Portal may provide fiscal assist

State of Minnesota portal

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Like many other state governments facing budget crises, Minnesota has some tough fiscal choices to make, including how to maintain the same level of service while reducing spending.

Officials are hoping the state's new Web portal, unveiled four months ago, will help.

Reggie David, the state Office of Technology's assistant commissioner, said the previous site was mostly "static, brochure-ware." But the portal, with an enterprise architecture design, is better organized and easier to navigate.

Most of the static data was transferred from the old Web site, she said, but the new portal has added interactive applications and a centralized online payment engine.

The state Department of Commerce was the initial agency included in the project — developed jointly during the past year by Deloitte Consulting and Roundarch Inc. — because it deals with a significant number of licensing and permitting applications.

Officials said the design work and development of interactive templates for that department would be spread across other agencies as they move their information to the portal, thereby saving costs.

Although Minnesota plans to enhance e-government and will look into developing e-procurement, funding is a major concern and may limit how many transactional services can be added annually. State lawmakers understand e-government's value and are supportive of its strategies, David said, but how it stacks up against health and housing is another matter. "It pales to some of those big issues," she said, in terms of priority.

However, she noted that Gov. Tim Pawlenty is a big supporter of technology and e-government as a way to improve service and reduce costs.

James Kauth, director of emerging technologies within the technology office, said developing proper metrics and good monitoring of those metrics are key to providing the administration with cost/benefit analyses of online services.

The state has also enacted a new governance model to address policies, processes and management principles of current and future e-government initiatives. And the portal has a steering committee — a subset of the advisory Information Policy Council — in place to help provide governance. That'll help as agencies begin to form their e-government projects.

"The Office of Technology is taking a good hard look at all the piecemeal initiatives and taking a global view of them," said S. Chandramouli, a partner with Deloitte. However, it may be tough going in the short term because instituting a centralized process poses a cultural hurdle for agencies that operate independently of one another, he said.

Already the state is seeing some progress with the portal. Kauth said usage of the state's help desk had dropped by 60 percent because individuals are getting what they need from the portal, and site visits are 10 percent longer. Statistics for one-time visitors are dropping and repeat visitors are on the rise, he added.

Kauth also said the portal relies on metadata to categorize information that can help users get better and more relevant information through searches. The state has close to 800,000 documents in Web-related content, he added, and it is promoting metadata use among agencies.

Other technologies used in the portal development include Inktomi Corp.'s search technology, BroadVision Inc.'s content management system, and Netegrity Inc. for access and identity management.

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