Modernization takes agencies from service providers to service brokers
Enterprise IT teams should focus on making services easier for staff and residents to access and engage with, one state CIO said.
As government agencies modernize, they shift from being service providers to service brokers that can better meet residents’ needs and more efficiently deliver services, one leading state official said Wednesday.
The COVID-19 pandemic showed how quickly and easily services can be digitized, but now, state governments must focus on making those services easier for staff and residents to access and engage with, according to James Weaver, secretary and state chief information officer at the North Carolina Department of Information Technology.
Weaver called for a “paradigm shift” in modernization efforts to ensure services are accessible and not complex. He advocated removing the need for residents to use multiple pieces of identification and logins to engage with different agencies, rethinking how agencies can help residents move quickly through various processes and making those processes easier to understand.
He also said that ensuring people can access the internet must be a priority of the government’s modernization journey.
“You can't be offering digital services and have a significant portion of your population still without adequate connectivity,” Weaver said during GovExec’s Infrastructure Forum. “You need to make sure you have adequate connectivity out across your region, your state, whatever geographical area, to enable them to go ahead and engage in those services.”
As they modernize, enterprise IT staff also should look for the similarities between applications and see what can be replicated and reused on common platforms across agencies, Weaver said. That includes case management systems, which despite their differences have similar functions and business processes that can be replicated. And while there are differences in how various professions are licensed, Weaver said some processes in states’ licensing frameworks are identical.
“We should not disregard that or have the tail wag the dog, so to speak,” he said. “Let's embrace what we're similar on, and then let's go and focus on those unique differences to bring that into a service-oriented type model or architecture.”
As agencies transition away from on-prem data centers and other legacy systems, some have said they are adopting a cloud-first strategy. But Weaver said there should be more nuance to that, not only because some workflows belong in the cloud while others do not, but also because IT managers must properly design applications to fully take advantage of the cloud’s offerings.
Weaver warned that agencies risk increasing their operating costs if they do not truly understand the cloud’s capabilities and so must retrain their employees to understand how to best leverage the technology. For example, an agency could move to the cloud and pay for 24/7 monitoring when that may not be necessary, which could result in unanticipated costs because they “did not account for some of the nuances that the cloud has,” he said.
While the cloud offers plenty of security benefits, “I notice there's times where folks think we're going to the cloud, and all of a sudden, that just brings us a whole different level of protection,” he said. “But a bad application is a bad application, it doesn't matter where it's residing.”
Agencies also must streamline their procurement process so they can work more easily with the private sector, Weaver said. That includes making requests for proposals and other documents far shorter and speeding up the overall procurement process so agencies can test new and emerging technologies more efficiently.
Governments that are “crystal clear” with the private sector about their strategic plans can ensure businesses better align with their modernization frameworks, he said.