PbgFl.com has been recognized by Juggle as one of the top city government websites in the state of Florida. Below you'll find an interview with Matthew Doherty, Software Systems Manager for the City of Palm Beach Gardens.
- Pbgfl.com is a top-notch web portal; what has been your role in its development?
I am responsible for all City software solutions, part of that included creating and maintaining the City’s website. At first, the site was somewhat static. Only a few modifications were made each week. As the web portal solution became more popular, I quickly found that the majority of my days were spent updating the site and I no longer had time to focus on the City’s software projects. I was then selected to manage a team of City employees charged with selecting a content management solution for our web portal. The goal was to empower each City department to make modifications to their web pages without IT intervention, freeing up my time to work on City software projects and empowering the City departments to get their content on the web immediately. The team evaluated a number of different companies and chose Qscend Technologies, Inc. to provide this service. Our Public Relations department worked with Qscend to design the ‘look and feel’.
- Can you summarize the history of Palm Beach Gardens' web portal?
Our first web portal was published in 1999. We have gone through 4 major revisions since then, adding several online services along the way. The content management solution was implemented in the fall of2008.
- What are the overarching objectives of Palm Beach Gardens' current e-government initiatives?
Our main goal is to offer our citizens the ability to do business with the City whenever it’s most convenient to them. Online applications have also allowed us to increase the level of service we provide despite having fewer resources to work with due to budget cuts.
- From a marketing standpoint, what are some of the strategies that you have utilized to draw attention to the information and services provided by Pbgfl.com, both on- and off-line?
Our web address is published on all official City correspondence, all of our City vehicles have bumper stickers with the address, and we reference it with our portable variable message boards. Our telephone ‘on hold’ message references the City’s web portal and our public advisory radio station directs listeners to pbgfl.com. All email distribution lists contain links to web portal content referenced in the email.
- How has citizen feedback influenced the development of Palm Beach Gardens' e-government services?
Over the years we surveyed our citizenry requesting feedback about what they’d like to see from a web portal. We began back in 2000 offering Council agendas and meeting minutes, and have expanded over the years to include services such as audio files of meetings, building permit services, business license renewals, activity registrations, promotional videos, etc. We are planning to offer online job applications in the fall of this year. We are also planning to convert all of our paper-based forms in all departments to electronic versions that can be submitted directly into our internal systems, which will drastically reduce the amount of time it takes to exchange information with the public.
- What is the most-used feature or service on the site?
Most of the traffic is directed towards our Recreation department. Our citizens have the ability to sign up for athletic events, golf, summer camp, education classes, etc. online. We also get a lot of traffic to our online building permit section, where users can schedule inspections and view the status of their permits.
- When developing your city's web portal, what were some of the obstacles that had to be overcome? How did you manage to surmount them?
Up until 2008, the IT department was responsible for updating all of our online content. The departments would send us their requests via email, and we would edit and upload the content manually. We needed to make the end user responsible for posting their departmental content. We were able to do this by purchasing and implementing a content management system in 2008.
- In what ways has social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc) allowed you to connect more directly and personally with the citizens of Palm Beach Gardens?
Use of Facebook, Twitter, and electronic newsletter subscriptions have helped us disseminate information about City events and other important information we want to share with the public. This social media enables us to provide ‘teasers’ with links bringing visitors directly to the content on our site they are interested in, eliminating the need for someone to search for it.
- Where do you see e-government heading in the next 2-3 years? Are there any exciting new features or services currently in the works for Palm Beach Gardens' web portal?
We are looking into developing more online services including mobile applications enabling customers to interact with the City via smartphone. With the rapid changes in technology, we are constantly making modifications to our infrastructure in order to adapt as quickly as our customers expect us to.
- What else that you would like to tell us about Pbgfl.com?
We’re always looking to improve the site and the things we offer to our citizens. The more services and information we offer online, the more efficient the process, which in turn saves taxpayer money.