Advice from the trenches

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Evolving doors

As states begin building their own dynamic portals, officials riding the

front wave of the trend have plenty of advice. The toughest challenge: cultural

issues. Some tips include:

* Bring in the private sector early and discuss ideas on approaching infrastructure

development, not products.

* Learn how to develop portal applications internally. Although you'll

need plenty of advice and functional help from the private sector, do not

turn over exclusive ownership to a third party.

* Strike a balance between the enterprise and the agency but develop

applications that involve related processes with all the agencies involved.

Otherwise, all you're doing is perpetuating the stovepipe environment with

a different technology.

* Prepare yourself for potential cultural fallout by engaging agency

personnel early on and letting them maintain a sense of ownership — or at

least a strong say — in how their services and processes will work in an

online portal.

* Start small, with incremental projects and realistic goals. The five-year,

$100 million, "this will fix everything" mentality won't work. Small successes

with momentum will keep customers and agency personnel engaged.

* Use focus groups and a built-in Web-based mechanism to collect customer

feedback. To remain valuable to end users, states need to continually enhance

a site and seek out ways to make it more intuitive and more accessible.

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