October 1, 2021
Despite the mayor’s complaints and frustrations over San Jose’s messaging platform, the city cannot afford to switch operating systems.
“This kind of migration and transition would be a huge project for (around) 7,000 city employees,” CIO Rob Lloyd told the San José Spotlight.
San José Spotlight revealed last week that Mayor Sam Liccardo relies heavily on his private Gmail account to conduct city business. More than 1,600 pages of documents published by San José Spotlight and his lawyer Karl Olson show that Liccardo sends and receives hundreds of messages related to the city each month through his private account.
The mayor has come under scrutiny – and a Supreme Court case in 2017 – for his use of a private email account. According to free speech experts and media lawyers, the use of private email to conduct city business could potentially lead to violations of the California Public Records Act. Liccardo also failed to deliver private emails that should be made public, as reported exclusively by San José Spotlight.
Liccardo says he relies on his private account, although this raises transparency issues because the city’s Microsoft Outlook system is not working for him. He cites issues with not sending emails, syncing, and slow service.
“We found out that the emails were taken to an outbox rather than being sent, and I wouldn’t know until weeks later,” Liccardo told the San José Spotlight last week. “This makes it easier to use Gmail.”
The mayor declined to comment further this week.
A known issue
Liccardo said the issues with Microsoft Outlook, which also include the crash, not updating calendar invitations, and delays accessing Zoom, make it difficult for him and his staff to work.
Sync and crash issues have always been around, Lloyd said, but have become more apparent over the past two years, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic as traffic on the city’s website escalated. .
“We now have a very digital audience and a very digital workforce,” Lloyd said. “These tools came from a generation where that wasn’t necessarily the case.”
Working with outdated technology has also frustrated other city officials. San Jose council member Dev Davis uses a separate database to track residents’ requests and concerns.
“These concerns about (Outlook) have been well documented,” Davis told the San José Spotlight. “These are basic functions that don’t work.”
At a city council meeting in April, Davis listed a number of concerns about the email provider as council members discussed Microsoft’s contract renewal. Still, the mayor and his colleagues voted unanimously to renew the contract for five years and pay the tech company $ 9.7 million. Liccardo and Davis have asked the city to work with Microsoft to resolve the issues and report on the solutions by the end of the year.
Microsoft declined to comment through a spokesperson.
Looking for solutions
Lloyd said San Jose is working with Microsoft on these issues. The challenge is to identify the root causes and test the solutions before rolling out the changes. It is not a quick fix.
Teams that deal with emails from the public, such as those sent to city council members, are affected by the Outlook issues, Lloyd said, although that doesn’t represent a large part of the town hall workforce. .
Microsoft’s menu of services continues to be a popular government platform due to the exclusive integration of programs with departments such as human resources and payroll. Google Workspace does not offer such services.
Lloyd pointed out that a hybrid solution might work in the future. He said Los Angeles retained a fair number of Microsoft licenses when the city switched to the Google platform in 2009.
For now, San Jose has dropped a pilot program previously discussed with Google Workspace.
The five-year contract with Google would have cost San Jose about $ 2.4 million less initially. But it would have been a wash after paying for the transition costs and necessary Microsoft programs, Lloyd said at the April board meeting.
“If you take a look at all the governments, Microsoft is still by far the predominant player,” Lloyd told the San José Spotlight. “But I think over time you will continue to see people change.”
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