Strategies To Steer Government Bodies

By Srikanth Karra, CIO, City of Birmingham

Srikanth Karra, CIO, City of BirminghamAs the corporate world continues to witness a data proliferation the governments—Federal, States and the Local, are not far behind. City corporations and other municipal bodies directly involved in public welfare have seen a massive inflow of data due to infrastructure development projects and various demographic parameters such as the increase in population, births, and deaths.  In order to enhance their levels of service to the citizens, government sector too has begun to digitize their data environment and in the process, focused on advanced technologies like the cloud and mobile. For connecting with citizens better, corporations across the U.S. and the world have a presence on the social media. This has brought citizens at the center of their services.

Reaching out to the Citizens

Today, people are used to having information at their fingertips. Social media has transformed the way people interact with each other; mobile apps have also changed the way people access information. The development of applications for citizen-centric services is no longer feasible through the deployment of traditional methodologies by going through the Request for Proposal (RFP), Request for Quote (RFQ), for their time-consuming nature. On the other hand, the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platform has energized the flow of application development, by reducing the time required to go live with an application, from months to a few days, to ensure faster availability of information and services for citizens. Leveraging social media and the SaaS methodology for procuring applications in order to reach out to people faster, and provide an exceptional customer service is crucial for government bodies, today.

Evaluating Service Providers

In the public sector, it always takes time to get things done due to certain constraints. It is not always due to red tape or bureaucratic hurdles, but because procurement of services from vendors, solutions providers or other private parties, need to be done according to a procedure. Also, there are certain guidelines to be met, which differ in each state. Further, the Local, State and Federal governments have different protocols for procurements that need to be adhered to. In this context, it is essential for government bodies to engage their procurement and legal departments to ensure that all specific contractual terms and conditions are met. Accountability of the service providers with regard to the number of similar projects handled by them, ability to complete projects on time within budgets and the quality of support provided by them after going on live, is extremely important.

“Given the rapid changes within the technological landscape, it would be rea Working in a public sector is very challenging and interesting due to the nature of opportunities given to a CIO sonable to expect the lifecycle of the e-learning resource to be short”

Security as a Service

Securing the environment where user- friendly applications are hosted is equally important. All organizations must emphasize on protecting the investments, information, assets, and data of all types. In this connection, periodic assessment of the IT network becomes necessary to ascertain the absence of shortcomings. Security audits through conducting internal and external penetration tests to check the robustness of network infrastructure and the applications is vital. As each application generates voluminous logs pertaining to human activities, having a full-fledged enterprise log monitoring mechanism to scrutinizes logs round the clock, is a must for identifying any malware.

Challenges involved in Procuring Services for the Government sector

Although there are numerous vendors and service providers to help the government sector, strict protocols governing public sector contracts, hinder them from working with certain companies or vendors. Usually, some vendors are on a state contract, or work only for Group Purchasing Organizations (GPOs), while others follow the Negotiated Request For Proposal (NRFP) process. Certain laws prevent individual local governments from working with such organizations directly. A solution to this can be found by forming a consortium of multiple local governments functioning as a GPO. Going as a group allows local governments to engage with the companies that work with GPOs besides others they can collaborate with, as individuals. All cities in the group can adopt the same procurement model for engaging software vendors and share the relevant information for improving customer services. Although not popular, this model is already being practiced in some parts of the U.S.

Advice to budding CIOs

Working in a public sector is very challenging and interesting due to the nature of the opportunities given to a CIO. Being open-minded and listening to people for understanding their problems, could be of immense help CIOs need to adapt to changes and take it as a challenge and inspire people to work with less. IT is not a function by itself but an integral part of an organization that simplifies workflow operations. Working in tandem with the users to cultivate and inculcate a positive mindset within oneself and team-mates, is ultimately what helps a CIO in steering the organization to success.