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More Announcements Regarding our 2013 Main User Conference

As we near the big weekend for our Main User Conference in Kamloops, BC we've been busy putting together the final details.  With customers from Newfoundland to Washington State planning to attend it will undoubtedly be an extremely valuable experience from everyone taking part.  I'm excited today to release a few more details as the September 20th deadline for registration is quickly approaching! 

Keep Calm and Clerk On Amazing Race

No, you won't have to eat insects and unfortunately we don't have tickets for attendees to fly around the world either!  But we have organized a fun Amazing Race themed event for users that will take place throughout the conference.  You never know when your team might need to spring into action!  We also have some 'calming' prizes for the winning team.

Preview the Next Generation of iCompass Solutions

Our team of developers will be showing users some of the soon to be released upgrades to our solutions.  It's the ideal opportunity for attendees to provide feedback on the services they will using in the near future!

Keynote Speech - iCompass CEO Paulin Laberge

Our new CEO Paulin Laberge will share stories on how the qualities that make a good leader motivate others to do the same.

Apathy, or An Inability to Engage?

Is anybody actually reading these?

And if they are, you can’t expect the average person to actually be motivated to participate in a local government’s public engagement process.  In a TED Talk by Dave Meslin (video at the end of the blog) he effectively illustrates how ridiculous a Nike ad in this format would look. 

Now, It’s been a longstanding requirement in both Canada and the United States that public notices from the government be published, several times in some cases, in local newspapers.   But these laws were introduced during a time when newspapers were the major source of information and the previous way of informing citizens involved nailing a public notice to the front door of City Hall.

Local governments aren’t oblivious to this issue; many are starting to post more of this information online via their website or through social media.  But the average municipality is still spending $25,000 to $100,000 for larger organizations to publish incredibly ineffective ads that are often buried in the back of a newspaper’s classified section.  Data from the State of Maine shows they are spending about $500,000 annually to publish these notices in papers! 

Great Customer Service Exemplified

When we say iCompass has true 24/7/365 industry leading Grand Slam Customer Service well, we mean it.  Recently, our staff took the afternoon off to celebrate recent successes spending the day up at remote Lac Le Jeune.  Now a trip like this comes with a unique set of challenges for our Customer Success Team, namely, how to deliver top notch service when out in the wilderness away from the office, phones and Internet access.  The solution - to set up a mobile office should any issues arrive. 

With an iPad, iPhone, laptop and a great view of the lake from the beach, our team ensured that every single user who had a question received an answer immediately.  With remote access to our servers, and a tethered Internet connection everything ran smoothly. It just goes to show you how far technology has come and what a committed, knowledgeable team can accomplish when asked, how can you enjoy the beach while giving World Class Customer Service at the same time! 

The next question - why aren't we spending more days at the beach?

Browser Updates Don't Have to Mean Headaches

When using a cloud based service its key that you familiarize yourself with your browser and its different settings.  Your internet browser is one of the most valuable and critical tools you'll use, so when you get an update notification be sure to read the fine print!  A great example comes from that latest update of Internet Explorer from IE 9 to IE 10.   Now Internet Explorer is asking users for permission every time you copy and paste data.  It's frustrating for everyday internet users, but when building an agenda or writing a report as a local government/school district administrator on the cloud you'll go crazy dealing with this security feature.   The good news - you can turn this functionality off permanently following the steps below: 

User Conference Registration Now Open

We welcome users from across North America to join us for one of several User Conferences we are hosting across Canada this fall.  We will be holding one-day 'workshop' style conferences in Kingston, Richmond Hill and Hamilton Ontario as well as Calgary, Alberta.  Our main User Conference will be hosted in Kamloops from September 29th to October 1st.  These events are key for customers and for the team here at iCompass.   The educational and networking opportunities are invaluable!  You'll have fellow users, and iCompass staff in the same room with everyone working towards the same goal.  It's your chance to give us feedback and share your successes in a fun, educational setting.

Check out the registration information here, and we look forward to seeing you this fall! 


AgendaNotes: More Than Just a Paperless Agenda

The AgendaNotes iPad app is much more than just a tool to read your paperless agenda.  That's why I wanted to share a few of the many features that make the application shine! 

Elected Officials and Board Members

1) You Can View and Annotate an Agenda Offline. 

Download an agenda and attachments while connected to the Internet and stay logged in.  When you open the app offline you can annotate the agenda and save any changes you have made.

2) Stay Organized While Dealing with Several Meeting Types

Filter capabilities allow elected officials to sort out which type of meeting they are working on, whether it be Committee of the Whole, or a Regular Council Meeting.  This function makes comparing content from previous meetings far easier.

3) Email Capabilities

Email an attachment, or an entire agenda with annotations included.

Clerks and Board Secretaries

1) Privacy Settings

Control who can view published agendas by changing the security settings.

2) Online Publishing

You can publish agendas onto your website from the dashboard.  There's no additional formatting or hyperlinks required.

3) Instant Updates

Why You Need to Update Your Web Browser Now!

The Internet is always progressing and evolving - the evolution of Internet browsers plays a huge role in how you view every website.  Along with design and layout obstacles, there are many other issues to consider when using an out-of-date browser: security issues, various bugs, sluggish speeds, lack of features, and more often than not loss of functionality.

Websites and web applications are now being built for the 2012/2013 market using current trends.  Web designers are completely technology driven and are a creative kind; they always build for the times.  What this means is that most websites are now using new code languages and features that are unsupported by old, incompatible browsers.

Benefits of Updating Your Browser

  • Security: Updated browsers protect better against scams, viruses, trojans, phishing and other threats. They also fix security holes in your current browser!
  • Speed: With every new browser generation, your speed and page load time improve.
  • Compatibility: Websites using new code languages and features will be displayed more correctly. You won’t believe the difference if this is your first time updating!
  • Better Experience: With new features, extensions and better customizability, you will have a more enjoyable web-experience.

Take a couple of minutes to update your browser to ensure you are getting the most out of the Internet and your iCompass Services.

Open Government Canada vs. USA

Open government in Canada up to this point has been more about ideas, while the United States is now taking formative action. 

American President Barack Obama's recently released executive order, pushing local governments to further employ open government and open data initiatives, is enough for any municipal government staff member to take note. 

But what is happening in Canada?

The Federal Government's Open Data website is still in its infant stages although work is now underway to re-launch it with more innovative tools and an easier to navigate interface.  Furthermore, many Canadian local governments we speak to are still hesitant to become transparent and haven't yet warmed up to the concept of open data.  iCompass offers Council voting and attendance records publishing in our solutions, but often get asked to shut those features off because Council and staff aren't ready for that level of openness.   There's an underlying fear that more information equals more criticism.  In stark contrast, the majority of our American partners find the thought of not openly presenting Council information blasphemy. 

When Shouldn't I Share?

Social Media works best when information is free-flowing.  But that is easier said than done for local governments.  When I wrote this article for the International Institute of Municipal Clerks News Digest in February, I focused on 5 key factors local governments need to consider to ensure they are getting the most out of their social media presence.  The full details are in the article, but the 5 main points are:

  • Create a Corporate Account & Have 1 Person Manage It
  • Interact with the Community
  • Get Elected Officials Involved
  • Get Your Website Working For You
  • Move To a Paperless Meeting System

But after reading this article in the Toronto Star, I’ve come to realize I didn’t address the foundation for social media implementation and success ­– training & policy.   

The Toronto Councilor featured in this article used Facebook and Twitter to promote an ‘unpaid internship’ causing all sorts of controversy about whether or not it was legal to actually employ somebody in this manner.   Social media is crucial for transparency, but there is some added pressure to get it right when employed by a local government.  A couple of points to remember:

What School Boards Need to Know About Going Paperless

When I sit-down with Secretaries, Superintendents, and Chief Administrative Officers I find the line of questioning when it comes to paperless meetings varies significantly.  Every organization is a bit different, but there are some crucial points to focus on, that will ensure your transition is seamless.  Almost every board secretary I talk to understands immediately how much money, time and paper can be saved by going to a Paperless Meeting Management Solution, the trick is making sure everyone else understands too.  Here’s a taste of what to expect from my upcoming presentation at the Association of School Business Officials of Alberta (ASBOA) Conference. 

5 Things School Boards Must Know Before Going Paperless

1) What are the benefits? – Do some homework and make sure everyone inside your organization knows what’s to gain. 

2) Getting the Board on Board – How to get board members to buy-in.

3) Own It – Know the Tools of the Trade.  Every organization needs an expert.  Some who knows the technology, and where to go for questions. 

4) Security & Privacy – If I don’t have paper, where will the info be located?

5) Keep it Simple Schools! – My number one rule for a successful implementation!

I’m excited to have Wolf Creek School Division Secretary-Treasurer Joe Henderson and Greater St Albert Catholic Regional Division Secretary-Treasurer Deb Schlag joining me to add some of their insights.