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By: Robert L. Morrison
Support is a feature that I strongly recommend once you have developed and are ready to implement the systems and work processes required to insure a high return on investment (ROI).
There are three critical areas that we will discuss:
1. Support and Maintenance Contract From the Vendor Whose Programming Choice You Have in Your Facility
There are two reasons for this:
(1) As stated in one of our previous articles, most packages will not meet all your needs but if you decide to go this route you still may have problems with the system functioning right and need their help to get it corrected within a reasonable time frame. After the first year, which is normally covered in your purchased price, it is critical to get a contract.
(2) I have developed many internally programmed customized systems over my 30+ year career and have never been able to develop a single system that we could think of all the variations that could come into play. It was always a given that things would come to light after implementation that would require program and data base tweaking.
(a) During the programming and system phase, you will have to continually modify present systems due to new laws and regulations or new ideas. New systems as contained in your strategic plan will also need to be completed. I have always found it critical to procure a vendors’ support contract(s) for any problems to save time and money.
(b) I have experienced people who say I can go onto a knowledge base for “free” and get their whitepapers, but in the end, I found it costs a lot more time and money as more information is needed and you still have to call the vendor on a per incident basis. Calling the vendor(s) and having them search their own knowledge base plus contacting other technical personnel were not in the “free” option.
Caveat: Be sure that the vendor(s) you are getting support from is open during the hours you need them. Do not get convinced from marketing people something else will suffice.
2. Support of the CEO and hopefully other senior level officials besides you as the CIO
If you do not have the support of your CEO which could be the Mayor in a Strong Mayor form of government, Council and/or Manger in the Council-Manager form of government, etc. you may be wasting your time and then getting shot in the back and receiving criticism “we told you it would not work.”
Even if you go and speak to the people on the front line and accept many ideas that you can later build onto, there will always be others who have a strong RTC factor (Resistance to Change).
3. Support to have employees a reasonable skill level and adequate staff for the members in your internal Information Technology Department
As stated in a prior article in our series, no CIO or IT Director can do a decent project without having an adequate and competent staff. It is very problematic not to be able to hire well motivated, open minded and reliable personnel and then be expected to get projects completed in reasonable time frames.
The CIO needs this type of support in addition the ones in point #1.
In conclusion, when support is given and the CIO is confident of his plan based upon experience and foresight the end result of cost reduction efficiency will be achieved.
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).