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Innovation in Information Technology for Local Governments and Other Public Administration Organizations

Welcome to the second limited series column on innovation in information technology.  We hope to publish articles weekly while the series lasts.  If you miss a column, we’ll include links in the next column.


Information Technology innovation ideas can offer some good cost savings. Some requirements:

(1) Need Personnel Who Can Think Outside and Inside the Box

(2) Ideas Must Be Thought Out for the Specific Government or Organization That You Are Working For – Custom vs. Packages

(3) End Result Must Always Have an ROI That is Quantifiable or Non-Quantifiable (Hard or Soft)


Need Personnel Who Can Think Outside and Inside the Box – Computers are Not Magic

No CIO or IT Manager can run an organization without people who are skilled in the areas you need.

a. Programming and Operating System – you need to choose a language across the board and one operating system where everyone in the organization can share data when needed.

b. Willing to Work as a Team – People with high egos who feel they know everything because of degrees they have or certifications they earned may not give to you the personal relationships needed to get the job done. I am all for degrees and certifications but recognize that personnel who have open minds and positive attitudes are the primary traits for people who will go the extra mile. Listening to what others have to say when a good point is made and accepting something better or blending it into your idea is an important trait that I look for.

c. End User Satisfaction is the Product You are Working to Deliver – It is critical that the end user be part of the solution. This makes screen design and how the system operates from one screen and menu to another consist of basic logic of how the human mind works. Have you ever called to order something or need to return it and the person on the phone asks you what is the order number. If you do not have the number, you are out of luck. The system is programmed for just one easy search. Systems need to have multiple searches such as name, address, dates, etc. to offer the client and employee multiple ways to find the order.


Ideas Must Be Thought Out for the Specific Government or Organization That You Are Working For – Custom vs. Packages

Today many people believe that it is quicker and easier to buy a package and just implement silo packages across one or more operating systems than it is to develop your own systems to share data across one operating and programming system. My feeling is that in most instances if the proper people are hired and paid reasonable salaries who can think outside and inside the box, systems developed are more robust for your specific needs and will result in lower costs and greater savings.

Granted, for high specialty items such as the health industry where MRIs or Laparoscopic surgery may be involved silo systems are necessary. However, they can be mitigated by having your central system receive data files and photos from the silo systems so that your data may be stored and shared easily from one central location.

It must not be forgotten that with packages you still need to load them onto the proper operating system and to have (1) network personnel, (2) adequate storage, (3) a project manager and other line personnel to load the data and other various tasks that will be needed, (4) deal with inconsistencies that may not be right for your organization, (5) training, and (6) have a maintenance contract to insure you can get answers to questions when problems arise.


Have All Personnel Keep Up With New Trends and Look for Those That Show a Positive Return on Investment (ROI)

This is part of thinking both inside and outside the box. Just because something is “cool” does not mean it will earn a positive return on investment (ROI) for your agency. Just because you have a legacy system does not mean it is worthless and has no value. Sales people want advertisements that bombard organizations to buy new things but the expense may not be worth it if it allows no significant reduction in costs to gain increases in revenue and efficiency.


In conclusion, when you seriously consider use of all the ideas above you can create efficiency, cut costs, deliver a positive return on investment, and deliver a positive revenue stream. Please ask any questions you may have or provide comments in the below spaces provided.


Next week – Be careful of the Marketing Approaches to Sell, Sell, Sell


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).


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