Make IT a Strategic Business Asset for Governments
Posted by Jessica Tatlow
When a company struggles to meet customer needs, business owners, shareholders and employees suffer the financial consequences. When the government struggles with old, outdated software, there are also financial consequences for taxpayers who invest in more makeshift systems and for public servants who run the risk of becoming disengaged employees as a result of inefficient processes. At a time when, according to the National Association of Counties (NACo), 95 percent of counties still haven’t fully recovered from the recession, government agencies must be able to work as efficiently as possible.
In order to tap the promise of heightened efficiency and lower operating costs it’s essential for IT to become a strategic business asset, enabling you to make decisions and purchases based on long-term plans, as opposed to what is most popular or affordable in the moment.
Simplifying IT Governance for Government Needs
Whether in a business or government function, the ability to change with evolving needs and expectations is a key element in any IT management strategy. Unfortunately, this can’t come to fruition without high-level support, so the first job of IT governance depends heavily on relating to key decision-makers the importance that technology plays in day-to-day business. Key steps include finding the right metrics to show value, identifying the results pointing to excellent or unsuccessful results, and devising specific policies to put in place when those measurements fail.
Frank Modruson, former CIO of Accenture, made sure to completely and regularly refresh IT infrastructure as new technology became available, as much for the financial savings as for the benefit of enjoying the latest advancements. Investing in new technology is invariably less expensive than trying to make do with an outdated system. In addition, he encouraged departments to institutionalize collaboration, ensuring that every level within an organization takes full advantage of the technology available. Those who see it on a daily basis will trust in its value.
The gamification – applying game-like incentives and motivators like competitions, points systems and prizes – of the process of learning new technologies and general adoption can lead to significantly increased engagement, a necessary condition of any new technology’s successful implementation. Done correctly, you can game the competitive nature of the professional world to create an environment that openly embraces new technology and more easily accept the growing pains that may come with it.
In addition to providing higher-ups with proof of value, government CIOs must consider the ability to manage sensitive public and government information in line with current and expected regulations. It can be helpful to work with an implementation consultant to create a plan that elucidates expected ROI and plans for rolling out new technologies in a way that creates organization-wide buy-in and even excitement.
Creating Resources in the Now
Investing in modular, scalable technology resources — especially those available through SaaS or cloud sources — can be used to create bridges between the technology you have and the technology you need. These can be as advanced, or as simplified, as your plans call for. The first step is introducing the opportunity and intention for change. By investing in solutions that have the ability to grow with you, you will set the stage for a future in which your systems can provide the full scope of what’s needed to run smoothly now and later.
Fortunately for departments running outdated solutions on limited resources, there are also myriad tools available to patch disjointed systems until budget or planning allows for upgrades. Sadly, this means having to work with badly integrated Frankenstein networks of business software that can’t deliver what is needed for strategic decision-making, namely solid data and insightful analytics. Government organizations with poorly integrated business systems will be increasingly unable to keep up with service demands and reporting requirements, and run the risk of missing funding opportunities. Making IT a strategic business asset is a necessary first step to bringing government organizations into the digital revolution and achieving their visions.