City of Orlando: Soaring through the Cloud

Rosa Akhtarkhavari, CIO, City of Orlando
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Rosa Akhtarkhavari, CIO, City of Orlando

Orlando is one of the most recognized cities in the world. And while most of the recognition comes from our well known attractions, there is much more to Orlando. Ranked as a next-generation city, Orlando is a center for innovation, world-class medical research, technology, sports, entertainment and culture. Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and the City’s leadership team have made it a priority to expand the use of technology and provide timely information to support the City’s mission, “Enhance the quality of life in the City by delivering public services in a knowledgeable, responsive and financially responsible manner.”

"Enhance the quality of life in the City by delivering public services in a knowledgeable, responsive and financially responsible manner"

The City’s Information Technology strategy focuses on building a secure, standardized, simplified, scalable and sustainable IT operation that supports departmental strategic goals while meeting the City’s mission of being financially responsible. At the same time our IT team is faced with limited resources and increased demands for services. We are impacted by the economic downturn and decreased revenue. We find ourselves hiring a new generation of employees in our business units, where technology is part of how they think and do business. Finally, citizens and businesses have increasing expectations that they can access government information and services from anywhere with any device.

To address this pent up demand and create a sustainable ecosystem, we intensified our ongoing review of emerging technologies for their ability to enhance municipal operations and services. Of equal importance is separating the real from the unproven by identifying mature solutions based on needs and avoiding the trap of making changes because of influence or publicity. Staying current with best-fit engineering has corollary benefits of—attracting the right talent wishing to be part of an innovative, forward-looking government, and strengthening our ability to collaborate on best practices and lessons learned with other government agencies and industry experts.

In 2010, The City of Orlando’s first enterprise Cloud, multi-tenant Software as a Service experience was moving the City’s email system to the Cloud. The move of the email generated immediate value and acceptance by the City’s leadership and staff. The IT project team, over the next 18 months, continued their effort to simplify and optimize the solution’s integration with the City’s operation in a secure and sustainable manner.

In 2012 the City adopted the “Cloud first when applicable strategy”, thus enabling us to better satisfy pent-up demand, shift large project capital costs to more manageable operational budgets, build in elasticity and foster cost-effective, continuous improvement cycles as part of the solutions process.

Before selecting a solution we ensure that security and regulatory compliance needs are met, clients are ready to move to the Cloud and understand its significance, and the solution is ready to meet business requirements with a solid technology roadmap and investment in R&D. In selecting vendors the City focuses on building lasting, mutually beneficial partnerships. These hold greater value to us than transactional relationships.

Armed with this SaaS experience the City tested the use of IaaS by moving the City Internet and Intranet sites to hosted services, giving us additional experience working with multiple vendor partners to implement and support the new sites.

In 2013 the City partnered with Workday and signed a fixed cost contract to move the City’s Human Resources, Payroll and the full financial suite to the Cloud. This strategic partnership enabled the City to move away from legacy systems that, over the previous 25 years, had their core functionality augmented by custom solutions and manual processes. The systems were becoming increasingly expensive to maintain and exposed the City to risk of unrecoverable failure. The solution was implemented as a partnership between the City’s information technology and business leaders. Existing business processes were reviewed and re-engineered for efficiency, effectiveness and improved alignment with City mission. Significantly, City leadership and functional users were empowered to make informed decision through improved interaction and access to information. The system was implemented in three phases over 14 months and a fully operational ERP, integrated with existing applications, went live May 2014.

The City project team members accompanied our vendor partner throughout the implementation process, allowing the City staff to take ownership of their assigned function during and post implementation. The project used City tooling to fully manage the project and this has allowed us to retain organizational memory, decision processes and justifications as well as create a library of artifacts for reuse during update test/release cycles. We rely extensively on this library.

Looking to the Future

Much work remains. In the near term, the City must address the replacement of legacy systems such as our Economic Development suite and Police and Fire Computer Aided Dispatch systems. We continue to focus on delivery of City services and data transparency, for our citizens, visitors and businesses, from anywhere using any device. The City is looking to the Cloud for mobile application development, and to this end we are partnering with a local Orlando company and an industry leader in Mobile application development. The City is piloting a critical (Government-to-Consumer) application using the Kony Platform, and based on the result is expected to adopt Kony’s Platform as a Service as the City standard for developing internal and external mobile applications.

The City of Orlando has seen success with our Cloud first when applicable strategy. Nonetheless, we remain mindful of the importance of fundamental IT principles. These include partnering with City department, delivering successful project, IT governance, the need to measure IT success in terms of business value, defined enterprise architecture, having an accurate and comprehensive accounting of our configuration state, the ongoing need to promote innovation and continuous improvement.

The City of Orlando continues to embrace technology—the Cloud, Big Data, analytics, Internet of Things, and beyond.

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