SaaS solutions help local governments offer better, more flexible services to their residents. If recent developments are any indication, partnerships between tech innovators and City Hall will transform the way people think about public services.
In the not-so-distant past, government operations were restrained by paper, pens, and filing cabinets. Running a whole city or county using these methods required considerable person-power.
Meanwhile, another paradigm was taking shape in the digital world. Fast and easy document transfer arrived in the early days of the internet, followed closely by software designed to qualify and process these documents.
However, in many cities, government did not embrace the emerging tech.
Now, with the advent of the cloud, government processes have been given a new pathway to the digital age, one that avoids the traditional roadblocks associated with public sector innovation. By partnering with SaaS (software as a service) companies, governments have a unique opportunity to reduce administrative costs and provide more services to their constituents.
#1. SaaS Is Easy to Customize
Many government websites and systems suffer from inflexible design. Once a website or application is custom-built, it can be immensely difficult to update it to accept new features or accommodate changing user habits — even small, seemingly inconsequential ones.
Today’s SaaS applications support simple application configuration, which allows users to alter the parameters that affect the system’s functionality. This kind of support makes it easier to alter pages, develop pages for new tasks, and even change the user experience and look and feel of a page without a ground-up redesign.
In short, this means SaaS web applications are designed to be flexible, so they don’t need fresh code to be customized for new tasks.
One simple example: If a government updated their logos and letterhead, just changing these marks on inflexible web applications would require IT knowledge. But check out Newark, NJ’s Copy of Birth Record request, where the Vital Statistics Bureau included the City’s logo and contact info on the left-hand side of the form.
#2. SaaS Products Are Continually Optimized
SaaS applications are updated more frequently than traditional software, allowing for new features and upgrades to be delivered nearly instantaneously. You can thank the cloud for this. How is it possible?
- The application is hosted centrally in the cloud, so your SaaS provider can make updates without physically touching your servers or other local systems.
- The base application has only a single configuration, speeding up development and testing.
- As a result, there are no backdated versions of the software to maintain, because there is only a single version.
- The SaaS company can remotely leverage web analytics to identify areas worthy of improvement.
#3. SaaS Products Easily Integrate with Existing Systems
One of the reasons that transitioning to web-based applications has been difficult for governments is that their legacy systems store large amounts of important information. Implementing a new system means migrating over all of the information from the last system — and that can be a real challenge.
Thankfully, many SaaS applications offer integration protocols and application programming interfaces (APIs) that make it simple to combine data from multiple sources while offering the functionality of a modern web-based application.
Government has been steadily innovating since we entered the SaaS space in 2011. When we first started offering digital form solutions, reliance on legacy processes was commonplace. The concept of the “cloud” was foreign to most government employees. Now, the growing popularity of SaaS solutions in local government is redefining what a single city clerk or small staff in a rural town can do for their citizens.
Jonathon Ende is part of the GovLoop Featured Contributor program, where we feature articles by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Contributor posts, click here.