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SYS-CON MEDIA Authors: Andreas Grabner, Liz McMillan, Dana Gardner, Elizabeth White, Cloud Best Practices Network

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Yellow Pencil – Web Channel as a Service

Last week we ran our ‘MaaS’ webinar – Municipality as a Service, and we’re now finalizing all the individual presentations to be available via the follow on newsletter that’s being launched : MunicipalCloud.biz.

One of these presentations is from Paul Bellows of Yellow Pencil: 6-page PDF

Specializing in web 2.0 content management systems like OpenText and Drupal, Paul led us through examples of how Yellow Pencil has helped Municipalities like Edmonton to use these platforms to run multiple internal and external web sites for citizen engagement, leverage Open Data and many other aspects of harnessing the technology to better manage their ‘Web Channel as a Service’.

In this day and age the public sector like Municipalities are required to use more social media and in a variety of new ways too, a mix of new IT and business processes that are new and overwhelming for many agencies.

Yellow provides this expertise ‘as a Service’ as much as they do the underlying software that implements these practices to help with this adoption cycle.

Open Data PaaS – Legacy Modernization

One critical aspect of using systems like OpenText for this activity is how this delivers a solution capability for ‘Legacy Modernization‘.

Government agencies operate many older technology platforms for many of their services, making it difficult to amend them for new ways of working and in particular connecting them to the web for self-service options.

As I learned one innovative technique that Edmonton has employed is what provided the central theme for our webinar – How the CMS is literally acting as the Platform, as in PaaS – Platform as a Service, especially in regards to the relationship with Open Data.

In the case of Edmonton they are using a Cloud-based app, Socrata, to gather data produced from these legacy systems, make it available as Open Data for citizens to browse, and critically so that they can present access to it via an open API for developers to reuse.

This allows other developers to reference and use the data from their own application domains, which also includes OpenText in this case. The web site developers using this also called on the data this way and so could use it within the front-end web site @ edmonton.ca.

For example one app was to provide snow-shovelling times and schedules, data that was pulled from a back-end system into Socrata, and then queried by the OpenText front-end.

This is a key principle that Tom Jenkins at OpenText himself describes. In this book & white paper Managing Content in the Cloud he describes how:

“As more organizations seek out packaged ECM solutions, the ability to add Web services or build custom applications that augment existing legacy systems becomes a clear business advantage.”

Web Channel as a Service

Edmonton is implementing the ‘Social Communities‘ module of the OpenText range, as part of using the CMS to manage their internal intranet publishing as well as their front-facing ‘Citizen CRM’ web portal.

This means they are employing all the latest technologies and best practices associated with this dynamic ecosystem: From RSS, blogs, wikis and OAuth “social logins” through to more innovative ways of organizing online citizen communities, in particular Crowdsourcing: Increased number of concurrent users participating in the City’s publishing workflow.

This comprehensive platform of software means they can link the full lifecycle of their processes right from the social media interface through to their back-end legacy systems, representing an entirely holistic modernization of the process, both in terms of interactivity and also business model.

All of their workflows can be modernized this way, like business permits and so forth, and other cities can repeat the same transformation through the same apps combination.


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