Want a Good Investment in IT? Ask the Right Questions

Implementing new technology and IT projects is often a difficult process for everybody involved, particularly in government. Budget and staff cuts, rapidly advancing systems, outdated procurement processes and more can leave officials feeling unequipped to make their next big IT move.

But picking the right technology is more important than ever. Governments are reaching that ‘ah ha’ moment — the understanding that the right technology affects citizens’ interactions with them. So IT leaders needed to equip those making technology decisions with the right information to make the best technology investments. As citizens now engage with government in a variety of ways, the right technology is critical to enable those interactions.

So how can those in government strategize to invest in the right IT solutions? How can you make sure that the next big technology investment you make is actually a good one?

Governing and Government Technology’s guide, “Selecting and Sustaining IT Investments in Government,” presents challenges and best practices for IT investment in the public sector. It kicks off with an important section on the four best strategies that will maximize your government IT investment.

Strategy number one for making a solid investment in IT? Making sure you are asking the right questions, says the guide:

Finding new ways to research and procure technology solutions begins with knowing what you don’t want every bit as much as what you do want. To identify this knowledge within your organization, ask the question that is at the core of what you are trying to achieve: What will success look like for your organization and why is it important?

 This question is vitally important for a variety of reasons. First off, argues the guide, it focuses everybody involved in the project and gets them on the same page. If you can agree on the question you are trying to answer — and if you can agree on what a vision of success looks like — you’re more likely to pick the right tools to get there as a group.

A second and equally important reason you need to know what questions to ask? Asking questions prompts incredibly important discussions and opens up a dialogue about education, terminology, and realistic expectations on an IT project, argues the guide:

The core question about what will make for a successful IT project also prompts discussion with the program users about what they need and what they can realistically expect. This discussion is an opportune time to begin educating users and business managers about the terminology of potential solutions and how to view your government business activity from a technology perspective. For example, document management solutions organize a business activity by document type, use keywords and queries for finding and retrieving documents, and include tools for automating workflows. Even this basic knowledge can help users see the value of new technology solutions, even though they may mean significant changes.

So make sure you are asking the right questions, including this one: “What does project success look like for my organization?

This question about project success prompts discussion with the business side and with users about what they need and what they can realistically expect from a technology purchase. In turn, this discussion helps to create more realistic RFPs, more targeted vendor responses and a more efficient purchasing effort.

All of which gets you to your ultimate goal — improved technology investments that will drastically improve your interactions with your citizens, leading to constituent satisfaction and an overall better perception of the public sector.


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David B. Grinberg

Excellent post, Catherine. Yes, everyone should definitely check out the awesome guide to stay updated on this critically important issue. Kudos to GovLoop!