Civic Plus Experience

Civic Plus is a cloud-based services solutions company offering website design and development, as well as HR, civic engagement, and emergency notification system solutions designed for government agencies. I've had the pleasure of working with this company and their products for the last two years. I'm sure their customer support center knows me by name now (and I have them on speed-dial). 

Many local, township, and county government agencies in the northern Illinois region have switched to Civic Plus in the last ten years and for good reason. Transition, design, and development from a previous website to a Civic Plus site is involved but relatively painless. The Village of Itasca went through this process and through an additional re-design process two years ago. 

I've been a rabid message board user, blogger, and website designer since I was a young teenager, so I know my way around FTP clients, content platforms, and dashboards of all sorts. My experience with Civic Plus so far can be split into three domains: content, site tools, and live edit.

Here's where I spend a lot of my time when creating new content for the Village's website. I am constantly in Agenda Center, Document Center, Form Center, News Center, and Notify Me. Itasca used to have this page as their sole repository for agendas and minutes. With our new Agenda Center, we've increased our efficiency and effectiveness ten-fold. This was a project I spearheaded when I became the Deputy Village Clerk last year. It made sense that we should organize our agendas and minutes -- and even add all of our committee's and commission's agendas and minutes -- onto one easy-to-use page. But what's even better (and yes, I'm geeking out now) is the back-end

If you're never worked on an agenda from start to publish, this may not look like a lot to you. But as someone who has to create the agenda document, attend staff meetings listening to department heads and their upcoming agenda items, make sure all of the back-up materials are in for each item before a certain deadline every two weeks, and in charge of publishing the agenda to various locations, this Civic Plus module has saved me some serious time. With this module, I'm able to create default agenda items (e.g. Call to Order, Audience Participation, President's Comments, and so on), I'm able to add items with back-up and drag and drop into any agenda I want, and I'm even able to add workflow options for our attorney's office and for other staff that need administration's approval. I could probably gush on about this for hours. But, on to another domain:

With site tools, you really get into the nitty-gritty of your website and the broader functions and processes that Civic Plus is capable of. I've gained significant experience with User and Group Administration, Site Map, and Redirects. As it turns out, even in a small village like Itasca, there's many people that need varying levels of access to the website. To save time and reduce inaccuracies, we let the Itasca Community Library and Itasca Park District access our site in order to publish news items on our News Center module. While we trust them (per our IGAs), from a security standpoint we'd not like them to have full access to, say, edit anything they want on the entire site. This is why establishing users and groups with different permissions is key: a good understanding of user and group administration enriches your website's functions and empowers staff to take over certain tasks.

Live edit is really heart of the day-to-day activity on the Village's website. When you're signed in and have this function turned on, you're able to edit any of the content (permission-granted) on the site. I've been able to show staff from Community Development, Public Works, and the Police Department how to use this feature, too, and they've all been impressed about how easy it is to use. Most of our staff are Baby Boomers and GenXers, too, so "changing the website" initially seemed like a daunting task. "Open-sourcing" these abilities helps to break down silos, unburdens IT and Administration staff, and ultimately creates more ingrained organizational memory. 

Suffice it to say, I've touched each and every one of these modules, training others on how to use them, and have implemented several changes here in Itasca by utilizing the full extent of the Civic Plus product. Now if only I can convince them to start using the Community Voice module...that will be quite the experiment!