Making IT Investments That Last

Implementing new government IT projects is often a long and arduous process for government. Budget and staff cuts, advancing technologies, outdated procurement processes and more can leave officials feeling unequipped to make their next big IT move.

So in this environment, how can government chief information officers (CIOs) strategize to invest in the right IT solutions? Governing and Government Technology’s guide, “Selecting and Sustaining IT Investments in Government,” presents challenges and best practices for IT procurement in the public sector. The guide offers four key strategies for making better government IT investments:

1. Improving IT Research and Procurement Practices

This step involves identifying your organization’s needs and goals and what technology solutions will fulfill them. Begin by answering this core question: What will success look like for your organization and why is it important? This question helps determine project outcomes, prompts discussion with users about what they need, and begins educating managers on terminology and practices. Furthermore, it helps stakeholders view your government problem from an IT perspective.

Proper planning, research, and preparations can ease the procurement and purchasing process. The guide recommends these best practices for successfully managing IT procurement:

  • Stay up to date on procurement rules and processes.
  • Ensure standard purchasing terms and conditions meet IT needs.
  • Educate procurement staff on technology.
  • Review vendor limitations.
  • Address reduced IT staff levels.

2. Managing IT Project Implementation for Success

The second strategy is all about defining the project. Conduct both informal and formal discovery to gather input regarding stakeholder expectations and organizational obstacles. The guide recommends the following discovery process:

  • Establish stakeholder needs and wants.
  • Identify current methods and practices.
  • Observe how users conduct their jobs.
  • Learn the ins and outs of operational workflows.
  • Ask about any frustrations or workarounds with current processes.
  • Find out what is needed in terms of support and training.

Next, it is crucial to identify the success factors for your IT project. Some examples include return on investment (ROI), total cost of ownership (TOC) and “public good” factors related to your organization’s mission. Determine how to measure these factors and report results to supervisors to keep them on board.

3. Adopting the Right IT Trends

New advances in technology come to market so often that it is hard to know which ones to implement in your organization. The guide selects the most impactful IT government trends, designed to consolidate IT infrastructure, leverage changing technologies, and meet constituent needs. Consider the pros and cons of adopting each of the following in your organization:

  • Mobility and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)
  • Cloud
  • Shared services
  • Case management
  • Enterprise content management (ECM)
  • Transparency
  • Self-service
  • eGovernment

4. Positioning Government IT for the Future

With so much happening in the IT and government worlds, it is easy to get wrapped up in immediate concerns. As the guide notes however, in order to make effective investments today, IT officers must always keep in mind future needs and opportunities.

Stay focused and facilitate an enterprise-level strategy. Centralizing your data, integrating your information, and simplifying your IT platforms will benefit your organization in the long run. It’s also important to consider your organization’s drivers for new IT investments. The guide explains that organizations can be trend-driven, strategy-driven, or reaction-driven. Each approach requires different strategies and solutions, so identifying your agency’s focus is paramount.

Finally, the guide offers these best practices to implement throughout the entire IT procurement lifecycle:

  • Create process maps. Clear and detailed diagrams, flow charts, or lists of systems and work processes give you a solid understanding of IT roles in your organization’s business activity today and help define where IT is going in the future.
  • Educate and train new users. Internal user groups and user days are great ways to demonstrate and share information about new IT solutions. Also consider educational resources through your IT vendor.
  • Report results. A government IT annual report can discuss issues and progress on your organization’s challenges as well as improvements.
  • Revisit the enterprise vision. It’s important to follow a regular process for evaluating IT progress and defining new plans at the enterprise level.

Making IT investments can be a whirlwind if not approached properly. The appropriate preparations, planning, and practices can help you to avoid being swept astray and encourage sustainable IT solutions. For more information and to read the entire guide, click here.

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