Microsoft, like Google, Salesforce.com and other major IT entities, have been exploring ways to bring software-as-a-service (SaaS) to an ever-broader range of institutional and enterprise audiences.
Microsoft has introduced six new applications for government and education, ranging from public-records tracking to student information systems, under the moniker Public Sector On-Demand Solutions. They will be powered by Microsoft Dynamics CRM.
According to the company, the deployment of cloud-based solutions will allow the government and education sectors, continually strapped for cash in the current economic recession, to save money.
Such cloud-based solutions have been an increasing focus of major IT entities, such as Google and Salesforce.com, who see the enterprise and institutions as attracted to lower costs and increased flexibility. However, the direction of the whole cloud-computing movement is one up for debate by analysts and pundits.
Microsoft has also been focusing on the development of Azure, a cloud-computing platform that will likely compete head-to-head against Google Apps.
“Public sector customers are working to deliver the next generation of capabilities to dramatically lower costs, increase productivity, streamline operations and reduce custom development time,” Curt Kolcun, vice president of U.S. Public Sector at Microsoft, said in a statement. “The Public Sector On-Demand cloud-based solutions we are launching with our partners represent the first of many such hosted applications.”
Available at a new site, the six solutions allow institutions to both drill down into their internal data and automate a number of bureaucratic functions:
- Public Records Tracker automates the public records request process associated with Public Records Act and Freedom of Information Act requests, letting an employee at a single screen enter a public records request, track communications and activities associated with a requester, and deliver a response. The solution sends alerts for when a request is approaching a mandatory due date.
- FastTrackGov Citizen Service Solutions provides a suite of automated community development applications for licensing, permitting, code enforcement and inspection management. Users can manage a “broad array of revenue sources from a single, security-enhanced, integrated system,” according to Microsoft, which in turn will increase productivity and efficiency.
- Agenda Builder provides organizations with electronic review and approval capability for agenda items. Integrated with Microsoft office, workers can monitor progress on agenda preparation for formal meetings and hearings. Microsoft argues that this streamlining of preparations will help save paper.
- Constituent Issue Manager provides case-management tools for responding in a timely manner to constituent requests; an interface utilizes tools ranging from address validation capability to duplicate detection logic in order to make the process more efficient.
- Inspection Manager is a Web-based case management solution for both field inspectors and inside office staff to schedule and perform field inspections, and manage any processes related to found violations and issued citations.
- Backpack 2008 Student Information System (SIS) is the first on-demand social student information system of its kind, and involves two components. The first is Backpack SIS, which allows administrators, staff and teachers to manage everything from attendance, grade book information, courses, students, master scheduling, state reporting and assessments. The second is Backpack Community, a Web portal through which parents, teachers and students can interact in a secure online community; parents can see in real-time how their child is doing and even set up alert e-mails or text messages for specific updates.