John Flanagan Joins SDL to Lead New Sites Platform

NEW: SDL Sites, the Easy-to-Manage Municipal Website Package

SDL is happy to announce that John Flanagan has joined us to lead the new SDL Sites product line. SDL Sites is a website platform optimized for municipalities, which also integrates seamlessly with the SDL Portal to provide a custom web experience. SDL Sites is easy to deploy and maintain, with no technical knowledge required.

With your SDL Enterprise License agreement, packages include free hosting, technical support, unlimited storage and bandwidth and an easy-to-use, open-source Content Management System.

Click here to learn more about SDL Sites.

 

About John: John Flanagan has always been an entrepreneur, opening his first business at 10 years old. At 18 he launched Flanagan Productions and was awarded his first local government contract. It was this contract that ignited his passion for government communications.

Five years ago, John saw the need for a simple, streamlined system to create and maintain government websites. In 2015, he established GovSites to address that demand.

In August of 2018, John agreed to join SDL and lead the SDL Sites product line, bringing a passion and dedication for bridging the gap between local government and residents.

John holds a degree in Broadcast Communications from Montclair State University. In his spare time he and his wife enjoy traveling with his wife and training their future therapy dog. John will be with SDL at the NJ League of Municipalities in November and looks forward to meeting you.

SDL Portal Videos – New Features for Fall, 2018

Sometimes video speaks louder than words. Today’s blog includes three to show you what’s new on the SDL Portal.

While many of us enjoyed vacations this summer, the Portal development team put in long hours to create handy improvements and clever new features. The results make life easier for both users and those employed by towns who have Portals.

New Portal Request Pages

Newly-designed landing pages help users get to the right place quickly and easily. Interactive maps, search functions, hints and drop-down boxes help ensure that submissions are right the first time, eliminating the frustrating delays caused by missing or incorrect data. Check out the first video to see for yourself how your residents can apply for permits, register licenses and much more online. (Tip: see the scrolling list of pages at 0:10… you might get ideas from seeing how other towns squeeze extra value out of their Portals):

New Building Permit Features

A new layout and new workflow make things easy for residents who dread the permit process. The Portal walks each user down the most straightforward path to a complete and error-free permit application, saving multiple trips to town hall.

Drop-down boxes make the application process faster and easier than ever before. A built-in cost estimate calculator minimizes errors, and required forms are both identified and included. Check it all out in this video!

New Workflow – Example in 60 Seconds

Things get done quickly on the SDL Portal. As an example, the next video follows a landlord registering herself with the town as the point of contact for a property… in one minute. This includes adding a photo, reading the email notification and a quick look at notification options:

NJAFM 2018 Annual Conference

SOMERSET, NJ – October 10, 2018 – Spatial Data Logic will be in Atlantic City next week exhibiting at the New Jersey Association for Floodplain Management 14th Annual Conference. If you’re planning to attend, be sure to stop by. We have some news, and we’re sure you’ll want an update!

SDL’s Jack Flood will be presenting two technical sessions. On Wednesday the 24th, stop by to hear about the Challenges of Maintaining Up-to-Date GIS Data. The following day, Jack will discuss the Challenges of Avoiding Perceived Conflicts of Interest with Building Permits.

The conference will be held at Bally’s on Tuesday, October 23rd through Thursday, October 25. The full agenda for the conference can be found here.

For more information regarding the conference, visit the NJAFM 14th Annual Conference website.

SDL is Attending the 2018 Building Safety and Design Expo

SOMERSET, NJ – October 9, 2018 – Spatial Data Logic will be in Richmond, Virginia next week for the Building Safety and Design Expo. The 2018 conference will be held at the Greater Richmond Convention Center on Sunday, October 21 and Monday, October 22.

If you’re going to be at the expo, make sure you stop by to learn about all the new services SDL has in store! SDL can be found at Booth 102.

Sunday’s expo hours will be between 2:00 pm and 6:30 pm and Monday’s hours will be between 11:00 am and 7:00 pm. For more information regarding the conference, visit the Building Safety and Design Expo website.

Westfield Upgrades to SDL Enterprise License

SOMERSET, NJ – October 1, 2018 – The Town of Westfield, of Union County, has recently decided to upgrade to the SDL Enterprise License. The Enterprise License will allow Westfield the usage of SDL Mobile, SDL Portal and SDL Citizen, in addition to their current use of the SDL Desktop software.

With SDL Mobile, town inspectors have the ability to start, update and complete inspections from in the field, while syncing all data in real-time to the SDL Desktop. The SDL Portal provides township administrators, employees and citizens instant and easy access to town data, maps and requests. Township citizens also have the ability to access data and submit requests from the newly released SDL Citizen app.

Westfield has been a client of SDL’s since 2003, when they chose to deploy the software throughout multiple municipal offices. Currently they will be utilizing the software within the Building, Land Use, Code Enforcement, Assessor, Engineering, Public Works and Utilities offices. We are thrilled to continue working with Westfield and we are looking forward to assisting them with this expansion.

Readington Upgrades to SDL Enterprise License

SOMERSET, NJ – September , 2018 – The Township of Readington, of Hunterdon County, has recently upgraded to the SDL Enterprise License. With the Enterprise License, Readington will now have access to SDL Mobile, SDL Portal and SDL Citizen, in addition to their current use of the SDL Desktop software.

With the SDL Mobile app, Readington will be able to give their inspectors the ability to start, update and complete inspections from in the field. The SDL Portal will provide their township administrators, employees and citizens instant and easy access to municipal data, maps and requests. Citizens also have the ability to access data and submit requests from the Portal and from the SDL Citizen app.

Readington has been a client of SDL since 2013, and will be continuing the use of the software within multiple departments, including Building, Land Use, Code Enforcement and Fire Prevention. We are very happy to continue working with Readington and we are looking forward to assisting them with this expansion of their software and the launch of SDL Portal and SDL Mobile.

Software: Ready-to-Use vs. Custom-Made

More than a few years ago, I started what was to become a lifetime career in technology. My first job as an engineer was in aerospace avionics, where a senior colleague told me a story from his own early career working on the original F-14 Tomcat fighter jet.

After months of hard work, his team reviewed a prototype design with some experienced Navy pilots who hoped to fly the aircraft. Five minutes into the presentation, the pilots asked about a particular feature.

There was an awkward silence from the presenter. After a few seconds, he said, “Umm… nobody told us this was a requirement.” One of the pilots shot back, “Why would they? Everybody knows that’s a requirement.”

This summarizes the problem with custom software. A software team can be software experts, but they can never be experts at the end users’ jobs. This is especially true when designing municipal management software for our home state of New Jersey, where each of our 565 local governments has its own way of doing everything.

The “Framework Problem”

To understand why custom software development seems to always take longer than planned, you should understand how software is developed. First comes the framework on which functionality will be built. To use a construction project analogy, the framework is the foundation on which a building will eventually stand.

Once the framework is developed (which can take weeks or months), it’s time to develop the functionality itself. When a prototype is running developers sit down with users for “alpha testing” or “User Acceptance Testing”.

Here’s the big problem… very often, a custom software project gets to this point without anyone realizing that a critical required feature is missing. What seems obvious to users may not be obvious to developers. During testing, an experienced user might ask about a missing critical feature. If everyone is lucky, it can be fixed with a few new lines of code.

But not everyone is so lucky. Frequently, an alpha tester finds a critical missing feature that requires a fundamental change to the framework as well as all the software built on that now-obsolete framework. If it’s October and you discover that you need a framework change, the software you planned to use next January might not be available until August.

The “Support Problem”

At some point, every software user needs a little guidance. When municipal employees need it, they usually need it in a hurry. That’s not possible with custom-built software.

Even if your software was developed using the best possible design discipline, where every nuance is sufficiently documented, support team personnel can never become “experts”. There are no frequently asked questions, knowledge bases nor top-of-the-head answers. Support people wind up slogging through masses of technical documentation, looking for clues. That’s if they’re lucky; custom software documentation is often skimpy, to put it mildly. It’s not uncommon for technical support answers to take days, and some can take a week or more for satisfactory resolution.

The “Evolution Problem”

Here’s a quick question for anyone who’s worked in a municipal government department for five years or more: do you perform your job the same way today that you did five years ago? The answer here is exclusively, “no”.

Municipal governments evolve constantly due to changes at the state level, to resource and staffing issues, to changing expectations from residents and councils, and a hundred other factors. This is a problem when you’re depending on custom software.

If you’re paying “custom software” prices, it’s because you needed a unique software architecture. If yours is truly a custom architecture, some of the fundamental functionality is “hard-coded” into it. That’s why process changes can lead to unpredictably expensive software modification projects. Nobody ever built a solid governmental career by presenting unanticipated four- and five-figure expenditures for approval.

The Solution

The key to stable, cost-effective software is an architecture designed to address any combination of requirements rather than a particular set of requirements. An architecture like this offers significant advantages to buyers and users alike:

  • While development is more expensive, those costs are amortized over several years and many clients, and the end user’s price per function is lower.
  • Clients are never “alpha testers”. The platform can evolve and be used in new ways, but this never requires large-scale architecture changes. User-requested tweaks occur in minutes or hours instead of weeks or months.
  • Support teams can be trained on a single platform and learn the details of the modular applications built on it. Support people build up expertise and share it with teammates, so questions can be answered in minutes instead of hours or days.
  • The larger architecture investment enables lower costs, faster deployment and more stable products when peripheral apps (e.g. mobile apps, web-based portal applications) are added to the platform. All apps can use the same data set; there’s no integration cost because there’s almost no integration. In the case of the SDL platform, these useful apps are included for free when a town deploys SDL Desktop.
  • Custom projects are often quoted with lead times of several months, and deployment cycles of up to a year and a half. The flexible SDL platform has been fully deployed (from a fresh start to productive usage) in a single week.
  • Finally, when process requirements suddenly change for a government team, the software can change just as quickly. When a licensing process is moved from one department to another, or when multiple users suddenly dream up a process change that makes their jobs more efficient, the software can change (sometimes in one day) without unexpected change notices and invoices.

One Last Analogy

Many of us use word processing software every day. We each configure it to our liking and choose features and workflows that make us most efficient, but many of us use the exact same application; it’s been proven, tested, debugged and has evolved over the years.

It’s theoretically possible to commission a custom-built word-processing program, but none of us will ever do that. We’d be waiting for months, we’d pay a stratospheric price to get something that’s impossible to change or support and we’d have no more functionality than we would have otherwise.

The same principles apply to municipal management software. No matter how unique your needs, a stable, cost-effective, supportable platform can be yours without resorting to custom solutions.

SDL Citizen – A Mobile App for Your Residents

Municipalities across the country are trying to deploy mobile technology for resident feedback and convenience. Did you know that this functionality (with a user-friendly interface) has been available to SDL clients for quite some time?

SDL clients who launch the SDL Citizen mobile app (free for users and included with most SDL municipal software packages) let their residents communicate with government the same way they communicate with merchants, friends and family. The video below shows how an SDL Citizen user reports a pothole in seconds… without having to type or text anything.

Even better, your SDL system can process that information however you want; it can automate notifications to appropriate departments, or route them to staff who will make assignments.

Better still, your SDL software can automatically notify everyone involved whenever something changes. And when citizens can help themselves, your staff can concentrate on more valuable matters.

If you use SDL Desktop in your government, the chances are that you’re a short (and nearly cost-free) step from more efficient government and offering your residents an efficient line of communication to it. To find out whether you have everything you need to deploy SDL Citizen, please contact SDL Support at:

732-357-1280
– or –
support@spatialdatalogic.com

Barrington Upgrades to SDL Enterprise License

SOMERSET, NJ – September 17, 2018 – The Borough of Barrington, of Camden County, has recently upgraded to the SDL Enterprise License. With the Enterprise License, Barrington will now have access to SDL Mobile, SDL Portal and SDL Citizen, in addition to their current use of the SDL Desktop software.

With the SDL Mobile app, Barrington will be able to give their inspectors the ability to start, update and complete inspections from in the field. The SDL Portal will provide their borough administrators, employees and citizens instant and easy access to municipal data, maps and requests. Citizens also have the ability to access data and submit requests from the Portal and from the SDL Citizen app.

Barrington has been a client of SDL since 2005, and will be continuing the use of the software within their Building, Land Use, and Code Enforcement offices. We are very happy to continue working with Barrington and we are looking forward to assisting them with this expansion of their software.

Westampton Township Selects SDL Enterprise License

SOMERSET, NJ – September 14, 2018 –  The Township of Westampton, of Burlington County, has recently selected the SDL Enterprise License for use throughout their municipality.  With the Enterprise License, Westampton will have access to all features of the SDL Municipal Management Software, including SDL Desktop, SDL Mobile, SDL Portal and the SDL Citizen app.

At this time, Westampton has chosen to launch the SDL software within multiple departments throughout their municipality, including Building and Public Works. We are very happy to have Westampton as a new client, and we look forward to working with them in the future and assisting with the implementation of their software.

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