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Rethinking Technology Leadership: It’s as Much About People as Technology

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The soft side of technology is about change and one’s ability to adapt. No manager or CIO would disagree that, often enough, the most difficult part of embracing new technologies is employee acceptance. Managers and CIOs would also agree that this is also an area that can easily be sidelined or ignored until employee frustrations erupt.

Subsequently, it’s important to never underestimate the need for change management strategies and intervention.

While change is occurring internally, it is also occurring externally; and as a result, IT leadership needs to change and adapt. The consumerization of technology is a growing phenomenon that considers the growing adoption of mobile devices that get smarter with each model. One manager lamented recently, “As I look around, I see more computing power in the hands of our residents than I do on the desks of our county employees.”


Resident Expectations

Caught up with the ease of use of tablet computers, many county Boards are seeking to trade out their laptops for the newest and greatest 2-in-1s, or tablets. There is no end in sight regarding the growth of technology and the need for innovation. While technology used to be likened to a car engine with the hood closed, today’s government systems are now exposed and it is now commonplace to share favorite apps or new devices.

Public managers are increasingly looking for new ways to engage the public through smart-phones, tablets, laptops or desktops — website developers are being forced to rethink their website designs and functionality to best accommodate the new medium of mobile devices. as a means of improving communications and restoring trust.

We know, for example, that at the end of 2015 in the United States there were 377,900,000 wireless subscribers in the US; this is a 115.7 percent increase in penetration since 2005. In fact, 49 percent of U.S. households are wireless only. And 61 percent of mobile traffic is from video.

Are public managers prepared to face their residents and customers by video? Most we have spoken with say, “No way!” — at least not yet. Are our counties prepared to interact and be responsive to citizen expectations?


IT is All About Governance

IT governance is all about who decides. Because technology is dispersed into every business activity of government, having a strong centralized IT department may not work as it has in the past, nor should it. There is already talk about rethinking the responsibilities of a CIO as no longer the chief information officer but instead becoming the chief innovation officer, where the innovation replaces information.

Even with the consumerization of technology, someone must oversee network integrity and security, storage, and retrieval solutions, cross-platform systems and coordinated approaches to problem-solving and innovation.

Everyone cannot be allowed to simply spend and do their own thing without some form of criteria, policy, and review. County leaders are not expected to be technology wizards — but they do have key leadership roles to play.

The following quick checklist should help for starters:

  • Is the top technology staff person involved in all key planning forums and decisions? If not, why not?
  • Are sound technology policies in place and reviewed periodically?
  • Has the county engaged in a technology assessment in the last three years from an outside third-party expert or firm to check for best-practices and looking for areas to improve?
  • To what extend is the IT budget reviewed in the context of basic county operational support as opposed to an afterthought?
  • What types of information do you need that would enable better decision making? What are the obstacles or roadblocks?
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