NALIT 2017: Lessons Learned

Last week, I attended the annual NALIT conference in Annapolis. As always, it was a great opportunity to meet with the people at the front and center of information technology in legislatures. I gained insights into what new and innovative technological applications are being sought in the legislative space to make processes more efficient and it has certainly inspired me to think more creatively and innovatively about how we can provide solutions that best meet those needs.

Transforming legislative management

It was encouraging to hear such great ideas about how to manifest this vision, especially as it strongly resonates with our current line of product development. 

One thing is clear: legislative IT staff are steadfast and creative in their approach to finding a solution that not only solves the inefficiencies and issues that are repeatedly cropping up across legislatures and governments, but they are committed to adopting one that will stand the test of time. 

Across the board from one state to another, the legislature IT experts I spoke with at NALIT 2017 all expressed concerns about the same challenges they were encountering. Here’s a snapshot of what they are.

1. Incorporating Microsoft Word drafting

Word drafting is big news in legislatures at the moment. Everyone wants more efficient and streamlined processes, the flexibility to be able to do more tasks, and tools that are easy to use. What better way to meet these objectives than through tools that drafting attorneys are already familiar with? 

We’ve been prioritizing user experience in our technology for some time now after years of experience working with document-centric XML applications taught us that users want an author-friendly way of creating and modifying content.

2. Streamlining committee management

Another critical issue facing IT staff in legislatures centers around committee management and establishing effective ways to simplify committee meetings and committee voting. Above all, legislative staff are looking for a solution that offers flexible, user-focused tools to enhance meeting management, amend and track legislation, provide openness and transparency, and make publishing information easy and accessible to everyone. 

Judging by the feedback from the experts at this year’s NALIT conference, a key piece of the jigsaw that seems to be missing revolves around the publishing of legislative documents and facilitating proofing processes and how this can be successfully tackled with the right technology tools. This is something we have thought about a lot, as is reflected in the flexibility and advanced features that our LWB 360 Committee application offers.

3. Going paperless

It’s not just an environmental issue, going paperless is a real challenge – and ultimate triumph – in legislatures which hold a long history of passing physical documents and sheets of paper from one desk and department to another. What’s more, these are often long, drawn-out processes (think of a bill becoming a law and the level of document trail that typically requires), which means it gets harder and harder to keep on top of all those documents and where they are. 

Going paperless encourages a streamlined document management system whereby you can easily find what you’re looking for, manage changes to those documents, and compare versions of documents to see what changes have occurred – all without having to look up from your screen. It focuses on ensuing that the digital copy is carried throughout the process, but it doesn’t remove the ability to print. Print is always available and necessary. 

Going paperless is the first step in embracing technology to transform legislative management. It’s also an important step on the journey to achieving global environmental sustainability – it makes good sense.

Judging by the feedback from the experts at this year’s NALIT conference, a key piece of the jigsaw that seems to be missing revolves around the publishing of legislative documents and facilitating proofing processes.

4. Improving transparency

Legislatures are acutely aware of the role that the public play when it comes to the law. That’s why it’s so important to include the public and ensure that information is readily available and accessible to everyone. The web plays a powerful role in making this happen and that’s why legislative websites need to be user-focused and meet these needs. 

The simpler we make it for citizens to understand what is happening in Statehouses the more likely they are to engage on legislative issues and to feel more part of the process. Upping your game on your legislative website is a good place to start.