For state and local governments, it’s hard just keeping up. With tightening budgets and largely overworked staff, the IT network is often an afterthought. That’s a problem considering every government program, every agency, every worker is dependent upon the reliability and availability of the foundational IT network. As the engine for getting work done in a newly digital world, these networks power effective performance of police departments, emergency responders, transportation and other core government services.
So how can IT leaders ensure the infrastructure gets the attention it deserves? To drive change, boost reliability and make IT investments more effective, sometimes what’s necessary is an internal advocate for change. Typically, the CIO, these advocates not only lobby for technology and infrastructure upgrades, but translate IT use into productivity. Quite frankly, it’s no longer enough for CIOs to remain in the backroom managing equipment.
A quick look at the current performance levels of IT networks on the state and local level clearly demonstrates the importance of this advocate role. According to a report by the National Association of State Chief Information Officers, a majority of those surveyed are working with outdated infrastructures. More specifically, 90% believe almost one-quarter of core IT systems are in need of immediate replacement. These outdated systems not only result in poor performance, but expose infrastructures to unnecessary risk impacting the very safety and security of the community. As these departments are committed to serving the public, their infrastructures must not only be reliable – but capable of growing and adapting as new technologies and needs emerge.
An effective IT advocate is capable of elevating technology to a core element of policy development, decision-making and constituent service. These advocates are not only technology leaders, but experts with the power to frame technology as a facilitator of key departmental goals and advanced service. Acting as agents of change, IT advocates maintain the perspective to view the infrastructure holistically, rather than in silos. This empowers them to better understand where technology gaps exist, and what solutions might make sense to fill these needs.
For internal advocates, one of the most logical places to begin is Unified Communications and Collaboration (UC&C). Encompassing everything from videoconferencing and voice to instant messaging and file sharing, UC&C is designed to construct a cohesive framework seamlessly combining technologies and presenting them consistently across multiple device types in a single interface. As the goal is to advance communications and collaboration so government departments work more productively, UC&C is a great initial step for the internal champion – rapidly proving new technology investment ROI.
That’s because productivity is such an important metric for new technology adoption in the public sector. A recent report by McKinsey and Company even notes enhanced productivity can save governments up to $3.5 trillion per year. That’s why 69% of public sector IT leaders rank UC&C as “critical” to getting work done and are actively seeking new or upgraded UC&C investments. Since the performance benefits of UC&C are so clearly defined, this technology just might be the impetus to convince leaders of future technology adoption discussions as well.
Unfortunately, ROI isn’t always an easy metric to prove, and it might take more than one solution to convince leaders of broad-based infrastructure evolution. For this reason, champions must make a concerted effort to promote technology in the language of organizational leaders backed by an environment of continuous training and learning. And while no transformation happens overnight, there are some immediate steps government IT leaders can take to get the ball rolling:
- COST-DRIVEN: No technology investment comes without cost. From capital equipment to advanced training, these solutions take time and money to implement. It’s critical for IT advocates to communicate every new purchase alongside detailed metrics and ROI. Advocates must think and speak in the language of cost efficiency – clearly tying investments to proven results in both the short- and long-term. Each must discuss technology in a manner organizational leaders can understand – consistently presenting each investment as a case study on time and money saved.
- PERFORMANCE-BASED: As discussed above, it’s incumbent upon government IT leaders to directly correlate technology investments with efficient government performance. Framing solutions as questions is critical: What programs can we operate more efficiently if the network is upgraded? How will investments in UC&C better drive cross-department collaboration? Can these investments better deliver on the promise of improving the transportation or emergency response infrastructure? Aligning technology with government goals is a critical step many IT leaders often miss.
- EDUCATION: An environment based on continuous learning is mandatory. Sometimes, even the most advanced technology proposals are doomed to failure unless accompanied by educational awareness. Learning must be a top-down process – educating all levels of the agency on a technology’s ease-of-use and effectiveness in transforming their work environment. Education must specifically define how individual solutions are used in new ways to drive efficiency, boost effectiveness and advance service.
- THE PARTNER ADVOCATE: Sometimes, all it takes is a little perspective. Many state and local agencies are stuck in the legacy way of doing things and cannot imagine a department powered by UC&C, IoT, or Big Data. One way to avoid this “groupthink” is to align with partners who understand the complex technology decisions facing state and local agencies – with a proven track record of successful implementations. As departments may not be ready for a full IT transformation, a service provider relationship often makes sense to deliver strategic guidance, develop new technology roadmaps, and facilitate stage-one “as-a-service” offerings. Once the service provider effectively introduces a new technology, the opportunity then exists to build ROI analysis to encourage further investment.
Modernizing government infrastructures isn’t easy – it takes time, effort and a budget that isn’t always available. But to effectively spark new technology investments across state and local agencies, what’s often required is an internal champion to build the case for adoption. Who’s YOUR internal champion?