SharePoint part of Microsoft's Citizen Services Platform
Microsoft is always looking out for someone aren’t they? This time it’s small, local governments who are responsible for 80% of the transactions between government and its citizens (individuals and businesses). They now offer the Citizen Services Platform, a combination of technologies, which includes SharePoint, and solution offerings designed to put the “e” in local e-government. Why does Microsoft think local government needs their help? Well they spent some time researching the different pressures that affect local governments today and how these pressures impact the ICT needs. What kinds of pressures you may ask? * The need to better manage resources and develop strategic policies * The expectations of citizens changing with the ever expanding “social internet” * Global demographics * Globalization and population growth into “megacities” * Increasing concerns over security and privacy Microsoft found that the technology approaches used by various governments varied widely. Add the fact that finances to support these technology solutions was in short supply and Microsoft came up with its solution to the growing problem: SharePoint. Well no, not just SharePoint, but it’s a key piece of the e-government technology puzzle. Through it's research partner IDC, Microsoft found that governments were looking solutions for several key service areas including: citizen portals, contact centers, case management and interactive forms. With this in mind, Microsoft developed a framework built on proven infrastructure technologies that uses an open standards. The solution can be small and grow as the government needs to implement more services. It's based on a set of templates using one or more of 4 key technologies: * Microsoft Windows Live, Office Live and Virtual Earth * Microsoft Windows SharePoint Services * Microsoft Office SharePoint Server * Microsoft Dynamics CRM Depending on size and scale of the solution needed, any combination of these technologies may be implemented.

The Four Layer Model for Translating Business Challenges into Technology Solutions

The Citizen Services Platform is based on a 4-layer model - shown in the figure below:
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Identifying the key challenges and the people and processes affected are a given for any potential solution to truly work. The hard part comes when trying to identify the applications and technologies needed to support these business challenges. It could be as simple as going out and purchasing an off-the-shelf software package. But will that software be flexible enough to be able to grow as more business requirements are identified and new people and processes need to be supported/integrated in the solution? Microsoft's platform is a combination of software + services that work together to provide the best solution to the client. The following is the technology platform solution Microsoft has developed for the Citizen Services Platform:
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First they have defined the optimal platform upon which most solutions will be based. This includes Windows Server and SharePoint Portal Server (which provides most of the application functionality required - portal, content management, search, forms, workflow, business intelligence). It can then be wrapped up with Live Services and optionally include CRM and Performance Point Server. On top of the technologies and platforms, Microsoft has developed a number of reusable templates based on the most common business solutions local governments need today. If you take the time to read through the Application and Technology sections of the 89 page whitepaper on the Citizen Services Platform, it's clear that Microsoft took a lot of time to develop very custom solutions that will meet most local governments needs - but done so in a way that they are also customizable. It's clear the Microsoft sees the possibilities in creating an offering to local / small governments that will enable them to expand their reach into countries and communities further toting the benefits of SharePoint as an almost all encompassing solution. There may be some other technologies in that mix - but it's SharePoint that is carrying the weight. Based on the number of current implementations, it looks like governments see these possibilities as well. Take a deeper look at the Citizen Services Platform or just a deeper look at SharePoint. Do you think this new service offering will expand Microsoft's reach into the collaboration and ECM markets?