For one small Ottawa company, getting the contract to completely redevelop the Bermuda government's online presence meant going up against some of the biggest players in the industry.
By Jacob Serebrin
In November, Opin won a five-year contract to develop and maintain a web presence for the government of the British island territory.
"We had to work hard to win. We competed against Microsoft, IBM, Sitecore" says Chris Smith, the president and CEO of Opin.
But winning the contract was just Opin's first challenge - it had just over five months to build a brand new online portal for the entire government.
"It was a big initiative, we had to put essentially half the company on it to get it done.
“The timeline didn’t leave room for error, We had to stay extremely organized,” says Mr. Smith.
But luckily enough, the project came in both on time and on budget.
"The internet has shifted the way people want to interact online, and governments have been falling behind year-over-year, and Bermuda was definitely no exception," he says.
Surveys had shown that the Bermudan public was increasingly dissatisfied with its online presence and that something had to change.
The project involved consolidating all of the information on government websites, organizing it in a way that would make it easy for citizens to find and making it more accessible on mobile devices.
The goal was to make anything a citizen was looking for findable within three clicks.
Other governments, like those in the United Kingdom and Australia, have taken similar steps to consolidate their online presence.
While the Canadian government has centralized some aspects of its online presence, full consolidation has taken years.
Mr. Smith says Canada could learn a little something from Bermuda’s success.
“It shows that a government can make a really quick transformation online to realign with citizen expectations,” he says.
Price was a major selling point for Opin, as its bid came in at around half the price of the next lower competitor.
Enabling that, in part, was the company’s preference for open source technology - software whose source code, the most basic level of the computer program, is available for free, without a license.
"Open source is better for any organization that’s using taxpayer money because we’re not renting software, the licensing model is like a rental, you get access to it as long as you’re paying the recurring fees," Mr. Smith says.
The open-source model, he says, has a lower cost of ownership, because all the money invested goes to developing the software product.
"They were hesitant about open-source," he says. "Most people think that it’s unsupported, it’s not as well developed."
However, Mr. Smith says the open source content management system that Opin uses, called Drupal, is well-developed and the contract included a additional services and technical support from one of Opin’s business partners, Acquia.
Going forward, Mr. Smith says new features will be added to the platform - like more access to government services and the ability to push things like hurricane warnings to the public.
It’s the largest-scale project that Opin, a company less than five years old, has ever taken on.
According to Mr. Smith, competing against big competitors and winning a contract for a whole-of-government project was a validation for the company and its open-sourced centred approach.