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Delivering e-government: It takes a village… not just IT

It takes a village to raise a child, but also to implement e-government.

There is clearly a lot of momentum going into state and local governments transitioning to the digital world and creating e-government initiatives. State by state, county by county and town by town the transition is occurring in one form or another. However not all states are progressing at the same rate. In many states, infrastructure is severely outdated, and the state struggles to coordinate services with town and county governments. Although the many states have attempted to switch some applications to public cloud technology, many of its applications still use mainframe storage and processing. Meanwhile, many states— including Utah, Illinois, and Ohio—have adopted a cloud-first strategy, with Utah abandoning mainframes altogether. The results they are seeing are compelling. The benefits seen include better citizen experience and engagement, improved job satisfaction and a reduction in operating costs for the jurisdiction.

So how is this best achieved and what are governments doing to improve? These are some suggestions based on what we have seen and experienced.

1) Executive commitment - The transition needs to to come from the top, governors, county officials and mayors must support the effort. It is not enough to know THAT we are transforming everything, but we also need to know WHY, as this makes prioritizing and decision making more consistent. Goals typically include both internal (cost, retention, etc.) and external (engagement, experience, etc.) drivers. Remember though, this is not a technology project, it is a government transformation project that crosses departments, functions and processes and culture so everyone participates. This technology transformation parallels a change in process and culture. Indeed, in two recent Gartner surveys, CEOs and CIOs listed culture (46%) as the top barrier to digital transformation, followed by resources and talent. Technology was not even cited in the top five barriers to digital transformation.

2) Get a handle on security - Security is perhaps the most critical and visible technology starting point. In addition to the data damage, a breach of citizen data is a PR nightmare. We have seen many instances where governments to not have a solid and coherent plan that addresses not only the security of the data but also a process for managing events. A strong and independent security assessment is an ideal first step. Once security is assured, the process can continue.

3) Create an e-government plan - Effective e-government is essential to improving accountability and efficiency. Governments should prioritize the enhancement of offerings looking at residents as customers. Jurisdictions should use an “outside-in” approach to service delivery by assuming the perspective of the resident, rather than that of the agency, when designing delivery mediums. One model for e-government is Utah. Utah has received an A grade in the Center for Digital Government’s Biennial Digital States Survey for each of the last four survey years. The key to Utah’s success is its ability and willingness to adapt to changes in residents’ preferences. Utah has responded by employing a mobile-first strategy to reflect this change. Utahans can now interact with government from anywhere and at any time with the devices they are most comfortable using. Within a brief period, cost savings from e-government should exceed the upfront investments. A study by the University of Utah estimated that e-government expansion saved the state $46 million over five years, with each online transaction costing $13.20 less (on average) than an offline transaction.

4) Implement the most impactful things first – with all of the different applications and ways to implement e-gov, it begs the question, where do we begin. Once you know the why, you can pursue the what. Evaluate the processes that have the greatest impact on citizen engagement and cost. Once these are determined, prioritize according to which ones are the easiest or quickest to implement. A high return project that takes 3 years to complete may not be as impactful as one that can be accomplished in 3 months. Showing progress rapidly is critical to the continuation and perceived success of the project.

5) Share successes – States, counties and town governments should share in their successes. Promotion of what works and how it was accomplished helps everyone.

So, my final recommendation is to work with a company who has the skills and knowledge to help you in your endeavor. I believe that this is far more encompassing than IT should be managing on their own. Expertise from the outside can more easily cross departments, maneuver the political barriers and offer an unbiased opinion. At Nikia Solutions, we take the time to understand your desired outcomes and then find technologies to implement, rather than coming in with a preconceived direction and force fitting it. We don’t make recommendations and leave, we stay throughout the implementation and provide the skills and talent needed and stay engaged to ensure your ongoing success.

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