GovReads! IT Budgeting and Decision Making: Maximizing Your Government’s Technology Investments

Phil Bertolini, Deputy County Executive/Chief Information Officer for Oakland County, Michigan, is a new member to GovLoop. Phil released a book in June 2009 called “IT Budgeting and Decision Making: Maximizing Your Government’s Technology Investments” that he co-edited with Shayne Kavanagh. Check out the brief interview with Phil about the book below:

1) What was the impetus for the book?

For years, the Government Finance Officer’s Association (GFOA) has been working with finance officers to understand the world of technology. In many levels of government, the finance officer is the technology decision maker. The ability to make sound business/technology decisions depends upon the individual’s knowledge and/or expertise. Bringing the world of technology together with the world of finance provides government officials with a set of “best practices” that help guide what can be some of the most important decisions they will make for their governments. There was also a need to provide a “roadmap” for officials to achieve technological success and this book provides the path.

2) Who’s your target audience?

The target audience is government finance and technology officials from all levels of government. The “best practices” in the book touch every aspect of government and the technology decisions needed to be successful.

3) What are a couple of the best practices that you cite in the book?

One “best practice” that is prominent in the book is the need for a strong relationship between the Chief Information Officer (CIO) and the Chief Financial Officer (CFO). The CIO and CFO must appreciate each other’s viewpoint and work together to successfully implement technology in government. The relationship is built on mutual trust that is earned and not given. The CIO and CFO must also be able to communicate so each understands the needs of the other. A solid CIO/CFO relationship is built on the “best practice” of good communications and mutual trust.

Another “best practice” from the book is the need to build strong business cases for technology. Understanding the Return on Investment (ROI) for potential projects will ensure that the business case is built on a solid foundation. Officials must weigh all tangible and intangible benefits versus the cost of implementation. Measuring performance after the initial implementation will either prove or disprove the original business assumptions.

4) Is there a call to action for readers?

The call to action that underlies the entire book is that the finance and technology officials must work together to maximize the efficient use of public dollars by leveraging technology in their everyday work. In addition, this book seeks to strategically push technologies deeper into our government organizations realizing that we must prove value and benefit to be successful. The streamlining of government will only be achieved through a balanced use of technology and the investments in technology will pay huge dividends to all. Throughout the book there are a number of “takeaways” that the readers can use within their specific government organization.

5) Can you give a few examples of these “takeaways”?

One significant “takeaway” the book provides is a roadmap to maturity for government IT organizations. As government IT moves from a basic provider of services to a mature organization, there are key components that frame the journey. Key aspects of the roadmap are:

> Government’s Perception of IT
> Governance/Leadership Structure
> Customer Service
> Sourcing Strategy
> Project/Portfolio Management
> Business Cases
> IT Finance

Moving forward in the maturity model, the government IT organization moves from a desktop computing provider to a strategic/integral part of the entire organization. The book provides the changes that an organization must make to move up the maturity scale. The GFOA also provides an assessment, that the reader can download, that provides an approximate maturity status for their use of IT. The results of the assessment can be used in conjunction with the roadmap chapter to assist the reader in their evolution.

Another “takeaway” is that the book stresses the need for good governance for government IT. Significant assistance is provided throughout the book on how to structure IT within government to best utilize technology strategically. Creating a mature, cost efficient, well governed technology function is one of the main foundations of the book. We as government officials must seek excellence if we are to truly serve our citizens.

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Interesting book that I look forward to checking out. I like the focus on connecting CFO and CIO. From my experience in CIO shops that relationship can be a really fruitful one when the parties are connected and thinking on the same page.