Monthly Archives: July 2015

ENVISIO: A micromanager’s dream

Envisio brands itself as “secure, reliable cloud-based strategy management software” and boasts its ability to allow managers to communicate strategy, manage accountability, and drive results.

Essentially, Envisio allows managers to set a strategic plan (it has tools to help those managers create that plan), assign resources (people) to tasks within the plan, track their employees progress on those tasks, and view the results at the end of the plan. The level of control a manager can have on a task within Envisio is so detailed that they can even allocate the amount of time to be spent on various topics for a meeting that they’re not even going to. The fastest growing market for Envisio seems to be education where the demand for teacher accountability is mounting. An administrator of a school district which recently became an Envisio client stated that one of the appeals of the software is its ability to help the school build “transparent and accountable work cultures with staff that are aligned with strategic deliverables.”

Indeed, everything on Envisio’s website reeks of draconian levels of micromanagement so high that even this guy would be unsure about it: download

For example, in the “Inspire Ownership” section of Envisio’s website it states “Keep resources (people) focused by allocating them to actions related to your organization’s success. Dashboards enable everyone on your team to quickly and easily evaluate both individual and organizational performance.” Nothing I read about Envisio truly talked about making the work of employees easier or smoother, nor did anything discuss making employees more satisfied or productive. Envisio is about providing manager’s another tool to micromanage employees rather than implementing human managerial best practices.

To be fair, Envisio has outstanding reviews from multiple sources and has a growing client base. Further, I found some less-micromanagey uses for the software — project management and disparate teams.

While Envisio’s website, blog, or 33-minute webinar doesn’t mention project management, that’s really where the tool’s usability lies. Multiple reviewers mention how helpful the software is for managing multiple projects, ensuring project tasks are meeting milestones, and assessing the results of projects once completed. This is where Envisio’s tracking capabilities make sense — when someone has too much to juggle to keep it all straight.

Likewise, Envisio makes sense for teams that are not physically in the same place as one another. As anyone who has worked on… let’s say, a group paper for, uh… let’s say a graduate school program can tell you — it’s frustrating. How do we divide up work? When is everything due? Who is working on what? When will people have their pieces to me so I can do my part? It’s a mess and the email chains get insanely long. A tool like Envisio would make that workflow much smoother as everyone could claim tasks, update their progress, and share files within the platform.

Perhaps the micromanagerish vibe Envisio gives off is a failure in marketing as there are clearly viable uses for the software. However, the implementation of tools like this come down to the people who are using them and the only people who would be attracted to the tool as its described in their marketing material are, you guessed it, micromanagers.


Beautiful Government Websites

Websites need to be useful, but it helps if they are also beautiful. Here are seven examples of beautifully designed government websites. Each of these websites offer users lots of helpful information wrapped in a good looking website.


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Curbing Undesired Behavior

The city of San Francisco followed Hamburg, Germany by painting walls near bars and areas with a high homeless population with hydrophobic paint. The campaign is in response to complaints about the homeless community and party-goes urinating on walls…which was both costing the city for cleanup and leaving business owners and bar goers complaining. The “Hold It” campaign has signs in several languages instructing people to please not urinate at that location, and if they do, their shoes may suffer. “The idea is they will think twice next time about urinating in public,” said Rachel Gordon, a spokeswoman for the city’s Public Works Department. According to the BBC article, public response has been excellent, with many requests for more hydrophobic paint in different areas. Also, in response, the city is installing more public restrooms.


Open Source Software and Public Services

Open source software allows its source code to be “open” to the public for use and improvement at no charge. Essentially, proponents of open source believe that a larger group of programmers, not concerned with financial gain or internal politics, will more quickly develop bug-free, useful products that are shared with everyone.

The “peer-reviewed” system, which enables developers to test, redistribute, and modify source codes, is often a more effective, flexible, and timely way to make improvements to software applications. This can be especially true when compared with commercial or public technologies which are usually reviewed through long, painstaking processes by a single developer.

Open source software is licensed by one of several groups (OSI, GNU, Microsoft, and Apache, most often). Licensing varies slightly between agencies, but usually requires at a minimum that the code be offered for free, without royalties paid to the license holder; the code is accessible and allows for modifications by others; and that no one can be denied access to the program. The source code can be monetized, but only as part of a larger package of software that contains proprietary compilers (which translate code into the binary language of computers). Often, there are also rules that impact additional software restrictions placed on users when it is sold.

Non-open source software is called closed software, and the source codes are private. It is not an either/or situation, however; many technologies today rely on a combination of open and closed source code and are typically referred to as “mixed-source” projects. Open- and mixed-source projects are frequent in the public sector. Here are a few examples, often involving platforms that serve community engagement purposes:

The Plinket Community Collaborative creates and develops softwares for libraries, in a different way: they work collaboratively to identify requirements openly, and then use two traditional open-source projects, Plone and Zope, to develop platforms. The code is more directed than that in traditional development, but it is still open source and can be used by libraries everywhere.

NASA transitioned from its issue tracking system, ARS Remedy, in 2006. NASA required more flexibility from a program, and used the open source system OTRS, modified by a subcontractor; because the components were subject to an open source license, the components developed for NASA were later made available to all users.

ESRI, the software developer behind ArcGIS (used in most public agencies for mapping purposes) relies on open source codes for its shapefile technology. ESRI offers a hybrid model solution that incorporates their software with complementary open source projects.

Sweden’s Police Department transitioned to a mixed-source management system for tracking data in 2007. They wanted a system that was more flexible, allowed them to change classifications and categories quickly, and managed large amounts of data on crimes, victims, and perpetrators. a

Belgium and France worked together to collaboratively create a platform for public administrations within local territories, relying on the local IT departments to collaborate and develop software. This is one of the first and most significant public development projects, as it was sponsored by public agencies in both countries and most of the development work was performed by public servants.

Google is perhaps the most recognizable early user of open source code. They even have an Open Source Programs Office to manage the licenses and generate projects, and still rely on an open source approach for much of their work.

Citizenvestor- Crowdfunding for Governments

We often hear local governments don’t have enough money to fund the projects citizens want, and that is often true. We also hear people complaining all the time about how governments never fund the projects they want to see in their communities. How can local governments and citizens work together to find the funds for projects they both want?

That’s where Citizenvestor comes in. Citizenvestor is a crowdfunding site which follows the momentum of other sites like GoFundMe and Kickstarter, but it’s used by local governments and their official partners.


Localities post their City Hall and community supported projects on the site and ask local citizens to make tax-deductible contributions to the projects they care about. Projects do not start nor are donors charged unless a project is fully funded. Public coffers are usually limited and some projects rank low on the City Council priority list, so this is a way to fund those ideas that would otherwise be brushed aside.

I first heard about Citizenvestor in our GovLoop Guide from week 3. The guide describes Citizenvestor as a way to reveal budget priorities and allow citizens to lead the charge in getting funds for what matters most to them. When cities partner with Citizenvestor their programs are verified and it allows those donations to be tax deductible. GovLoop says municipalities which have used the platform have seen greater communication and collaboration between residents and their governments.

Holiday Park Dog Park- Fort Lauderdale, Florida

A Fort Lauderdale citizens recognized a need for a dog park in her neighborhood. She worked with the city council to obtain signatures to petition for the park, met with the council within 48 hours and established Citizenvestor as the crowdfunding source to use. The city raised $81,730 from 51 citizenvestors to construct the park.

Growing Plants and Lives @ Library – Newton, Catawba County, NC

The Catawba County library successfully raised $4,860 from 25 citizenvestors to begin a community garden aimed at growing healthy food, encouraging learning, and providing fruits and vegetables to citizens in need.


Bike Racks- Sunset Beach, NC

Sunset Beach, NC has raised $390 out of its required $648 to purchase and install a new seven-bike rack to be installed at one of its public beach access points, one of many it hopes to install. The city has 29 more days to connect with citizens and encourage donations.

Pawnee, Indiana and Citizinvestor from Citizinvestor on Vimeo.

Leslie Knope and Pawnee’s Department of Parks and Recreation explain why Citizinvestor is needed in municipalities across the U.S.

Crowdfunding is just one way to engage citizens who are already motivated to help their community, and it shows which projects have the community’s support. It is a low risk venture because projects are not pursued unless completely funded. As with many engagement strategies, this relies on citizens who are already invested in their communities, but it doesn’t reach everyone. Municipalities working with Citizenvestor need to insure they are engaging their full audience. Perhaps those citizens who are motivated to participate in this experience can act as liaisons between governments and those under-served populations.


Geofeedia: Real-Time, On-Location Social Media Interaction

Geofeedia offers location-based social media monitoring with a wide range of applications, particularly in crisis and disaster situations and large public demonstrations and events. Geofeedia’s software allows users to specify a geographic region, state, zip code, country, or area of interest. Then, they are able to pull location data from users on social media to show real-time what issues are being tweeted, shared on Facebook, shown on Instagram, and more. This is a unique software in that it requires no separate software or application – it pulls publicly shared geotagged social media posts from a variety of networks that people are already using.

The product also offers analysis, instant updates, a “feed” similar to Pinterest showing posts, analysis, and archiving and security for the geographic data. You can even set a location and then search by topic!

Some of the most relevant public service applications for this technology are in public safety. Ways Geofeedia has been used include crisis management (active shooter scenarios, where emergency managers can visually track social media posts to see the location of hostages and/or perpetrators); disaster management (location of fallen trees, flooding, or people in need of assistance); and crowd management (one popular Geofeedia project was showing, in real-time, the social media posts of demonstrators during 2014-2015 revolts in the Middle East).

In addition to uses in the public sector, the technology has been used for projects as diverse as ensuring corporate security of intellectual property and selling products to people in the Mall of America. Each week, a “Weekly Content Roundup” demonstrates some of their public uses – this week, the feed focused on events as diverse as the Tour de France, the Chick-Fil-A Cow Appreciation Day, severe flooding in Kentucky, the NAACP Convention, and Cincinnati’s MLB All-Star Game.

Star Weekend. POTUS_at_NAACP_2015

EngagementHQ: A comprehensive engagement strategy

EngagementHQ is a comprehensive engagement tool used by a variety of government jurisdictions, private corporations, and NGOs across five countries. It is a digital toolbox aimed at collecting feedback from, interacting with, and listening to organization stakeholders. The site boasts thousands of engagement campaign success stories since its inception in 1998. Hosted by Bang the Table, EngagementHQ’s platform is advertised to be simple, integrative, and fully supported by trained community engagement specialists.

While the site offers solutions for anyone from an elected official, to an executive, to the IT strategy team, the most interesting suite of tools for this class is for the community engagement specialist. If an organization chooses to use EngagementHQ it is given the option of nine community engagement tools or any combination of the nine. The tools include:

  • Discussion forums
  • Q&A
  • Mapper
  • Surveys
  • Stories
  • Guest book
  • Quick polls
  • Submissions manager
  • Brainstormer

One of the great things about EngagementHQ is that it actually uses its own tool kit; engagement in action. Users can log-in and participate in the brainstorming sessions, surveys, polls, and other tools to provide feedback on how EngagementHQ is working for their organizations, ways to improve, what they like or dislike.

In addition to the myriad tools available to stakeholders, EngagementHQ has a suite of analytics which gather data from the feedback tools used by organizations. The software processes the information and organizes it according to specifications set by the organization. This makes it easier for users to identify useful data or feedback and decide how to use it in their own engagement strategies.

The site does say EngagementHQ has worked with organizations in the United States, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia, but the only examples provided on the site were in Australia and New Zealand.

     Sydney City Council- Public Arts Plan

As part of a city transformation plan in Sydney, Australia, the Sydney City Council collected feedback from the community regarding three artworks selected by the Council’s Public Art Advisory Panel. Sydney used EngagementHQ’s discussion forum to share information about the project with community members, answer questions, provide a timeline, and encourage conversation around the Arts Plan. The forum was integrated into Syndey’s Your Say site, providing a space for community members to share their thoughts in a transparent and mediated way.

The Sydney Council received feedback or votes from just under 200 people, had 9,000 site visitors, and 1,500 people explored the specific content. The city is now working on a design development process and plans to begin construction in 2017.

Australian National Disability Insurance Scheme

Disabled people are the largest minority across Australia as well as one of the most disadvantaged in terms of community participation. The Australian Productivity Commission of the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA) put forth a new mechanism to improve the quality of life of those living with disabilities by putting decision-making power back in their hands.

The FaHCSIA used EngagementHQ to create an online portal for families, caregivers, and disabled to share their stories, participate in discussion, and view videos and news. The purpose of the portal was to collect compelling stories which would help frame the context for major policy reform, eventually leading to bipartisan support for a proposed policy addressing disability services in the country.

The portal collected hundreds of stories and thousands of people across the country used it to gather stories and additional information about the proposed policy. The policy is now in a trial phase and is being implemented in various places across Australia.