As cities grow, local governments face increasing challenges in communication and strategy alignment.
To keep up with growth, most city departments become compartmentalized, in many cases turning into mini-governments that operate almost autonomously. This quickly leads to a confusing array of different forms and protocols that don’t transfer well between offices. It’s not uncommon for, say, a transportation department and a housing board to have little or no contact, even if their offices are in the same hallway.
It’s no surprise that this hyper-siloed approach to government bogs down a lot of the good work government employees want to do. As departments become siloed, budgets do too, and this compartmentalization can make taking on growth initiatives much harder.
Officials should focus on breaking down these silos and letting interdepartmental collaboration change the way government works. Here’s what you can do:
#1. Align Goals and Objectives
In large city governments, each department has a different strategic plan. Finding a space where these departments can collaborate and align their goals is the first step to getting everyone on the same page. For many cities, the internet is the place where this collaboration happens.
A lot of governments will maintain several different web presences simultaneously under the city umbrella. And, when it comes to updating technology, many departments will do it alone. The result is an inconsistent web experience for users, plus difficult communication between departments.
At SeamlessGov, we’ll often end up working with one department in a larger government structure, like the police department or the city clerk. Other governmental departments don’t always know that we’re working with their city.
#2. Combine Purchasing Power
When departments set goals collaboratively, they unlock the potential to optimize purchasing decisions and pursue a stronger team-oriented agenda.
A lack of communication cuts out departments who could seriously benefit from major initiatives like paperless integration — especially departments with smaller budgets. By combining purchasing power on these initiatives, every department can get a better deal than they would working independently.
In addition, if one department likes a specific vendor or solution, they should share their experience with other departments. For example, Tamarac, FL started by updating a single department’s website. Those project leaders shared their experience with colleagues in different departments, and now nearly every department in Tamarac is using SeamlessGov to create online forms and manage their operations.
#3. Build-Out with Intent
When you’re looking to expand services or update your web presence, keep everyone involved! Chances are that something is going on behind the scenes in another department that could make your project better. Rather than independently building out in all directions, expand with intent toward the collaborative goal of interdepartmental collaboration.
Growing together makes running your office easier on many levels. It’s often easier for a city to procure a vendor like SeamlessGov when multiple departments are interested — especially for cities with tight operating budgets. Expanding your website to include digital forms makes transferring documents between departments easier, especially when payments are involved. Streamlining processing across departments saves time for clerks, too. Plus, it gives your IT department the time and freedom to work on high-value projects they’d otherwise be forced to put off. In addition, getting more departments on board helps promote uniformity across your web presence, which makes your citizens feel more confident in the services you offer.
It’s never been easier to break down silos and work together toward a brighter future for your government. Why wait?
Jonathon Ende is part of the GovLoop Featured Contributor program, where we feature articles by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Contributor posts, click here.