Decisions and Microsoft Teams come together to help facilitate the democratic process during Ålesund Municipality’s virtual council meetings.
When Ålesund Municipality in Western Norway took their public meetings virtual due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they were faced with regulatory and technology gaps.
“There is no room for error,” says Dagrun Lorgen Jensen, City Clerk at Ålesund Municipality. “Public council meetings are formal and highly regulated. It is critical that the technology for virtual public meetings enables transparent processes. Microsoft Teams and Decisions deliver on both.”
Even in comparison to other local governments, Ålesund has a unique challenge: The municipality is a collection of five merged municipalities, making it the largest council in Norway. The public council meetings include 77 representatives plus their alternates, for a total meeting attendee list of almost 200. There are also four committees and 11 boards.
To start, laws were updated at the national and local levels to legally allow virtual meetings. (Previous law required council meetings be held in-person.) The next step was to identify a technology solution that would enable remote meetings where elected officials could join and actively participate. Ålesund Municipality had begun rolling out Office 365 and Microsoft Teams, and hoped to find a solution that would extend those platforms with secure voting and coordinated speaker discussions.
The Solution Microsoft Teams gives Ålesund Municipality the technology it needs to host their virtual council meetings. A search of Microsoft-supported solutions revealed Decisions, the only meeting solution built entirely into Teams. Decisions enables an organized meeting process with secure voting and ordered speaker lists.
Secure Voting Accurate and transparent voting are vital to the democratic process.
During in-person council meetings, Jensen and her team physically count attendees as they stand during votes. There is always a risk that someone could be missed and the challenge was to mitigate this during remote meetings. Ålesund Municipality will be using the Vote Now feature from Decisions for secure, organized and accurate voting.
Elected officials cast their vote with one click through the Decisions for Microsoft Teams app, either directly from the Teams chat, a mobile app or email. Decisions records and shows voting results by political party, making it even easier and more transparent for media and constituents to view results – and for Jensen and her team to count them. The development team at Decisions was able to incorporate feedback from Ålesund Municipality into the newest version of Vote Now, which allows the clerk and other staff to manually register votes to the count if an elected official experiences a system or internet issue.
“During in-person council meetings, we have several people walking through the crowd to count votes,” continues Jensen. “Decisions will save us time and resources, while giving us the most accurate voting information. We plan to continue using the application even when we return to physical meetings.”
Ordered Speaker List At the start of the pandemic, Microsoft Norway reached out to Decisions to extend its meetings capabilities in support of public sector customers. Decisions created the Vote Now feature mentioned above, and an entirely new add-in called Speak Now.
Speak Now takes a general hand raise feature to a new level, with an ordered speaker list, an option to make a rejoinder to the current speaker and the ability to request a recess. For Ålesund Municipality, Speak Now is an improvement over in-person meetings where it is difficult in a group of nearly 100 to see who wishes to speak and in what order hands are raised.
Jensen says, “The combination of Decisions and Microsoft Teams empowers a more democratic process by ensuring the voices of each elected official are heard and counted.”
Decisions makes extensive use of the Microsoft Graph APIs to ensure the seamless extension of Microsoft Teams and other 365 tools in support of customers like Ålesund.
Decisions for Public Meetings Are you ready for a solution to empower secure and accurate voting and coordinated speaker discussions for your council meetings? Download Decisions for Microsoft Teams from AppSource today or contact our team for a demo.