Suppose you have a clean slate to work with. How would government computing be different? How could it be improved? We asked this question of technology leaders in state and local governments.
It is more than an exercise in reflection. Their own wishlists help paint a picture of what might be possible. From governance structures to funding mechanisms to hiring programs, they outline a range of creative changes that could help strengthen IT going forward.
To see all the answers, click here.
If you could build a government IT store from scratch, what key steps would you take? What would you change?
I would take two different actions, but they are closely related. First, I would make sure that we have a really strong group of business analysts. We have a lot of project managers, but they tend to be more like project managers: was this meeting scheduled, was this task completed? It’s not so much about analyzing opportunities to integrate technologies or exploit standard platforms.
My second thought is to integrate the governance strategy upstream, with a formalized team specifically including data governance. Especially in the public sector, we have to think about data security, privacy concerns, data communication. Data integrity with integrated systems is really critical, and right now it tends to be an afterthought.
It would also include some automation. If you’re starting from scratch, you’d probably have standard platforms, a standard data dictionary, maybe AI tools with built-in retention rules.
Why would this approach be better than your current setup, or better than current standards?
The reality of public sector budgeting is that it tends to be driven by budget cycles, whether it is a one-year cycle, as in most jurisdictions, or some now have a cycle. two years. Either way, you always plan at least a year in advance. What tends to happen is that technologies are replaced based on these budget cycles, rather than holistically, platform by platform.
If you start from scratch with business analytics, governance structures and a common platform, a common data dictionary, you would add functionality for specific processes. It’s just a better design than if you built each of these separate processes with a separate project charter.
It’s not just a pure technological advantage. It is also a practical advantage in terms of prioritization. Who decides which projects you should focus on? By having this business analysis and governance structure, along with common platforms and data structures, you are much more likely to get the right answer by focusing on what matters most first. more. Rather than prioritizing projects just because there is money available, you would instead prioritize projects with the highest priority.
What challenges would this new model face and how could they be overcome? What would it take for this to be real?
There are very real barriers to this. One is always money: not only budget availability in terms of income versus expenditure, but also in terms of priorities. In the government, giving priority to IT recruitments over prison guards or nurses in hospitals is still a real struggle.
We are not necessarily at the forefront of policymakers’ minds in terms of where to invest. This is historically true. In the context of data governance, I just don’t think it’s seen by all leaders as critical.
There needs to be a paradigm shift, that is, IT must be seen as a strategic partner. It cannot be an afterthought. When IT is seen as a partner – we’re here to leverage technology, to make that vision a reality – then people can see the importance of investing in this type of organizational infrastructure.
Tom Lynch has been with Cook County IT since 2014 and has served as CIO since 2018. His previous work includes roles in both the public and private sectors in the Chicago area.