Online Government: The Power of Digital Agendas

agendas-minutes-sunshineNow that we’re well into the online age, putting your paper agenda online is a necessity due to citizen demand, state statute, or open government initiatives. So, you save it to PDF, give it to IT and they manually post it on the website: a tedious process to start with. But all that’s being accomplished is putting it online, which is what numerous municipalities have been doing since the mid-Nineties, nearly twenty years ago. Digital agendas today should be more than just copies of paper agendas, and the process by which they are published online should be effortless and instantaneous.

What is a Digital Agenda?

Your paper agenda should be something that you can be proud of. It looks great: cover page with a large color logo, bold headers, indented notes, and numbered agenda items. It’s primarily tradition that defines the paper formatting, but, when you create an online version of it – a digital paperless agenda -you’ve put it in a richer environment. Keyword searches are immediately available and anyone with an internet connection can view it. But, what about all of the other capabilities now available? What about the most basic function of the internet, hyperlinks?

With Granicus’ Legislative Management Suite, links will be added to the PDF agenda report, creating a linked packet. This will further improve the digital copy over your paper one by creating a linked agenda packet where all related information is just a single click away. This is alone is a huge leap beyond what most municipalities provide online.

Digital Agenda Optimization

Checking your bank account online gets you all the same information in your monthly snail mail statement, but formatted for a computer screen; it doesn’t have the same page headers, footers, contact numbers, fine print, new service announcements, etc. This same goes for your cell phone, tax statements, parking tickets and anything else you access online. The reason for this is simple: information formatted to fit onto a piece of paper doesn’t take advantage of online capabilities. There is no need for page breaks, a cover page, or large white boarders. Blank space between lines, crucial for readability on paper, becomes more of a hindrance. Supplementary information takes up space when it should be hyperlinked.

So why have banks, phones and parking tickets been moved to an optimized digital format while our agendas and minutes have not? Because, those things have been stored in a database allowing for a program to easily create those optimized screens. With a complete legislative management system tracking your agenda items, approvals, agendas, and minutes, you too can present information on the web that goes beyond a picture of a piece of paper. Without a complete system, you’re doing this all manually and you have to start asking how much money would be saved if it were done automatically.

Plus, let’s not forget, having a back-end system managing your agenda provides built-in tracking and search of your legislative items. These features are extremely helpful for staff and citizens trying to follow the legisltaive process.

Online Simplicity and Accessibility

This is where Granicus’ exclusive Meeting Details page comes in: this is the advent of the next generation digital agenda. Automatically created by the system, this page will have a fraction of the amount of space to scroll through, allowing users to see a much greater portion of the meeting on their screen at any one time. In addition to the formatting benefits this screen offers a bevy of features:

  • Users control whether section headers (Call to order, Invocation, Adjournment) are shown or if they just want to have the action items displayed
  • Functions as a one stop shop for both the agenda and minutes with the actions, roll call, votes, discussion, and streaming video indexes added to the page as those become available
  • Each item links to packet information as well as a complete history of actions taken on that item, links to the video of the discussion for each of those actions, previous versions of the text of the item, and other related data
  • Links to the PDF or HTML copies of your paper agendas as well as any other attached documents associated with your meeting
  • Exporting the data on the page to multiple formats, including Word, Excel, and PDF
  • Grouping of the agenda items by type so that if resolutions or appointments are scattered throughout a meeting a constituent can view those lines together rather than needing to hunt for them

Having a digitally optimized agenda will only become more important as we progress in the computer age. The popularity of tablets and other mobile devises has accelerated the demand for agendas to be provided in a non-paper format. It’s an important step for your municipality to consider how much more your digital agenda could and should be as you expand your web services to match the ever increasing technical nature of your constituents.

Examples of Granicus detail pages in action:

City of Pittsburgh
City of Long Beach
Cherokee Nation

Next Steps:

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