Technology: What Managers Want to Know

ARTICLE | Jul 20, 2016

Assessments, Investments on the List

ICMA surveys of its members indicate that technology and data continue to be hot topics for local governments. From how to conduct IT assessments to ideas on how to make new system implementations run more smoothly, members have said they need information on how to invest and manage this critical infrastructure.

To help address this need, ICMA established the Advisory Panel on Technology Content with financial support from its Strategic Partner, OnBase by Hyland. This panel consists of nine ICMA members who will be providing articles, blogs, interviews, and other resources throughout the coming months to keep managers better informed of technology trends and tips. This article is the first in a series that will be published in PM.

Demand Drives Technology

The use of technology has implications and expectations for the management of local governments. Meeting residents’ expectations requires a different level of responsibility, and technology is critical for addressing those expectations.

Also important are public safety, efficiency and effectiveness of services, and response to disaster events that are all affected by the presence or absence of technology tools. So the questions around the acquisition and deployment of technology are not should we, but rather, how and what to buy to keep up the ever-increasing expectations of residents.

Making the decision to invest in a new software solution requires more than simply looking at other local governments’ request for proposals. Managers need to take a step back and consider these important reasons for replacing current technology tools:

No longer supported. Whatever the local government bought is no longer a part of that solution’s product road map, and the provider is unable to repair bugs or issue updates. So, as your desktops and laptops change, the solution doesn’t do what’s needed anymore.

Hasn’t kept pace with our needs. This is also common because many solutions don’t have a committed product road map that keeps the core of your investment while adding in things like mobile options or web-based tools. It may be that you can expand the solution, but only at a cost or a time to deploy that is difficult to afford.

Was never right in the first place. This reason is the one that really hurts. It means that public dollars, staff time, service dollars, and two-to-three years of your life were spent on a solution that is hated, ignored, and silently abandoned. And the whole cycle starts again when you come to grips with this reality and want to replace it.

Deployment Challenges, Paradigm Shifts

Once the investment decision has been made, it will take a significant amount of work to deploy the solution and it may require changes to the way your teams do their jobs. The process of discovery to configure and install the solution and the efforts to re-work your processes to match the way a solution runs take staff time and, if not managed correctly, can stall the usage of a solution.

Going forward, expanding the use of an enterprise solution or justifying the ongoing maintenance payments is difficult if the solution and its deployment are not viewed well.

Maintaining services is part of the equation for a manager serving a community, but there are others. Recent years have seen calls for transparency, recruiting difficulties for public sector IT positions, and trends like mobile apps and cloud services. The pace of new and interesting technology tools is accelerating.

This complicates purchase decisions because time needed to process traditional government purchases is now longer than the pace of technological change. The software may become outdated before the approval to purchase can be made.

Regardless of where you find yourself in the above trends and challenges, selecting and investing in technology is mandatory for government. You can’t avoid it, but you can improve it.

Implementing the right process can help you avoid a bad purchase, pick a solution with a proven road map, meet new constituent needs, and harness new technology tools. Making a decision using a good selection process is more than a match for the above.

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