Government, Information Technology and the App Generation

imagine no network software compatibility issues, no security problems, no firewall.…

There are always those individuals who fight new technologies. Maybe you can remember your dad telling you how that whole “VCR” thing wasn’t going to catch on… or how your aunt never could understand the hubbub over that Apple IIc you were so excited about. Sometimes folks fight newness out of apprehension, and sometimes the resist on principle. “The way we’ve always done it is fine!” they say.

Really, though? Is it?

I and many of you, I suspect, aren’t like that. We might not be immediate whizzes at all the new stuff, but we can sense their worth. We get excited about it. I can remember all of my old phones, for instance. Good memories. Of course, when I compare the phone I have now to that first one, all I can think is “Wow.” The differences – the advances – in technology have come so far, so quickly.

A few years ago is when the phrase, “There’s an app for that” first came into vogue. While you don’t hear the phrase itself so much anymore, the fact it alluded to has only become truer. So here’s a question. What do you do if you’re a CIO or IT Director whose organization expects an app (or solution) for every business challenge?

IT Sprawl Meets App Sprawl

Chances are, you might find yourself asking how you ended up with the kind of IT sprawl that is both tough to fit into your budget and tough to support. You might also find that you have to contend with burdensome legacy systems – ones that aren’t secure, lack a mobile component or suffer from a dearth of relevant (or maybe needed) features. You know – the ones that cost so much to hold together that you can’t afford to replace them. Not too comfy, hmm?

Here’s the challenge. Your portfolio of solutions is not as simple or as self-contained as, say, a smartphone. Instead, it’s a complicated set of mission-critical solutions, security barriers, policies, hardware, phones and people. It has elements that absolutely, positively need to keep running. When changes are made? Training is required. It eats maintenance money, and it has to keep up with the next political whim or valid constituent need.

Much has been discussed about the need to centralize, consolidate and simplify IT solutions and infrastructure. One of the undiscussed secrets, though, is that IT leadership may be perpetually failing a generation used to small, easy-to-get tools they can download themselves. Those tools (apps) can even automatically tell a user when an update (probably free) is available. Clearly, there’s a disconnect.
Now imagine something else. Imagine no network software compatibility issues, no security problems, no firewall. Can you see it in your mind? Nice thought.

So how do you solve your IT challenges in the era of apps? Well, why not change the search from “apps” (individual solutions) to an entire platform that can check off several boxes with a single investment?

The Lure of ECM

Here are a few tips:

A Proven Government Platform
Consider a solution that does more than solve AP or HR paper-based processes. Instead, how about one that drives a digital transformation? And, because simplifying and centralizing saves resources and is budget-friendly, you need a platform that has proven itself across many government functions and departments. This helps remove the risks associated with investing in something new.

Flexibility
Because government doesn’t control its destiny and can’t always predict the next mandate or political cycle, you need flexibility in your tools. Integration capabilities are key. Who doesn’t like the automatic switching between email, browser, etc. that we’ve gotten used to thanks to our smartphones? Actually having tools that make solutions easier to find and use is part of the new expectation driven by our smartphones.

Case Management Tools
Every CIO today needs the ability to rapidly and economically develop solutions to manage new programs and responsibilities – all while collecting required data and reporting results. A platform that includes case management software can capture related documents and data and workflow management. Real integration!

Security
If you’re going to be looking at platforms, why not look into investing in encryption, as well? You need encryption both at rest and in transit – as well as the ability to manage users.

Overall, the app generation has been good for the user. It has driven technology into our psyche and clearly shows its value every day – in myriad ways. For IT directors and CIOs trying to meet critical business needs, it’s raised user expectations. Choose a system wisely, and you’ll be thanked endlessly. Choose poorly, and there are a whole host of negative consequences.

The features above are a good working checklist that mitigates classic risks for government IT, while providing the flexibility you need to make the next solution you deliver is as responsive and user-driven as the app generation now demands.

As for that Roomba thing? Ain’t gonna last.

Posted by: Kelly Green
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