The hidden connection between politics and spend management platforms
Bureaucracy and business relationships can stymie the evolution of an agency’s tech stack, preventing efficient, accurate processes for data and spend management.
Politics and governance often go hand in hand, but most public servants agree that certain aspects of government should remain apolitical, if possible — including operations and logistics, which comprise the bedrock of local administration.
At first glance, choosing the appropriate workplace technology has little to do with politicking. However, back-office campaigns may keep certain technologies from being adopted. Reluctance to embrace the future becomes more problematic as the use of cloud and internet of things expands and tech stacks become further connected. It’s imperative that state and local government leaders assess their processes independently to determine what’s best for their department and soon.
The first step in that process? Determining where IT politics is hindering the agency’s critical infrastructure.
Understanding where politics may lie in your tech stack
Long-established government agencies grapple with IT politics more often than their newer counterparts. That may be because teams formed in the 1990s and early 2000s often have established relationships with vendor partners. Sometimes, that means sticking with legacy technology, even when better-suited options come to market. While it’s only natural for consultants to develop strong relationships with third-party vendors, if business relationships are driving professional decisions, it’s time to change course and consider newer or more evolved technologies.
Of course, other factors might convince tenured employees to continue using an out-of-date tech stack. Many live by the adage “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.” But this complacency can have negative long-term effects.
As most leaders know, innovation requires forethought. Fundamental applications that haven’t evolved often contribute to operational inefficiencies and data inaccuracies. IT leaders and public servants must audit their tech stack frequently to ensure efficiency and accuracy. After all, government employees and constituents deserve the same level of digital sophistication enjoyed by their private-sector peers. This is particularly crucial as burnout becomes a more common problem among government employees stuck with manual workflows that they know can be streamlined.
Finally, many public sector professionals fall into a sunk-cost fallacy concerning third-party offerings. Let’s say an agency secured an early-bird deal with a particular cloud offering. Officials may now be intent on sticking with the solution until they achieve the desired ROI, even if they see diminishing returns over time. Although this is understandable, it’s yet another example of politics undermining operational effectiveness. When a technology no longer works for an agency — regardless of how that solution initially came to be or how much it costs — it’s time to look elsewhere.
How to remediate outdated data or spend management platforms
Old or non-comprehensive technology is a problem across the board, but it poses a particular challenge when it comes to spend management platforms. Spend management tools track financial movement across an entire organization, providing a holistic view of the cost and ROI associated with procurement, among other tasks. So how can public-sector professionals ensure they're getting the most accurate data from their platform?
They should first assess where the agency’s tech stack may be falling short. Although the issue may appear to be caused by the spend management platform, the true culprit is likely the data driving the platform. Without the proper data foundation, cost discrepancies and supply chain hiccups are inevitable. If the problem comes down to data, it's time to consider investing in a trusted data platform that integrates natively with existing systems and takes advantage of artificial intelligence and machine learning to provide comprehensive, updated information.
Next, agency IT pros should research cloud-native data and software-as-a-service solutions that fit their team's specific needs. The right provider will have experience working in the public sector and be knowledgeable about local regulations and compliance requirements. Then, using the information collected, they should build a five-year deployment plan that's easy to pitch to colleagues and agency leaders. Data-based pitches will perform best, as facts and figures may counteract emotional reasoning behind supporting an outdated tech stack.
These steps are necessary to remediate an outdated tech stack, especially when bureaucracy and business relationships become involved. After all, dated or incorrect data can derail an agency’s cost analysis and procurement strategy. It's high time that public sector professionals untangle hidden rationales within their tech stack and focus on a more efficient, accurate process for data and spend management.
Arnold Liwanag serves as TealBook's chief technology officer.
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