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By: Robert Morrison
Information Technology Regional Data Centers that can be shared can offer some tremendous cost savings. Some options:
(1) SMSA (Standard Metropolitan Statistical Area)
(2) Multiple municipalities within one county
(3) Multiple municipalities and counties working together
5 points to consider:
1. Someone Needs To Be the Catalyst That Has a Background in Business or Government Where He/She Can Be Looked Up To As a Person of Truth and Integrity
It is critical to have a person who is open minded and knowledgeable of the Information Technology steps you are going to take. The catalyst must be able to work with others in various jurisdictions and call upon the CIO’s of some of the larger organizations that will participate to lend their support and knowledge if any very difficult technical questions arise.
2. Why Do This and Enter Into a Period of Change Management
We all know that change is difficult and the naysayers will say “it will not work and why go through all the possible problems”. The reply is to create efficiency, cost savings and an increase in revenue for all who join. Most governments are having fiscal problems and the answer is to look for ways to fund basic functions at the lowest possible cost.
Use of Information technology and its ancillary products such as video conferencing, document management systems, and many others offer costs that can be recovered within 1 to 5 years or less with extra revenue achieved.
3. Find locations where this has already been successful so that the support of the citizens can drive this practice forward
The author started a regional Criminal Justice system in 1985 with 2 agencies. Within approximately 8-10 years later 37 agencies had joined in a 2 county area. The system eventually had everything from field reports and arrests, to parking tickets and emergency contact data. The City I worked for got the grants, and hosted the customized computer system.
There are other examples throughout the nation some smaller in size and others larger, but the information able to be shared is the key. In just about every case the savings yielded new revenue plus the amount of shared information amongst the regional agencies proved to save a lot of time in investigations and made the citizenry safer.
Each module under one customized enterprise system will feed the next. The phrase of “recycling” where once a name and other data are entered via a mobile or in-house device it can be used throughout each new system for cost cutting.
4. Have a Small but Representative Board of Directors to Insure That Everyone Gets Treated Fairly
The person you choose to be the CIO and head person of this regional resource needs to get familiar with what everyone desires. Most agencies work very similarly including the data needed to be entered and then put out for each agency monthly or more frequently.
Be open to allow comments to be made by all agencies and changes initiated. Good communication streams and open mindedness are very necessary.
5. Get Grants to Start With So That An Office Within a County/Region Can Be Gotten And Skilled Personnel Can Start Small And Grow as others Join and New Systems Developed
Try to get a grant that is for your specific information technology product such as law enforcement, treasury collections/disbursements, codes enforcement, utility and tax billings, fire, etc. It will take time to develop a product and insure it is successful for a regionalization effort.
Be sure you have adequate staff that is skilled in how to develop a regional effort and understand the advantage of standardization and a one enterprise operating system and programming structure you can continue with and share between agencies (law enforcement and codes enforcement as an example). This will give not only a savings in money but improve the sharing of data across municipal boundaries.
In conclusion, when you use all the ideas in the past 5 weekly ASPA publications, you will see a great system develop that can create efficiency, cut costs, deliver a positive return on investment, and deliver a positive revenue stream. Professionalism, skilled and ethical employees devoted to the cause, and strong elected and citizen support will continue to grow this concept in the region.
Robert Morrison has extensive experience both in management and information technology. He feels that government is actually big business and both must conduct itself in similar ways. He is a former CIO, Deputy Business Administrator and Deputy Public Safety Director in the local government sector. He is also a member of the Central Pennsylvania chapter of ASPA (American Society for Public Administration).