Strategic Concept 2: Fulfilling technology’s potential to transform lives

Purpose:  Deliver better results while meeting growing expectations

“Things alter for the worse spontaneously, if they be not altered for the better designedly.” – Francis Bacon

Description:  As the Silicon state, California is the home of technological innovation.  California companies are inventing the future of information management and presentation and our residents demand that their interactions with government be up to these high standards.  The most public-facing aspect of an organization, its online presence, needs to meet the growing demands of the public it was built for.  While technology will not change the motivation behind people’s transactions with government, it can profoundly affect the way those transactions are pursued.  Open and easy online government services are one of the best ways we can ensure that California is meeting the expectation that government helps serve the people it governs.  The California Department of Child Support Services recently implemented a single statewide system for the collection and disbursement of child support payments.  The California Child Support Automated System ensures that the state is delivering this vital service based on the needs of the people of California, not the dictates of an organizational chart. 

Strategy 1:  Establish a service oriented culture

Strategy 2:  Make Government Services Mobile

Strategy 3:  Open new channels for services to Californians

Bottom Line:  Achieving these goals will improve accessibility of services by providing 24/7 self-service, increasing the number of online services and enabling access via mobile devices.  Acting on these goals will increase government efficiency and reduce costs while making government more responsive to the needs of California’s residents and businesses.  By introducing multiple ways for residents and businesses to receive government services, while accommodating personal preferences, Californians will be better informed and more aware of government services online.

The essay that follows explores the idea of fulfilling technology’s potential to transform lives playing out in the future.

IT Transformation: CIOs Must Address Liza Lowery Massey
Roadblocks to Change Public CIO, 2008

The greatest productivity gains and cost savings I've witnessed during my IT career happened when business process improvements occurred before the technology's deployment. Next (and less effective) are transformational projects where a gap analysis during implementation forced changes to business processes. The worst-case scenario is when an IT system was customized to mimic the "way we have always done it."

I recently participated in a panel and discussed lessons learned from transformational IT projects and the role of cultural change. I recalled two projects that included upfront business process improvements and consequently achieved dramatic results. One was a supply chain management (SCM) project for Los Angeles, and the other was a regional Smart Permitting initiative in Silicon Valley.

The goal of the L.A. project, like any good SCM initiative, was to move from just-in-case to just-in-time inventory management. L.A.'s results were staggering: millions of dollars saved (initially and recurring), hundreds of positions no longer needed to support the process, and the number of warehouses was cut in half. The project succeeded for several reasons: the inclusion of process review and improvement, sound project and change management, collaboration within the city and with the vendor, and before-and-after measurement. Additionally, the city's leadership made the tough decisions that often deter organizations from realizing dramatic improvements.

The Smart Permitting project began with 27 cities and two counties in California's Silicon Valley. Developers faced a regional building code with 400 local amendments; by collaborating, the amendments were reduced to 11, then nine and finally only two. The savings -- before any technology was implemented -- was estimated at billions of dollars and impacted more than 90,000 commercial and residential projects. Other business process changes were also made before technology was eventually introduced: governance, executive involvement, before-and-after measurement, and well defined goals all contributed to the initiative's success. Once again, leaders made tough decisions.

These examples probably evoke memories of other highly successful IT projects. But following closely on their heels are likely recollections of projects that didn't live up to their potential. While the aforementioned success factors make a significant difference, why is transformational change so difficult -- especially in the public sector?

First and foremost, government lacks a unifying purpose. Unlike private industry, whose single unifying function is profitability, each government agency or department has its own mission that -- while contributing to the overall community good -- is narrowly focused on specific goals and objectives.

Other factors -- both intentional and unintentional -- stymie process improvement and the success of IT projects. The inadvertent roadblocks include not understanding the value of reviewing and improving business processes and inadequate skills to do it. Human nature also plays a key role. We are creatures of habit who value our comfort zone. I call this Liza's Theory of Change: "People only change when the pain of not changing becomes too great." It sounds pessimistic, but it's realistic and I use it as a driver to search for "pain" to ensure the situation is ripe for transformation.

Intentional roadblocks to success include: resistance, competing agendas, risk aversion, and fear of job loss or negative change to working conditions. In addition, people do not like to be wrong. As IT professionals, we often look at everything through a lens of "how can I fix it?" While it's the nature of our business, we put non-IT folks on the defensive when we approach them this way. I've learned that approaching everything in the spirit of further improvement acknowledges that people are doing their best.

Some progress can be made when technology forces change or adapts to bad business processes. While often more difficult, transformational results are realized when business process improvements precede technology implementation. Acknowledging and addressing the roadblocks, as well as tackling the areas of greatest pain, lead to the greatest gains.

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