I'm a huge fan of eGovernment and Government 2.0 initiatives. A few years ago we started seeing government sites adopting open data initiatives and adding features that allowed the public to provide more feedback to the government that served them. Changes such as these are good initiatives by governments as they continue their evolution into the digital age. Recently, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts redesigned their official website, Mass.gov, using the Percussion CM System.
Before I begin, let me confess that I don't know much about Percussion Software beyond what I read in their press releases. In fact, you'll find that some of the information here came straight out of one of their press releases and you'll want to continue your research beyond what I've written here. However, personal experience has shown me that any redesign work done with government websites is hard work with my hurdles to cross. So after I took a look at the Mass.gov site, it didn't take much arm twisting from Percussion's marketing people to go beyond my comfort level and talk about a product I really should know a whole lot more about.
The Mass.gov portal has served internal and external customers for nearly 10 years and the site has historically organized and aggregated more than 250,000 pages of critical information according to user needs, not government structure. It has been the front door for residents, businesses, visitors and government organizations to find what they need from state government without having to know where to go for it. Mass.gov had some specific reasons for why they wanted to redesign their site.
Customer demands, as well as availability of newer technology options were the motivators to reassess our options. Customers were telling us that they wanted websites that made it easier to find what they need and were very readable. In addition to being driven by customer feedback, our aging suite of proprietary software was hampering our ability to improve Mass.Gov. The content management platform was highly complex, expensive and very difficult to maintain and enhance. Frustrated content contributors viewed the system as hard to use and it limited their ability to flexibly add video, audio, and other new media types that customers were asking for.
One of the biggest difficulties for government IT shops is the ability to just start something "fresh" and ignoring the content found in legacy systems. One of the missions of government is "continuity" of products and services. This is why you often governments not replacing their legacy systems but finding a way to fuse new systems with older systems. So, I'm not surprised that Mass.gov would consider using Percussion's CM System software or similar capable portal for their redesign project.
Percussion CMS System is intended for organizations with diverse technical requirements, legacy or custom web applications, a strong development team, and the need to make it all work together.
CM System uses standards-based technologies that ensure that our customers have ultimate freedom to customize, extend, and integrate the platform according to their needs. Whether your organization is one-hundred percent Java, a .NET shop, or running Cold Fusion and PHP apps side by side, CM System will map to your existing technologies rather than convert them.
With Percussion CM System, Mass.gov has streamlined its content delivery process, offering a sleeker, contemporary redesign of web pages with improved navigation and organization of content that enhances usability and engagement with its constituents. In addition, Percussion’s software provides the Commonwealth with a less costly and more efficient content publishing engine that meets security, scalability, and continuity requirements. The Commonwealth’s over 300 content authors have a more usable system for producing content, and the agility to implement new and enhanced website features in response to the public’s future demands.
Mass.gov chose Percussion’s CM System in part due to its scalability and speed to deliver the hundreds of thousands of pages the Massachusetts State Government requires. Percussion was able to meet the State’s business performance requirement, that as many as 40,000 pages (75,000 content assets) could be modified and published in fewer than 30 minutes, and in real-time for emergencies or for other public information alerts.
“Citizens are seeking to engage with their government online and have a deeper expectation for their government sites, it is no longer enough to simply offer a transaction-based government portal,” said Joseph Wykes, president of Percussion Software. “Mass.gov has created a model for other states, and state agencies by delivering a highly useable, scalable and cost-effective website that ensures its many visitors can quickly find the important information they need to live and conduct business in the state, and take action based on that information.”
I'm not sure Percussion CM System would be a perfect fit for everyone, but it definitely is a product worth considering if you're working for a project intended for large organizations. I would bet that Massachusetts' Portal Advisory Board which advises Mass.Gov on strategy, policy and priorities weighed their options very carefully before choosing Percussion over their competitors. I'm interested to see has Mass.gov utilizes the software in introducing new features to the site given that one of their goals for the redesign was "increased agility to implement new and enhanced website features in response to the public’s future demands". I think this would be the criteria in future to determine whether the redesign was a success or not.
Bryan Ruby is the owner and editor for CMS Report. He founded CMSReport.com in 2006 on the belief that information technologists, website owners, and web developers desired visiting sites where they could learn about content management systems without the sales pitch. Besides this site, you can follow Bryan at Google+ and Twitter.