Government can no longer afford to pursue monolithic, exquisite technology solutions. Given residents’ and local business’ rising expectations around government service, combined with the fast-changing technology landscape, state and local authorities need to work in close coordination with key stakeholders, including both citizens and IT vendors.
This vision – call it “Connected Government” – will drive IT modernization. A relationship-based approach to technology will help state and local governments to meet the immediate challenges of remote work and virtual citizen service, while also positioning government IT leaders to be able to rapidly incorporate new advances.
Given the potential power of a Connected Government approach to IT services, it’s worth taking a deeper dive into how this mode of operation works.
Basics of Connected Government
Certain fundamentals, the “brilliant basics,” help to define a Connected Government IT strategy. These key pillars establish mutual expectations between the government entity and the IT provider, spelling out the metrics of success and establishing feedback mechanisms for continuous improvements.
- Performance – The first pillar addresses performance: The stability, quality, and security of the platform or applications. Does the service run at the levels needed to support effective citizen experience? If someone goes to a website, is the site there, and does it respond in two seconds or in 15 seconds?
- Quality and accuracy – Another essential component can be described loosely as encompassing the quality and accuracy of data and systems. When government relies on an outside vendor to deliver an application or service in the cloud, the outcomes of that process should be predictable: The service has to deliver high-quality outputs. In a truly connected relationship, these outcomes will be verified through agreed-upon test cycles, with government leaders and the vendor working hand in hand to ensure accuracy throughout the system.
- Security – A third pillar of connected government is security. There’s a temptation in government to assume that certain IT deployments, especially applications in the cloud, are inherently secure and are moreover the vendor’s responsibility. In fact, security is a two-way street – it’s the very epitome of what it means to have a connected relationship not just with vendors but also with citizens and is the ultimate expression of trust.
Citizens need to trust that when they interact with government systems, their data is private and secure. Government in turn needs to have strong assurances that its processes in the cloud meet rigorous standards around security and privacy. The best way to get there is via a collaborative approach – a connected ecosystem in which government and industry are participatory partners.
Making It Real
Having defined a few of the key pillars of connected government, it’s reasonable to wonder how state and local entities can put these into effect. What does it mean, in practical terms, to build an IT strategy based on cooperation and collaboration?
Much of the work here will involve benchmarking, with government and its supporting vendors working hand in glove to define the metrics of success.
In security, for example, it’s important to have up-front conversations about standards. Government may have to adhere to specific standards, which in turn must be upheld not just by their primary vendor but also by any subcontractors. A program of ongoing audits should be put in place to ensure these standards are being met consistently.
In these areas of performance and quality, a similar approach is required. All partners in the ecosystem need to collaboratively develop the metrics that will define acceptable uptime, accuracy, predictability, data quality. As partners in the relationship, government and vendors can work together to define these metrics, and to implement the ongoing reviews and checks needed to ensure quality service over time.
A Platform Approach
Core to realizing this vision of Connected Government is via a technology platform, one that is designed specifically to foster collaboration between state and local agencies and the technology providers working to support their efforts.
The Accela Civic Platform offers a bedrock upon which to construct such a Connected relationship. It includes shared technologies and functionality within a SaaS environment to meet the varying needs of government agencies, while simultaneously support deeper citizen engagements, with tools that make it easier for citizens to open and run a business, apply for permits, and schedule inspections.
The platform provides agencies with the flexibility and scalability to enable innovation, without the need to invest in new technology. Relationships evolve over time, and the relationship-based approach to IT adheres to this basic rule. Citizen needs will change (the pandemic has shown us that!), and new technologies will emerge. A civic platform enables government to adapt and grow its IT engagements over time in response to evolving use cases.
Time is of the essence these days. Citizens want and expect their interactions with government to mirror their experiences in the commercial world, and government cannot afford to lag behind in taking up the powerful new applications that are emerging almost constantly in the cloud. With a civic platform ensuring strong connections between government and its IT partners, state and local agencies get a significant time-to-market benefit.
The Accela Civic Platform for instance has pre-built applications around common civic functions such as planning and building, business and occupational licensing, alcoholic beverage control, fire, and environmental health. As new capabilities arise in these areas, the connected nature of a cloud-based platform enables agencies to rapidly pivot toward these enhanced solutions.
Benefits of a Connected Approach
State and local authorities could see a number of other meaningful improvements as a result of pivoting toward a Connect Government approach to technology. A collaborative mindset can drive enhanced citizen participation, more informed decision-making throughout complex workflows, as well as more government accountability.
By collaborating with vendors on a cloud-based platform, government can also leverage the power of mobility in support of both remote work and virtual citizen service. Available through any browser, the Accela Civic Platform supports business users and citizens with a robust suite of mobile applications that mirror the full spectrum of government functions.
A connected government also is inherently a more secure government, in that it responds to the realities of a diverse and highly complex threat landscape.
Simply put: There’s security in numbers. In a constantly shifting security environment, no single entity ever has all the answers. No one has complete visibility across the multiple threat vectors that may be leveraged against government targets. By working in close cooperation – by forming a connected and collaborative relationship – government and industry together can deliver security at a higher level all across the enterprise.
As government moves away from elaborate purpose-built systems and into the collaborative world of the cloud, it makes sense for IT to revisit the way it organizes its vendor relationships. By viewing IT as a relationship among key stakeholders, the Connected Government proposition offers civic leaders a way to make the most of their cloud investments, elevating citizen service and driving greater productivity and security across systems and applications.
This blog post originally appeared on Security Magazine.