A Case of Justice Served

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Article ImageOrganization: Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General (POAG)
The role of attorney general of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania was created in 1643, evolving in 1980 into the elected position it is today. The Harrisburg-based office’s three divisions—criminal law, public protection, and civil law—are charged with protecting and serving the citizens and agencies of the Commonwealth, under the leadership of current AG Tom Corbett, First Deputy AG William H. Ryan Jr., and several hundred prosecutors, attorneys, investigators, agents, and support staff in offices throughout Pennsylvania. POAG’s website serves as an information clearinghouse for nearly 12.5 million citizens, delivering the latest news on criminal prosecutions, public corruption cases, child predators, consumer scams, and other law enforcement-related matters.

Given its far-reaching responsibilities, POAG is constantly generating information of interest to Pennsylvania citizens. In the wake of Corbett’s inauguration in early 2005—and his public declaration that “public safety is the single most important service that government can provide”—it had become readily apparent to staffers that POAG’s website was outdated. Initially launched in 1999, the site lacked some of the interactive features Americans had come to expect from government sites, such as the ability to file complaints online. It also lacked a Content Management System (CMS), making it difficult for IT staff to keep pace with the increasingly sophisticated and frequent flood of news, photos, video, and other materials Corbett wanted disseminated to the public. A redesign had become mission-critical.

Founded in 1998, Ektron develops content- and document-management solutions and web-editing tools “for the masses.” The Amherst, New Hampshire-based company’s products are deployed in more than 5,000 organizations worldwide, including 85% of the companies in the Fortune 1000. Its flagship product, CMS400.NET, empowers business users to create, deploy, and manage interactive web, intranet, and extranet sites with one application.

Upon taking the oath of office on January 18, 2005, attorney general Tom Corbett vowed to make “protecting Pennsylvania families” his primary mission. As Pennsylvania’s chief law enforcement officer, Corbett leverages the resources of his office to protect citizens, families, and businesses from criminal activities.

The flurry of activity that resulted in the first weeks of Corbett’s term quickly revealed the weaknesses of his office’s website. His goal, not surprisingly, was to communicate news to his constituents as it happened (or soon thereafter), but the existing site was ill-equipped to deliver on that promise. “Because it wasn’t content-managed, IT staff had to be responsible for publishing all information on the site,” explains Dennis Guzy, manager of POAG’s Business Integration Group. “What hurt us was the approvals process everything had to go through. Contributors would submit content to press office personnel, who would send it on to IT once it was approved. By that time, contributors would want some changes that had to go back up [the chain of command] for approval. We had this cycle of five, six, seven revisions to every document. Every time we turned around, we were being asked to put up or fix something.”

All the process-related delays “were affecting citizens’ ability to get information in a timely fashion,” Guzy continues. “That’s what led us to the redesign. We knew we weren’t fulfilling our obligation to citizens to disseminate information as quickly as we should have been.” But timeliness wasn’t the only site limitation that worried Guzy’s team. “As the internet evolved, it had become apparent that we needed to improve the quality of the site,” he says. “We wanted to improve the overall user experience. We wanted more speed and better visibility in search-engine results. We wanted to make it easier for the people of Pennsylvania to reach us and reach out to us for help.”

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