3 Online Security Tips to Help Keep You Safe

Every account you make on any website or app has one thing in common – a strong password. At least ten randomly generated characters, a number or two as well, and some symbols thrown in for good measure. Oh, and every account has a unique password.

Does that sound like you? It sure doesn’t sound like me. What it does sound like though is well thought out, effective, and secure password security – something many of us take for granted, because the credit card company will credit back the fraudulent transaction and the support team will help reset your password for you. The problem is that they can’t refund your identity.

Step 1: Password Management

We’re all human, falling into a rhythm can be forgiven, don’t beat yourself up if you reuse the same three passwords on every website. Thankfully, security minded individuals have taken the legroom – well, brain-room – out of remembering all of these unique passwords for us – many browsers have built in password managers, and some include the option to generate a strong, random alphanumeric password for you when creating an account. This is the best free option available and it’s better than nothing – plus it’s a strong step in the right direction.

It’s no secret that Google and other browsers are keeping your information and selling it to advertisers, and to some that’s the cost of living in a digital world. If you’re uncomfortable with providing them with access to your passwords as well, there are third party services available like LastPass that work on any browser and are accessible on mobile devices. The paid service also includes encrypted storage, multi-factor authentication, and one-to-one sharing for when that one friend we all have asks to borrow your Netflix account for the night.

Step 2: Be In The Know

Even with a super secure randomly-generated password sometimes the worst happens, and the wrong people access your account. Often, it’s due to a data breach on the website itself, something completely out of your control, and unfortunately in many scenarios the public isn’t informed until months after the breach.

Would you like to be one of the lucky ones who knows the second their account has been compromised? HaveIBeenPwned has long been my go-to website to check up on my various accounts. Simply type in your email, click “pwned?” and a list of account breaches will populate, unless you’ve been lucky. My ten year old Gmail account has been breached 17 times, and I know for a fact I was never contacted by at least half of the companies.

Step 3: Prevention

This same website offers a newsletter signup that operates a little differently from the marketing emails you’re used to. Instead of weekly messages filled with advertisements, sales, and feature updates, once you’ve entered your address with them, you’ll only ever receive an email if they’ve detected that you’ve been affected by a breach. This allows you to react very quickly and change your passwords, remove credit card information (or change the card entirely depending on how severe the breach) and protect yourself when it matters, not weeks after the fact. I would highly recommend setting this free feature up with all your email addresses, work and personal.

There’s no simple solution to account security, every person has different needs. Breaking it down into three steps though, hopefully makes this process a little easier.

  1. Use a password manager if you can’t remember multiple, secure passwords.
  2. Don’t rely on the local news to tell you about data breaches, instead go to the source.
  3. Sign up for security notifications to protect yourself in future breaches

It’s not a matter of if, but of when.

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Predicting Municipal Contracts – The What, When & Why of Municipal Procurement

The What, When & Why of Municipal Procurement

No one can predict who’s buying what, when and why, but there are some key markers that can help you be strategic about reaching municipalities at the times they typically buy goods and services.

What they’re buying:
First, do your homework and research! Watch the news stories – are they mandated to get something completed by a certain time (i.e. asset management plans, accessibility regulations, etc.)?
Research and find out the contact person(s) for any municipal buying consortiums and then reach out and speak directly to them to let them know you’re interested in applying to be on their Vendors’ List and/or being notified of their procurement/bid documents. Once they know about you, you many even get them sending you a “heads up” about a bid solicitation they have coming up.

When they’re buying:
Municipalities purchase goods and services year round. But as a general rule based on my experience, in a calendar year;
     a) Construction RFPs typically are posted as soon as the budget is finished – so January to March each year, so that construction can begin once the snow is gone. Contracts for winter salt and sand of course are posted in the fall. Infrastructure projects are also posted in the first months of a new year, but generally not awarded until government funding has been confirmed. (In Ontario, after the provincial year end of March 31st) Check the fiscal year of the province/municipality you’re interested in working with and adjust your timing appropriately.

     b) More complex projects with contracts that take longer to assess and award are often posted in the spring. (new  software, consulting projects, etc.)

     c) Contracts like strategic planning are often be posted after a municipal election when a new council is elected. As part of council orientation, strategic planning is a great way to familiarize new council members with any current strategic plan and then work to update it based on their goals for the next term of council.

     d) Many municipal councils take the month of August off so municipalities slow down over the summer. From my personal experience, often the month of August is a good time to reach staff because they have more time because they’re not having to prepare reports, etc., for council meetings. I don’t mean to run out and start calling them all in August – but now is a great time to publish articles on our muniBLOG because municipal staff members often have a bit more time to read in August.

     e) Municipalities start budgeting in the fall for the next year. This is also when they will be looking at what they have left to spend in the current budget – and if they are underspent, they will be looking to finish projects or add new purchases, if they are in need of something. This means they will be putting out RFPs, RFQs etc., in the fall in order to spend the remainder of the budget before year end. Now’s a good time to register for a service that keeps you notified of RFPs – like our partner bidsandtenders. (and don’t forget new muniSERV annual members get 10% off a new bidsandtenders subscription)

Why they’re buying;
There is a multitude of reasons municipalities procure goods and services. Most are purchased for regular operational needs, while professional services are often purchased to research the feasibility and determine the need to purchase in the future.

Still other purchases occur because the municipality has been mandated to do so or because they have been granted funding. For instance this year in Ontario, municipalities received a one-time “efficiency” grant. Again, this comes down to doing your research and being in tune with what is happening in municipalities because if you have a product or service that will improve efficiency for municipalities be sure you tell them about it in a blog post or provide a free demo of it. muniSERV is here to help you spread the word directly to our municipal subscribers!

No one is a mind-reader so no one can predict with certainty or guarantee if they’re going to win a contract, but doing your homework and being prepared with the proper marketing strategy geared to the municipal calendar year and the ever-changing needs of municipalities, can help put you ahead of the pack!

Susan Shannon is Founder & Principal of muniSERV.ca & muniJOBS.ca. She can be reached at [email protected] or 855.477.5095

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Why You Should Become an Asset Management Coordinator

Asset Management Coordinator – have you heard this of this career before?  

Well, if you haven’t, you’re about to hear a lot about it from municipalities over the next little while.  

Many municipalities are facing challenges to fund their infrastructure at levels that ensure their sustainability. With ageing assets, increased renewal needs and pressures from changing climate there is a need to do things differently and collaborate to address the “infrastructure gap”.

The end goal is for municipalities, provinces, and the federal government to leverage asset management planning to optimize infrastructure investment decisions. For example, in December 2017, the Province of Ontario passed O.Reg 588/2017 that sets out new requirements for asset management planning for municipalities.  

This makes the need to hire Asset Managers and/or Asset Management Coordinators, even more important and urgent. Therefore this is a rapidly growing and expanding career in Canadian municipalities.

So what is asset management and why do municipalities need an Asset Management Coordinator?

 

What is Asset Management?

 

Asset management refers to the systematic approach to the governance and realization of value from the things that a group or entity is responsible for, over their whole life cycles. It may apply both to tangible assets and to intangible assets. Asset management is a systematic process of developing, operating, maintaining, upgrading, and disposing of assets in the most cost-effective manner.

 

What kind of background and training do I need to have for this career?  

 

Many asset managers have engineering, finance and/or planning backgrounds but another key criterion is Project Management, as addressed in a recent Public Sector Digest webinar, “Hiring an Asset Management Coordinator”, sponsored by muniSERV/muniJOBS, as being integral to the success of someone looking to enter this career. 

Municipalities reported that core competencies should be there but much more important is that you can tell them how you’d add value to the position. Because this is an emerging field, you have a great deal of liberty to build the position as you go.  Articulate it in your cover letter. You may not have all the skills right now but if you’re willing to learn, municipalities are willing to provide you with the right training to do the job.

Top skills reported are;

  1. Willingness to learn on the job
  2. Systems thinking
  3. Relationship building and
  4. Communications skills.

 

At present, there are no courses available at universities, although, the Municipal Finance Officers’ Association of Ontario (MFOA)and Public Sector Digest can help.

For municipalities looking for an Asset Manager or Coordinator, muniJOBS has some candidates with Asset Management listed as one of their skills. To search candidates, simply register for a free Employer profile.

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What Can a Learning Management System do for my municipality?

Municipalities have reported two (2) main pain points when it comes to managing their learning and development programs:

  1. They are tired of tracking Learning & Development on a spreadsheet and they would you like to have an LMS but they are cost-prohibitive for their municipality,
  2. Sourcing training content to populate their LMS is difficult and time-consuming, not to mention expensive

Learning Management Systems (LMS)

A Learning Management System (LMS) is a software application to help organizations manage the administration, documentation, tracking, training, reporting of their Learners. The main benefits of an LMS are to reduce the time, effort and cost of your training program while offering deeper insight into your Learner’s experience, compliance and progress.

With an LMS, you can assign training to your team to; a) grow the leaders of tomorrow (succession planning), b) for annual compliance training, c) for new hire onboarding or d) improve the job skills of employees in your organization. 

Not every municipality is the same so not everyone has the same needs when it comes to an LMS.  That’s why any LMS must offer a wide range of functionality to address individual municipal circumstances and the provider must be available to provide support and guidance along the way.

Learning Content

When organizations purchase their own LMS, the first step they need to do is upload training content into the LMS – and municipalities already know that it’s difficult and time consuming to source quality courses. But, then once they’ve found the training content they will need their IT or the LMS provider to upload it for them.  This increases costs and results in time delays in getting their training started.

A Learning Management Solution for Municipalities

muniLEARN is a collaborative learning management solution provided by muniSERV.ca, in partnership with Orion Learning. It saves municipalities money, improves  learning effectiveness, and helps them implement a safe, secure, collaborative learning solution across their municipality.

Here’s how:

muniLEARN has three components:

  • A state-of-the-art, robust, secure, subscription-based learning management system (LMS)
  • Access to a content marketplace of over 900 accredited, competency-based learning courses, programs and certification exams
  • Expertise to help you transform your learning and development program

 

 

Learning Management System – muniLEARN’s LMS comes with a full range of functionality already, but it is also customizable to suit individual needs.

Learning Content – With muniLEARN you have immediate access to our learning marketplace of over 900 accredited competency-based learning courses, programs and certification exams. We have sourced the best competency based learning courses from some of the world’s best content authors to provide you with an off-the-shelf content solution you can access directly or integrate it into your own learning programs. All of our courses are accredited by internationally recognized accreditation bodies including PMI, AXELOS, APMG International, ISSA, APM and ISTQB. We show you the accreditation agency on the accredited courses and your learners will receive certificates on successful completion of the exam.

Learning Transformation – muniLEARN has the expertise available to help guide municipalities through the transformation of their learning and development programs.

muniLEARN Pilot Program

If you’re not sure how muniLEARN will work for your municipality, we’ll give you a month to try it out!  Our muniLEARN Pilot program gives municipalities a test drive of the muniLEARN solution and the opportunity to experience using an LMS and digital learning.

Contact us today at [email protected] to learn more and discuss your learning and training needs!

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Content is Still King for Getting Attention for your Business

As you know, keeping your business top of mind with your ideal customer will help you be their first choice when they’re in the market for what you offer.

But cutting through the noise to reach your ideal customers and grabbing their attention is getting tougher than ever. The ways consumers find information have changed.

Enter the Power of Content

What type of content you produce and where you distribute it will be uniquely specific to your brand. You can’t just put a piece of content up on your website and hope people will find it.

Writing articles through the use of a blog is one of the most common and powerful types of content marketing – and having the ability to publish articles to a community blog focussed directly on your target audience is even better!

Doing so helps you build visibility with your customers and potential customers while at the same time engaging them and strengthening the reputability of your brand.

Your content gives you the power to become an influencer and the voice of authority in your field of expertise.

If you’re like me though, because the heavy traffic on the social media channels available for content marketing is constantly growing, I’m finding that my content posted on various social media sites, is like publishing into the abyss. You might get some “likes” and “comments” but it’s hard for most of us who are “technologically impaired” to determine if it actually reached our target audience.

To make content marketing work best, not only does it need to be good and relevant to your customers, you must also consider effective distribution of it and getting it in the right places.

“The most essential issue in Content Marketing, as cited by more than half of in-house respondents, is “Effective Distribution and Getting Content in the Right Places.” [1]

Getting Started

  • Identify your core audience (i.e. for our professional members, it’s the municipalities)
  • Determine their pain points and write custom content that helps – tell stories from your experience, provide information that prompts them to ask questions and contact you.
  • Then publish it where they will see it – “in the right places” (i.e – our “muniBLOG”)

Remember – one article alone won’t be the primary source of conversions so you’ll want to think creatively about what types of content you need to produce. Keep your articles closely related or neatly categorized so, as people start connecting with your content, they’re inclined to read more and more.

Content No-No’s:

  • Too much self-promotion – a bit is ok but your articles can’t be a sales pitch. Keep it mostly educational or informational and follow the 80/20 rule. (80% information/20% promotion)
  • Misspellings & Poor Grammar – if you’re not comfortable writing your own content consider getting someone to write your content for you
  • Not including a strong call to action – if someone is reading your blog, they need to be able to reach out to you – otherwise, what’s the point. Tell them what you want them to do next and provide your contact information.

Now here’s my 20% Rule in action.

Are you leveraging muniSERV’s Content Marketing potential?

According to the Incite Group’s 2017 Marketing Trends, “Personalization” is the next big thing.

muniSERV is ahead of its time and we already offer our members a component of personalization, in that we take your content and target it directly to municipalities for you.

As a muniSERV member, did you know your content on our blog has the potential to reach every Canadian municipality and it will be delivered directly to the inboxes of our 750 subscribed municipal decision-members?

So be sure you’re taking advantage of the power of publishing your content to our muniBLOG so you can leverage the strength of our subscribed municipal members. I cannot stress enough, the power in getting the right content to the right people at the right time.

Finally, if content writing is just not your thing and you need help – contact me. We can help you with that too.

By the way – we’re working hard on taking “personalization” to the next level for our members by developing personalization that will provide segmented targeting to help you reach exactly who you want to reach – so stay tuned!

Susan Shannon, Founder & Principal

muniSERV.ca

[email protected]

855.477.5095

[1] Incite Group – 2017 Digital Marketing Trends

 

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Tips to Getting Noticed and Winning More Municipal Business

By Susan Shannon, Principal, muniSERV.ca

Limited time offer – Register today for a new, annual muniSERV professional membership and get your 10% off discount code for a new bids&tenders subscription.  Enjoy a better way to connect with public sector clients to market your professional services and now, exclusive access to tender from 100’s of public sector organizations. Learn more.

*bids&tenders is a member of the muniSERV strategic partners network.

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muniSERV Free Webinar – April 18th 2017

Register now.

Tips to Get Noticed and Earn More Business:
Join us Tues April 18th at 11 am EST for this free, one-hour webinar:
Susan Shannon, Principal, muniSERV.ca will share valuable tips for getting noticed by municipalities and earning more business. See more about her presentation, below. She’ll be followed by Jay Smith, senior Projects Manager, bids&tenders who will demonstrate then answer questions on how to use bids&tenders to subscribe to, then manage, your online bids.

More about the webinar:
The Two-Step Plan to Getting Noticed and Winning More Municipal Business featuring Susan Shannon, Principal, muniSERV.ca.
It is a known fact that municipalities share success and horror stories about experiences they have had with a particular vendor, consultant or professional they’ve used. They quite literally pick up the phone and ask other municipalities, “Who did you use?”. But as a new vendor, consultant or professional service provider trying to build your business and get municipal work, how do you go about becoming part of one of those, “Who did you use”, conversations in the first place?
This session draws on Susan’s past experience as a municipal administrator and provides a 2-step plan to help you find work, get noticed and win more municipal business. In preparation for this session you might like to read a helpful article, written by muniSERV professional member, JDManner Consulting, Top 10 Rules for Successful Responses – Requests for Proposal (RFP) 101

Questions? Email us and we’ll get back to you ASAP.

Register now to be guaranteed a free dial-in to the webinar. Limited time offer reminder bids&tenders now offers 10% off a new, annual muniSERV professional membership. Enjoy a better way to connect with public sector clients to market your professional services. Learn more.

*bids&tenders is a member of the muniSERV strategic partners network.

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Immigration Will Help Alleviate Canada’s Aging Population Challenges, But Not Solve Them

Article by the Conference Board of Canada

October 7, 2016

Higher immigration levels can help soften the effects of an aging population on the Canadian economy. However, population growth alone will not completely offset the effects of aging demographics, according to a new Conference Board of Canada report released on October 6th.

“Immigration provides an important source of labour and helps Canada generate stronger long-term economic growth. However, increasing immigration alone will not reverse Canada’s aging trend,” said Matthew Stewart, Associate Director, National Forecast, The Conference Board of Canada. “In order to fully address the significant cost strains on the Canadian system from an aging population, policy makers must also consider other solutions.”

Highlights

  • The share of Canada’s population aged 65 and over is expected to reach over 24 per cent over the next 20 years.
  • Increased immigration levels would help boost Canada’s labour force and generate stronger long-term economic growth.
  • But, higher immigration levels only soften the cost strains on the Canadian system, implying that Canada needs to consider other solutions to fully address the impact of an aging population.

Currently, Canadians aged 65 and over make up about 16 per cent of Canada’s total population. Over the next 20 years, this figure will continue to rise to over 24 per cent. As baby boomers leave the workforce, Canada’s labour supply growth will be limited and economic growth will be constrained. All else being equal, this will result in economic growth slowing from the already modest current trend of 2 per cent to around 1.6 per cent by 2050.

In addition to the impact on the labour market, an aging population will also put a major strain on health care and Canada’s retirement income support systems. Without significant changes to how health care is delivered in Canada over the next 20 to 30 years, the share of government revenues directed to health care is expected to rise from 37 per cent today to 44 per cent. With the provinces already struggling with large deficits, this added burden would be unsustainable.

The report, A Long-Term View of Canada’s Demographics: Is Higher Migration Part of the Response to Canada’s Aging Population?, finds that if immigration levels were to increase steadily to reach 407,000 immigrants per year by 2030 and we were to target younger immigrants, Canada’s trend pace of economic growth would improve to 2.3 per cent by 2050 from its current trajectory of below 2 per cent. However, the proportion of the Canadian population aged 65 and over would still rise to about 20 per cent. The share of provincial government revenue spent on health care would remain at or close to the 44 per cent mark. Some improvements in the share of provincial revenues required to fund health care would be realized, but not until 2060. In the meantime, spending on Old Age Security (OAS) would drop from 12 per cent to below 10 per cent.

A Long-Term View of Canada’s Demographics: Is Higher Migration Part of the Response to Canada’s Aging Population was funded by the Century Initiative and is publically available from our e-Library.

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Adobe Solutions – Live Webinar: The value of electronic signatures in government

When:  Thursday, July 28th at 2 p.m. EST – duration 60 minutes

Featured Speaker:  Steve Saman Solutions Consultant Adobe

Government organizations are transitioning to digital processes as they look for service improvements and efficiencies. Yet obstacles can arise when going 100% digital.

Electronic signatures are becoming the preferred way for organizations to transform the resource-intensive, manual process of securing signatures and approvals.

In this webinar you’ll learn:

  • The most pressing legal and compliance issues facing government agencies today
  • How electronic or digital signatures help streamline government processes while reducing compliance risk
  • The top considerations when evaluating e-signature solutions for your department
  • How simple it is to automate signatures and approvals across agencies and departments

To Register

 

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