Web portals may offer a public face to many organizations, while in-depth applications can also add to their usefulness.

For Mississauga, Ont.’s eCity project, expansion and longevity were key considerations.

“”This is one part of a long journey, in a sense,”” says Sven Tretrop, the city’s

portal project manager.

So far, an internal content management system has been implemented and a revamp of the city’s job postings is in the works, says Gary Williams, a consultant with the project.

Debugging required

Getting a common look and feel for internal and external Web publishing across all departments took a bit of debugging effort, but ultimately worked out well, he says.

“”That was a big step to get to.””

Beginning in late 2001, planners put together the business case for eCity, issuing a request for proposals in May 2002.

There was a lot of competition for the contract, Tretrop says.

“”We ended up getting 15 different bids, very strong bids, from vendors.””

Bell Canada won out, and in late 2002 began working on eCity. The project went live last November.

“”We made sure we had a tight RFP so that we could consider each one side by side, vendor by vendor,”” Tretrop says. Bell’s proposal was unique, he adds, describing how the telco brought in other specialized vendors through an application service provider approach.

The project, built and managed by Bell, is hosted by a third party, with round-the-clock monitoring and auditing ensuring that service levels agreed upon can be maintained.

“”We can sort of treat it as a black box from the technical point of view to a great extent,”” Tretrop says.

Initially, the project cost $650,000 for the first year, with subsequent years running $150,000 to $200,000 annually, Williams says.

Upcoming features will see online capabilities allowing residents to apply for jobs with the city online and pay outstanding parking tickets.

In the longer term, the municipality will move its intranet to the eCity platform, consolidating its internal and external operations.

Apart from a few software glitches, the major challenge has had to do with people, according to Williams.

“”The whole change management process,”” was a challenge, he recalls. “”It was such a step away from what we used to do.””

Previously, staff developed Web content through editing software and HTML coding. Now the system generates templates automatically, taking care of the more technical side of things, Williams says. “”In the long run it was better for the city, as they (staff) could focus on their message rather than making their page look pretty.””

Missisauga has big plans for its eCity portal, including online recruiting, self-service tax filing, traffic updates and mapping tools, says Gary Williams, a consultant with the project. “”It’s an ongoing process.””

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