hopes to roll out voice mail integration this year and is looking forward to the next release, as it appears to have greatly improved their portal and smoothed out some minor bumps in the application. “We are also looking forward to either eliminating the requirement for Outlook or improving the interconnectivity between Outlook and OCS,” Plummer said.