network infrastructure (Jackie Niam/


Why an IT resilience strategy might be the best investment states can make

A wise approach to state government budgetary efficiency, at least as it relates to IT, requires accepting a few counterintuitive truths. Often enough, “penny-wise, pound foolish” budget cuts ultimately cost more than they save. As it stands, an update to an old adage is becoming more applicable -- and valuable -- to state governments: Sometimes you have to spend money to save money.

According to the scientific research journal Management Science, state governments can achieve a remarkable return on investment when they actually spend more on IT. The report, “Do CIO IT Budgets Explain Bigger or Smaller Governments? Theory and Evidence from U.S. State Governments,” estimates that “on average, a $1 increase in state CIO budgets is associated with a reduction of as much as $3.49 in state overall expenditures.”

These numbers are undoubtedly welcome for state governments and their IT leaders, giving them the opportunity to achieve an enviable win-win. They can improve the quality of the IT services their states provide while reaping direct budgetary dividends by doing so. State CIOs should be pleased to know that every dollar their state government is able to set aside for IT can deliver up to a healthy 349 percent return.

The research goes on to provide analysis and guidance covering how different areas of IT provide varying opportunities and levels of ROI, so that states know precisely what actions to take. The study finds that a good deal of potential IT investment benefits actually come from introducing new efficiencies into established IT processes. In many cases that means creating automated interfaces and providing more services online, as well as replacing systems that previously required manual attention. Modernizing IT to be more akin to the private sector -- like, say, having mobile apps that allow users to execute payment transactions -- enables government departments to provide services on par with those that users have come to expect everywhere else. And the high sensitivity to a secure data infrastructure within these government sectors is also well served by the latest IT innovations.

However, and most critically, IT investments in network infrastructure provide the highest ROI cited by the paper. This makes sense; network infrastructure is the foundation behind the efficient delivery of these new (or improved) IT services needed by citizens and public sector employees. Network outages caused by failures to this infrastructure come with enormous costs.

Unfortunately, these failures are all too common. Gartner tags the average cost of network downtime at an estimated $300,000 per hour. While it’s a problem that still gets more headlines in the private sector, a survey from Symantec revealed that 70 percent of government agencies had suffered network outages of 30 minutes or longer in the past month. It also found that network uptime contributes to public sector employee efficiency, with real-time online access to information saving government field workers an average of 17 hours per workweek.

The survey cautioned that government decision makers may still drastically undervalue the importance of network uptime, with a mere 29 percent of employees saying that they thought their IT department leaders understood the severe detrimental effect that downtime had on their productivity. The potential benefits of investments in network infrastructure are significant, making government services more effective while enabling cost savings -- but only when the importance of these investments is recognized.

Technologically speaking, achieving network resilience and keeping downtime to a minimum is well within the reach of state governments. (In fact, that’s how those states currently experiencing an ROI of $3.49 per dollar spent are able to do so.) Out-of-band management technologies give network administrators the capabilities to oversee and fully access even remotely located network infrastructure equipment. Employing this IT strategy within state governments can automatically prevent network failures by using the technology to identify issues before they manifest as outages and either self-repairing or alerting admins as needed.

IT infrastructure outages can further be avoided by using systems designed to seamlessly failover to backup 4G LTE cellular connections when the primary network connection fails. This means that even when accidents, bad weather, natural disasters or user error knocks a network connection offline, government IT services on that network experience minimal interruptions. With these measures in place, users of government sites and services continue to have their needs fulfilled, government workers stay connected to the tools that make them more efficient and effective, and state CIOs remain in position to introduce further automation and improvements to online government solutions.

With state government IT budgets always under pressure for more efficiency -- and an increasingly tech-savvy citizenry expecting more from the online services they use -- it’s a welcome fact that smart investments in IT can pay for themselves and then some.

About the Author

Gary Marks is the CEO at Opengear.

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