It’s 10:00 pm and city council is finally wrapping up a long night where a full agenda of community issues and concerns have been debated, discussed and decided upon. Reports, minutes and action items need to be finalized, distributed and tracked so that decisions can be communicated and tasks assigned to the right individuals.

The process is highly manual, labour intensive, and prone to error.

Until now.

There is a trend to smarter, automated and more transparent government. Citizens demand it. Elected officials need it. And public servants want to re-focus on high value activities that serve citizens. Spending hours copying, collating and distributing binders of minutes, agenda items, tasks and reports has put a strain on civil servants who, like everyone else, face budget and resource constraints. There is a better way and it is part of the CityNext revolution.

What is CityNext?

CityNext is a Microsoft initiative that has been developed to provide a wide variety of solutions focused on creating more efficient local government operations. Cities, municipalities and townships face all of the same challenges as big government but have significantly reduced budgets to work with.

The Microsoft CityNext alternatives deliver secure, affordable and innovative methods to local governing bodies so that they can:

  • Reduce cost
  • Empower civil servants and elected officials
  • Enable transparency
  • Provide 24/7 self-serve information to citizens
  • Communicate constituent value

eSCRIBE – Agenda and Meeting Automation

An early adopter of the CityNext philosophy was eSCRIBE. With hundreds of cities, towns and municipalities already on board and using the solution, eSCRIBE has solved the problem of managing agendas, minutes, reports, task allocation and citizen updates that need to be communicated for meeting efficiencies.

Public-sector digitization – The trillion – dollar challenge

By building the eSCRIBE solution on the Microsoft platform, cities are guaranteed a secure, robust, scalable and intuitive solution that fits well into their existing environment because it is leveraging technology that is already used and understood by staff. Technologies such as Microsoft Word, SharePoint, Exchange and Azure deliver a solution that can be made available either on premise or via a secure cloud connection.

Add to that the low cost of ownership of Microsoft software and the payoff is big – literally returning thousands of hours per year to many local governments who have adopted the solution.

“We used to spend so much time organizing and preparing hard copy reports and attachments for our meetings; chasing down reports, making copies, scanning information and entering the relevant information to build our Council Agendas – up to five per week!” said Karen Needham, Deputy City Clerk, City of Kelowna. “Once we moved to eSCRIBE that was completely eliminated saving us time and allowing us to realign our resources to higher value activities. There are no more stacks of paper to be collected, copied, distributed, shredded or stored. Plus, our councilors have iPad’s, providing them with convenient and quick electronic access to all the information they need, up to a day earlier than before, wherever they may be.”

eSCRIBE has been a transformative technology for the government clients who have implemented it. User adoption is high because eSCRIBE recommends a three-phased approach, introducing features gradually while enabling the capture of knowledge transfer. This also ensures that manual processes are correctly replaced with automated ones.

Phase One – Committee Alignment & Basic Automation

  • Streamlining agenda
  • Streamlining the minutes
  • Tracking the actions that come out of that meeting
  • Publishing to the web for citizens to view

Phase Two – Advanced Automation

  • Pre-meeting collaboration
  • Report writing and consolidation

Phase Three – Video Streaming

  • Enabling advanced video streaming aligned to the agenda
  • Jump instantly to the meeting element you need to view

It’s 10:00 pm and city council is wrapping up their council meeting. Already the mayor has been mentioned in a Social Media message broadcast by a citizen who is thrilled with the decision to build a new school in her community, the planning board have their tasks assigned and waiting for them in their in-box and two reports that need clarification have been routed back to the committees that created them. Transparency, efficiency and automation. It all adds up to good government: informed citizens, productive public sector servants and satisfied elected officials.