Serving the people of the US Virgin Islands (USVI) is behind everything I do as the Chief Information Officer of the Government of the US Virgin Islands. It’s a big challenge. There are significant obstacles to providing efficient government services to constituents across our four main islands (St. Croix, St. John, St. Thomas, and Water Island) and the other islands that make up our territory. When I joined the USVI, the Governor had issued a mandate to improve services throughout its 23 agencies. We needed to reduce bureaucracy and red tape. I believe IT can play a big role in transforming our processes to achieve more citizen-centric services and demonstrate that we are putting taxpayers’ money to good use. So my mission became to change the culture of computing at USVI by incorporating innovative technology solutions to facilitate the business of government. I selected Office 365 to help me accomplish this goal.
One of our departments used a Yahoo email account, while some agencies had signed up for Google accounts to avoid the cost of maintaining on-premises email solutions. Disparate messaging services impacted inter-office communications. Faced with these issues, I realized that cloud-based business productivity tools would solve a lot of our problems.
As a government entity, we are concerned about data security and privacy, but I felt confident that storing our data at Microsoft datacenters would be as secure as managing it on-premises. Microsoft is transparent about where our data is stored. We’ve been able to maintain our data security at the highest standard because our cloud solution complies with federal standards such as HIPAA, FISMA, and CJIS, which is a big reason why we chose Office 365 over competing cloud solutions.
And when it came to business productivity, there was an opportunity for cloud-based solutions to help as well. It used to take approximately six months to approve a vendor contract; with SharePoint Online, we expect it to take only a few days. Previously, this inefficiency reduced our credibility, discouraging some of the best vendors from even responding to our requests for proposal (RFP). Now we use Office 365 to complete the proposal process through an efficient, digital workflow that routes documents among different agencies for processing and then to the Governor’s office for final approval. Today, we are developing relationships with the best vendors to provide better services and improve the value of our taxpayers’ dollars. And when we go through the RFP process, we’ll store our documents online and make them available to the public and the legislature in a way that complies with the new transparency in government act (Act 7408) that became law in September 2012.
We are accelerating business in agencies across the government to drive productivity and achieve a more efficient use of money and resources. As an example, the Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs (DLCA) uses Office 365 to expedite the issuance of business licenses from weeks down to a few days. Previously, the field inspection process used by staff and police officers of the DLCA Enforcement Division used to take several weeks. Now, with Office 365, it takes just a few days.
Now that we have videoconferencing capabilities, we can cut down on the amount of time and money expended in traveling between islands to conduct business meetings. However, when I have to fly to St. Thomas to meet with the Governor, I can stay productive waiting for the seaplane or in the air by accessing and syncing my Office documents on my Surface Pro or my smartphone.
Today, USVI is one step closer to providing more efficient government services. That’s because we deployed cloud-based business productivity tools that agencies use to break down the barriers that impeded communication and collaboration. Today, the government works as a more efficient, professional, and customer-dedicated organization. It’s a lot easier to communicate and arrange meetings because we all have the same email and calendaring service. Because everyone uses the same tools to collaborate on business processes, we are no longer a disparate group of agencies operating at different levels of productivity. And the feedback from employees has been overwhelmingly positive, driving momentum as we continue to achieve our goal of providing superior services to our citizens.
The Technologies Involved
USVI standardized on Microsoft Exchange Online for email and calendaring services. Government employees use Microsoft SharePoint Online to automate manual business workflows, such as the RFP process. Staffers are reducing travel time between islands with web conferencing enabled by Microsoft Lync Online.
For more detail, don’t miss the Government of the US Virgin Islands Office 365 case study.
By: D. Molloy, Director of the Bureau of Information Technology and Chief Information Technology Officer for the Government of the US Virgin Islands.