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Doing Big Things With a Smaller IT Budget

Whoever said “money makes the world go round” didn’t meet the City of Phoenix’s Information Technology Services department. Since the beginning of the recession in 2007, Arizona has been in a contraction mode at all levels of government. However, regardless of their declining IT budget, Phoenix still has to provide services to roughly 1.4 million citizens. And, thus, they have to be creative in how they administer those services.

Debbie Cotton, Chief Information Officer of the City of Phoenix, sat down with Emily Jarvis on GovLoop’s State and Local Spotlight to discuss how her team has handled the declining budget and delved into some of the projects they are currently working on. emily-snl-badge-02-300x300

“We’re a massive corporation with multiple lines of business. Think of as as a government conglomerate,” Cotton said.

In 2014, the city of Phoenix’s IT Services department performed a broad assessment of their technology landscape. In so doing, they found that the city operated in a federated model where they have a strong IT core that the centralized IT department manages. On the flip side, they also have several large departments that have their own separate IT organizations, with separate IT systems and staff. “We are literally studying each department so that we can understand where they are. We want to understand their business systems and problems,” Cotton stated.

After studying each department, the team divided the different types of IT services they handle into three phases and developed a strategy to tackle each one.

  1. Commodity Phase: This phase deals with IT infrastructure (i.e. desktops and servers). In other words, Cotton explained, this phase doesn’t require a lot of oversight as it can be “managed seamlessly across the organization.”
  2. Mission Phase: This phase is not as easily managed because each department/agency’s mission requires different types of IT. Cotton pointed to the public transit department as an example. They handle a lot of transit specific information, such as aviation.
  3. Support Phase: This phase deals with large-scale enterprise systems that everybody can use. They compromise of human capital management, asset management, E-procurement, and budget/finance systems.

Once they identified which phase they are working on with a specific department, the team created some tailored projects to support the need to continue to provide basic services to their citizens.

Cotton highlighted three projects that are currently helping or will help the city of Phoenix function more efficiently and effectively.

  • E-Procurement Self-Service Portal: This portal was launched in April of 2015 and has allowed vendors to register in a secure portal so that city of Phoenix can search and bid for them in the future. “I think the vendor community finds it very helpful because it is like a one-stop-shop for them,” Cotton explained.
  • Police Records Management System: This system provides local law enforcement with the ability to perform their fieldwork more smoothly. Patrol officers can go about their normal police activity and reporting in a secure online system while maintaining a better account of each (i.e. issue citations, check license plates, etc.).
  • Customer Care and Billing Project: Cotton and her team created a project that partnered with Phoenix’s water services department and the public works department to upgrade their web systems. Now, citizens “have a web-friendly way of interacting with our city to pay their water bills and more. The tool will be web-responsive so that you can use your digital devices on the go,” Cotton said. They plan to have theses services roll out in 2017.

A smaller budget does produce its own set of difficulties, but the city of Phoenix is proof that it isn’t impossible to manage.

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