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Recognizing individuals, government agencies and other public sector institutions that have advanced government technology through collaboration, innovation and service.

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Innovation Project

A product, program or service that disrupts the current status quo and meets these three criteria: Novelty: the degree of newness and uniqueness; Impact: the magnitude and scope of improvement to government efficiency and effectiveness; Replicability: the potential for replication in other government agencies or sectors.

Innovation Project #1
Aurora in the Cloud, Minnesota State Retirement System

In 2016, the Minnesota State Retirement System moved its largest business application, Aurora, to the IBM cloud. This is one of the largest uses of the cloud for a production system within Minnesota government. Procured via an RFP, this technology transformation sought to accomplish the following goals:

  • Successful migration from its prior hosting provider to a new third-party Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) provider
  • Improved accessibility and security capabilities while maintaining the same functionality of the system
  • Industry-standard security
  • Industry-standard uptime/redundancy
  • Enforceable Service Level Agreements (SLAs)
  • Client developer access to production and non-production versions of its Aurora application for maintenance, upgrades, and fixes
  • Priority-level access with host technicians and relationship managers
  • Predictable, monthly, itemized cost statements

The success of this project was key for MSRS because Aurora provides a business-critical function at MSRS including the following elements:

  • Manages all participant (member) account data, including demographic info on each member, all contributions history that each member made, all monthly retirement payment or refund payment history for each member, all 1099-R documents sent to the member, and retirement estimates
  • Receives contributions from employers, calculates estimates of future benefit payments, and disburses retiree payments
  • Manages processes that make employer retirement contribution payrolls, benefit estimates to members, annuity payments, refund payments, and documents pertaining to divorce and member deaths
  • Provides online access to accounts from MSRS's members and participants in the Deferred Compensation and Health Care Savings Plans.

The cloud-based hosting solution of Aurora ensured a highly available system with redundant systems throughout the country for business continuity purposes and enhanced security of private data. In addition to the enhancements to the system outlined above, this project has substantially reduced MSRS' costs. The expected annual cost of the new hosting arrangement will be $1.1 million dollars less than the prior arrangement. This is a reduction of over 60% in costs or the equivalent of 5.7% of the entire MSRS administrative budget.

Most importantly, MSRS is able to better serve our customers and fulfill its mission. Having redundancy and a highly available system for our internal application and participant web access has resulted in a reduction of unexpected downtime by over 90%. This has significantly improved our customer service levels and staff productivity.

Innovation Project #2
HUD Resource Locator, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) created the HUD Resource Locator (HRL) - an innovative mobile app and website to further expand and enhance traditional HUD customer service. Using housing data from HUD and U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development (USDA-RD) , HRL offers an easy to use tool to quickly connect with building managers, public housing authority representatives, and property management companies to inquire about housing availability and other federally subsidized housing-related questions. The website located at and mobile app for iOS and Android devices is the first housing search app of its kind from the federal government.

HRL users can call, email, or visit the website of a specific resource directly from the application. Providing housing professionals and the general public with the most effective resources, contacts, and housing opportunities aid traditional outreach methods. In times of disaster, smartphones and mobile devices are more readily available than desktop computers, thus effectively providing information when it is most needed in the hands of those searching for or providing assistance. HRL also allows for enhanced resource utilization by providing potential customers to view the most up-to-date information. HRL decreases printing costs as resource information are historically printed as pamphlets and disseminated to potnetial customers. As these pamphlets are created and maintained manually, HRL reduces the amount of error rates in the information HUD makes accessible to the public.

HRL is one of several services provided by HUD's Enterprise Geographic Information System (eGIS). This tool uses GIS technology to pinpoint where resources are located and allow anyone with a smartphone or tablet to get relevant contact information. In an era where people are increasingly using smartphones to find information, HRL provides an easy tool for anyone to use to find housing resources. HUD eGIS receives quarterly data updates from USDA-RD featuring its Section 515 housing information. The USDA-RD Section 515 dataset contains contact information for management companies to inquire about vacancies. HRL has helped in lowering phone call and email volume to field and regional offices which frees up time for staff to perform other duties.

HRL was released on August 4, 2015. Over 500,000 user sessions have been initiated with over 60% of overall HRL traffic serviced through the mobile app.