Counties Lead the IT Way, Part II – The Four IT Priorities for Counties

Last time I relayed some of the discussions and trends from this year’s Center for Digital Government Digital Counties award ceremony. While it may have sounded like county governments don’t have the budget for moving along current IT projects or starting new ones, that wasn’t true at all. In fact, in areas that ran the gamut from replacement cycles to the realities of the “new normal” of more with less, the counties I spoke with were focused on four specific IT priorities now and into the coming year:

1. County finance and administration departments across the country are focusing on replacing their ERP solutions. These solutions are the backbone of their purchasing, contracting and HR technology investments and because government buys in cycles, many of these systems reached the time when the systems either have to be replaced or upgraded. Either way, this requires a major effort from the folks in government who own these solutions. But they definitely think it’s worth it – they know that upgrade or replacement is necessary to achieve more automation, utilize enhanced compliance tools and connect data and documents for more efficiency. Importantly, these system replacements are also seen as a direct tie to enhanced transparency and open government.

2. Intelligent transportation systems were the second of the four key priorities identified. With GPS systems, smart phone app development, web applications and system notifications, counties are managing traffic with a large range of technology tools to help. Using these tools, they can better manage emergency situations even as they continue to provide daily options to reroute traffic or respond to situations.

3. Healthcare reform, continued need for social services and initiatives like electronic health records are impacting counties, as they are a critical, frontline provider of these services. At this year’s award ceremony, counties were talking about replacing or adding case management capabilities, especially to further improve service delivery and reduce service delivery cost (or to manage workloads with fewer staff).

Similarly, electronic health records can eliminate paper file costs and provide better security for sensitive and HIPAA-regulated information. In addition to these mandates, counties are exploring ways to use online applications to change the way their constituents work with their healthcare providers.

4. Finally, the strong trends for consolidation, information sharing and shared services were discussed within the public safety and justice areas. A top priority for these counties was ways to use technology to further multi-jurisdiction cost-savings efforts – because it would, in their opinion, exponentially increase the efficiencies and cost-savings in the public safety and justice space. In the minds of these counties, police and sheriff’s departments might be combined, standard forms and documents could be developed and shared, and systems for document management and court case management could be shared to reduce the overall cost of these solutions for their individual counties (and cities) that participate in the multi-jurisdictional effort.

If you’re thinking that reduced budget and staffing was prompting significant reconsideration of the way of government in IT, you’re right. But, government is certainly doing all the right things. It’s reevaluating IT, and focusing on that which promotes efficiency of staff (task automation, self-service) and efficiency of the technology itself (system consolidation and shared services) while re-examing the old models of service delivery. By using technology to achieve additional efficiencies and using the current environment to provoke discussions for new ways to govern, counties are leading the way with the next great innovations for government!

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