“When is that going to be done?”
Your answer might not always be what CIOs, IT directors and application managers want to hear – especially when they are waiting for a heavily anticipated solution that is still not ready for deployment.
In my case, I was working on a custom-coded internal portal with no earthly way to move the project along any faster or guarantee completion by a certain date.
There was more than one lesson in this for me. And, depending on how many of these moments you have had, you might be reluctant to consider an initiative with the word “transformation” in it. Because, while analysts and marketers paint amazing pictures of the benefits of digital transformation, it’s still up to you and your staff to persuade the funders, convince the agencies and actually deliver the solutions.
With the complexity of solutions leading to longer lead times and far-off go-live dates, the perception that IT can’t deliver has led to independent and de-centralized purchasing of solutions by business units – who probably aren’t consulting you about the implications of the purchase.
Making transformation work
In our last blog, I talked about why I think digital transformation is essential for state government. The next challenge is determining how to invest wisely and, ideally, using tools that lighten your workload. My experience taught me some lessons I can share while you consider which tools can make digital transformation more than an analyst fantasy.
With the right tools, you can not only “transform,” but consistently deliver. Changing your ability to deliver is the way to get back on track with your goals to centralize for better budget efficiency, modernize old systems and secure your infrastructure. And, it’s a way to rebuild your relationships with the departments, divisions and teams that may not have a positive outlook on IT’s ability to deliver.
My story above is an example of relying on custom-coded solutions that take much longer to deploy than using a rapid application platform to manage content, data and processes. Being very clear in understanding how much functionality is available through configuration rather than code can help you better evaluate your investment with a realistic view of the work it takes to maintain and alter.
Custom code makes it very difficult to predict completion and project timelines, which is problematic for governments that need to easily adapt a solution as expectations and legal responsibilities change with each political cycle. Custom code can inflate your costs, break when updates are needed and can be difficult to upgrade to reflect new functionality – like mobility or increased security.
The move to a content services environment recognizes that the storing of government data and the work of government staff are accomplished in dozens of solutions across the enterprise. Integration code, like custom code, can be a budget buster. But, more importantly, a bad integration or complete lack of integration can impede staff efficiency, increase the amount of required training and even create duplicative data entry and manual work.
Digital transformation implies efficiency gains for staff. It needs systems that work together to offer external customers convenient access while supporting internal staff with seamless access to the content they need to do their job. Understanding your integration tools and preferably having some options – like code-less integration, pre-built integrations and APIs – with consistent upgrades and updates to these tools will help you drive efficiency. It also helps capture information across the enterprise and serve it up in a content services model that advances your digital transformation.
Case management platform
Another unique struggle we face is the sheer variety of programs, processes and data collection tasks going on across state government. Each program, funding type, funding agency, rule and regulation contributes to the number of solutions you may support. As we have moved from customer relationship management to customer experience and sought to empower staff through better information access, we learned to use a case management approach to enhance both of these moments.
What we really need for digital transformation is a case management platform that is low-code, built with an easy integration philosophy and (critically!) includes workflow automation tools and content access. Evaluating these qualities, looking for a case management platform and picking one that has rapid application development tools is perhaps the single most impactful step towards digital transformation. When you can deliver solutions that meet the unique challenges of state agency program delivery, do it in an agile way and be well-positioned to make changes when the political winds blow in a different direction. If you can do that, you’ll re-define “deliver” for state government.
Consistently delivering solutions is the goal of every state IT effort. The roadblocks are plentiful – budget constraints, lack of coordination, bad vendors – and often out of your control. But we can choose wisely and demand tools and a platform that can drive today’s transformation and accommodate tomorrow’s needs, mandates and legal responsibilities. Thoughtful digital transformation can help to put your effectiveness and ability to deliver back into your hands.