October 7, 2019

Digital Transformation Readiness for the City CIO

By Vijay George

Just like their counterparts in private enterprise, departmental leaders in city government are looking to the latest wave of digital technology for answers. How do you use technology and information to empower residents and operate more efficiently? Can technology help you make smarter use of the built infrastructure, existing resources and staff? What about Smart Cities initiatives — shouldn’t you be doing some of those? How do you keep from falling behind?

A recent report from The Deloitte Center for Government Insights shows that 73% of state and local government officials believe their organization’s digital capabilities lag behind what’s available in the private sector. It’s hard to digitally transform for the future when you’re already behind the times. 

Still, residents increasingly expect public entities to operate more like their favorite digitally driven companies. They’re asking for more streamlined digital services every day. Why can’t I renew my building permit online? Why can’t I pay my water bill or buy a bus pass — all from my mobile app? Why can’t I engage with city council via video chat on my smartphone, just like I do with my doctor? 

All of these demands for digital transformation ultimately cascade onto the city’s IT organization. Let’s take a look at five effective ways that IT can take the lead on a digital transformation.

  1. REBOOT YOUR ORGANIZATION AS A STRATEGIC PARTNER

    If your team is still viewed by other departments as their go-to for technology ordering, installation and support, you’re not in the strategic conversation. IT needs a seat at the table for discussions about departmental business objectives in order to recommend the right technology approach. Otherwise, IT becomes just an order taker rather than an enabler. In fact, you might even be seen as a hindrance. Make strategic partnership your mission and make sure the other department heads know it. 

    Word to the wise: Get out of the systems management business as much as you can. Leverage cloud and managed service models to create capacity and bandwidth that can be used for innovation. This empowers your departments to effectively leverage the right technology and the existing data available in the city to make better decisions. 

  2. ALIGN YOUR ORGANIZATION TO ENABLE DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION 

    Depending on your current structure, you may want to add a CXO (Chief Experience Officer) to reflect and enable a stronger customer-service focus. To address the city’s goals for digital transformation — as well as each department’s unique needs — it might make sense to add a CTO (Chief Technology Officer) to take the lead on innovation and governance, and/or a Chief Data Officer to operationalize data science initiatives. You should definitely be thinking beyond apps and Infrastructure.

  3. UPDATE YOUR SECURITY AND PRIVACY FOUNDATION

    You can’t build on shaky ground, so make sure your security and privacy systems are up to date and rock-solid before embarking on any new initiatives. Check for the appropriate policies, encryption, access management tools, change control, patch management, governance and compliance plans, and basic hygiene around all of your IT systems. Ensure good controls around all data storage and usage — including who has access to the data, how it moves around your systems, and all of your department’s responsibilities around it. In the wake of GDPR and CCPA, data privacy legislation is on the docket on both state and federal levels. Make sure your house is in order now, before things get even more complicated. 

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  4. ENABLE AN INNOVATION ENGINE

    Creating a continuous innovation cycle will help your city remain agile to adopt new ideas and technology, while also keeping up with rapidly evolving resident demands. Pilot programs can be a smart way to dip your toe into new technologies, assess their value with specific use cases, and explore options more cost-effectively. Once you’ve got a proof of concept demonstrating the value of the technology, it’s a lot easier to get buy-in for a more extensive deployment that can have broader organizational impact. 

  5. CONSIDER OUTSIDE EXPERTISE

    Preparing to support a large, complex city organization through digital transformation is a lot to tackle. Doing so while continuing to perform the traditional IT department tasks may well be impossible. An outside expert could provide much-needed experience and third-party perspective. The right partner will help you understand the city’s needs and grasp your challenges more completely, then develop and implement a strategic plan to address them. 

BRINGING IT ALL TOGETHER

Digital transformation really has to start with IT alignment and enablement. By positioning IT as a strategic partner, you’re laying an ideal foundation to truly understand the various needs of the departments you serve, so you can identify the most appropriate technology solutions. The structure of the IT team may have to morph as well — adding new leadership, skillsets and/or sub-departments to enable digital transformation. You’ll need a firm security and privacy foundation to build on, as well as an innovation engine to drive things forward. With these pieces in place, plus outside expertise when needed, IT can help the city make the most of digital transformation to help residents and businesses thrive. 

HOW BRIDGEPOINT CAN HELP

The City of Austin’s primary IT department brought in Bridgepoint Consulting to help it get ready for digital transformation. Based on deep experience and expertise in public sector technology, the Bridgepoint team helped the IT team assess its cross-departmental challenges and jumpstart operational efficiency. We also helped restructure the IT department to better meet future challenges. As City of Austin CIO Stephen Elkins says, traditional IT teams “…are organized to get the results that you have. You may need to reorganize to get the results that you want.”

If you’re looking for help preparing for digital transformation, please get in touch. Our experts can provide a full suite of technology consulting services and enterprise solutions — including needs assessment, software implementation, integration, custom software development and more. We bring best practices, proven methodologies and decades of IT and business acumen to every project to ensure long-term client success. Learn more about our full suite of Technology Consulting services & solutions here

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About Vijay George

As Director of Technology Consulting for Bridgepoint Consulting, Vijay George leads strategic efforts to support public sector organizations with a broad range of digital transformation initiatives, including IT strategy and planning, assessments, technology modernization and systems implementation & integration. George is a strategic and digital transformation leader with more than two decades of executive and technology leadership experience. He has led transformational initiatives designed to increase growth and efficiency for organizations in a wide variety of sectors including utilities, state and local government, IT services and manufacturing.

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