There’s an App for That – The IT Challenge in the App Generation

During my annual holiday purge, I came across one of my most beloved devices at the bottom of one of my drawers – the now-chubby feeling, eight GB powerhouse that was the original iPhone. I kept it, I admit it. It isn’t often that I own something that started a revolution.

The effects of that original device can be seen far and wide. Is it any surprise, then, that I have to add an “app purge” to my annual cleaning now that my iPhone has grown from eight GB to 128 GB of app sprawl and photos (gasp, all that in my hand?!) that help me remember what my rental car looks like.

In fact, I have 12 apps just for photography.

So, what if you are a CIO or IT Director coping with smartphone fallout and the ease of the app generation? To put it another way, what if your organization expects an app (or solution) for every business challenge? And what if you, as a good team member, have accommodated this?

IT sprawl, meet app sprawl

You might find yourself staring in your metaphorical IT drawers and asking yourself how you ended up with the kind of IT sprawl that is hard to support and fit into your budget. You might even find that on top of too much to support, you have those legacy systems – the ones that aren’t secure, don’t have a mobile component or are feature poor – the ones that cost so much to hold together that you can’t afford to replace them. You’re trapped!

Much has been discussed about the need to centralize, consolidate and simplify IT solutions and infrastructure. But what rarely comes up is that IT leadership may perpetually fail a generation used to small, easy-to-get tools they can download themselves, which automatically tells you when there is an update (which you probably get for free).

If only my life as an IT Director had been that easy. Imagine no network software compatibility issues, no security problems, no firewall…. well, you get the point.

But here’s the challenge. Your portfolio of solutions is not a smartphone. It is a complicated set of mission-critical solutions, security barriers, policies, hardware, phones and people. It has things that absolutely, positively need to keep running. It requires training every time you change solutions. It eats maintenance money and it has to keep up with the next political whim or valid constituent need.

So how do you solve your IT challenges in the era of apps? Change the search from apps (individual solutions) to a platform that can check off several boxes with a single investment.

What should you look for? 

Here are a few tips:

  • A proven government platform

Not just a solution that solves AP or HR paper-based processes, but one that drives a digital transformation, because a paper-based world is jarring in an app generation. And, because simplifying and centralizing saves budget and resources, you need a platform that has proven itself across many government functions and departments. This helps remove the risks associated with investing in something new.

  • Flexibility

Because government doesn’t control its destiny and can’t always predict the next mandate or political cycle, you need flexibility in your tools. Integration capabilities are key. Who doesn’t like the automatic switching between email, browser, etc. that we’ve gotten used to thanks to our smartphones?

Actually having tools that connect solutions and make them easy to use is part of the new expectation driven by our smartphones.

  • Case management tools

The ability to rapidly and affordably develop solutions to manage new programs and responsibilities – all while collecting required data and reporting results – has to be in a CIO’s toolkit. A platform that includes case management software can offer integration, the capture of related documents and data and workflow management.

  • Security

While you investigate platforms, why not look into investing in encryption? You need encryption at rest and in transit as well as the ability to manage users in a granular fashion.

Overall, the app generation has been good for the user. It has really driven technology into our psyche and done it in a way that shows almost everyone the value. For IT Directors and CIOs trying to meet business needs, it has raised user expectations. This is good, but difficult if you choose the wrong solutions, as the exit strategy is not as easy as simply deleting it and looking for another $1.99 photo editing program.

The features above are a good working checklist that mitigates classic risks for government IT, while providing the flexibility you need to make the next solution you deliver is as responsive and user-driven as the app generation now demands.

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