3 Ways to Jolt Your IT Department

Pat Fiorenza, Research Analyst, GovLoop
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Pat Fiorenza, Research Analyst, GovLoop

As an IT executive, you are well aware that technology is moving at a meteoric pace. To meet the demands of your agency, you are constantly working to provide the best tools and services. As emerging technology serves as a means to transform your agency, you are working to create effective communication channels between business units to create an IT roadmap for the agency.

That’s why I briefly wanted to highlight three strategies and ideas for government IT executives like you to jolt your IT department. By focusing on effective communications, exercising transformative leadership strategies and exploring the core questions to ask while building an IT roadmap, you can chart the course towards modernizing your agency.

1. Promote the Power of Effective Communications

We’ve all seen how incredibly complex government IT projects can be, especially those with multi-sector stakeholders. In many cases, these stakeholders will understand the benefits of technology (i.e. cost savings, efficiency, employee productivity), but will lack a true technical expertise to understand implementation challenges and limitations. This is where it is essential that you, as a CIO, develop a common language with stakeholders to clearly communicate implementation challenges.

As CIO, you must empower staff to operate as the agency’s business analysts, enabling them to assess and clearly communicate implementation progress across the agency. Time and again, we are reminded that IT projects require not only technical expertise, but also require the business acumen to analyze operations and clearly communicate to project stakeholders with varying levels of expertise. This is why the business analyst role can serve as an essential position, linking your technical team and stakeholders.

Peter Doolan, Group Vice President, Chief Technologist, Oracle Public Sector, once told me,

“I have seen so many projects fail, not because of technology, the project failed because of the inability for IT professional to explain and communicate their capabilities to the business side, and for the business to communicate back to the IT side, stating their needs and requirements to have a tangible impact on the outcome.”

2. Commit to Leadership Growth

Ultimately, you must decide what tools to purchase and how to implement them within your agency. To arrive at the decision, you must engage with key stakeholders, and extend beyond the traditional leadership strategies. Nurture creative thinking and collaboration across your agency. To make the most effective decisions and build a culture of trust, consider the following best practices:

• Improve project management skills: Hone your understanding of the costs, scope and demands of a project, and lead your team to success on time and budget.
• Continue to hire smart: Make smart hiring decisions, and build skilled, loyal teams at your agency.
• Understand your culture: Study the culture you are operating in, and learn to navigate it to drive innovative solutions to complex problems.
• Be diligent about setting goals and metrics: Setting goals and achieving them is one of your strongest leadership traits. Continue to show the success of your projects and honor your team’s hard work.
• Never stop learning: Do you want to be among the best?The best government executives are the ones who are constantly learning, and have a strong desire to improve their leadership skills. Demonstrating this trait shows you are committed to organizational success.
Pursue feedback actively: Simple questions like, “How am I doing?” or “What can I do better?” are essential to ask your staff and colleagues. They not only help you grow as a leader and build trust, but help you adapt and change practices to meet your organization’s goals.

With complex and integrated IT solutions being adopted in government, these six traits are imperative to build effective and productive IT departments, working to support the important missions of your agency.

3. Craft Your IT Roadmap

Improved communications and leadership equip you to more effectively create and execute a comprehensive IT strategy. Your strategy should be agile and flexible to meet the changing demands of citizens and employees. Below are some questions to start the discussion at your agency:
• How is this IT investment preparing for your future workforce?
• How is this IT investment setting a foundation for future technology innovations?
• Is this IT investment allowing us to improve services with lower budgets and fewer staff?
• Who else within our agency can benefit from this IT program?
• Can I work with a vendor to tailor this solution to meet my agency’s specific needs?
• Is it possible to conduct a pilot program first?
• How will I train staff and educate citizens about the new service?
• How will we update the technology, as needed? What kind of resources will this require?
• Who’s doing this well? What can I learn from their experience?
• Are there any challenges or obstacles I know I will face? What preventative steps can I take to avoid these roadblocks?

These questions will help you build your IT roadmap, and transform how your entire agency thinks about IT. The work that the public sector CIO does is imperative to the economic and social viability of our nation. With a continued commitment to improving government IT through effective communication, leadership growth and carefully crafted IT roadmaps, government CIOs like you are transforming our communities, and reimagining the way that government engages with citizens.

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