Month: April 2016
Developing a Project Charter for Municipal Software Projects
The essential first step in undertaking any type of software project (or any other project!) is to draft a Project Charter. The document makes the business case for the project, defines high level goals and objectives and authorizes the project going forward. The Project Charter should be officially adopted by whatever process and governing body your organization uses. You can call the document whatever you wish, but the bottom line is that you must at least address the 6 W’s:
- How Much
Who will be affected by the project? Who will be required to commit resources to the project? What do you hope to achieve? When will the project begin and how long will it take? Which departments, buildings and locations will be affected? Why have you proposed this project? Do you have to sell this project to your staff as well as your governing board?
Even if you are the head of a top-down dictatorial management model, it makes sense to sell your staff on the benefits of the project and create some excitement and anticipation about the coming improvements to the way your organization conducts business. Staff members who feel they have been slighted or not consulted can and will wreak havoc and may sabotage the implementation of the project, so get everyone on board from the beginning.
If you would like to talk about your municipal software project, or anything else, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Political Risks & Ramifications of Software Procurement
Business Process Reengineering and software procurement projects can create political firestorms. In a perfect world, everyone would want what is best for the organization, but this world isn’t perfect. Make sure your governing board is committed to the project and is aware of the possible ramifications and risks. Large, disruptive projects require unwavering commitment at the highest levels of the organization.
Official authorization for the project by your governing body, i.e. Commission, Legislature, City Council, Board of Directors, etc. is essential because it establishes buy-in at the highest level. It is also a smart political move. Your project may change the status quo in your organization and not everyone will be thrilled once they come to that realization. Changes in workflow and business processes may mean that people and departments who hold power, authority or status because of their place in the workflow may perceive that they will lose that status. The workload may be redistributed. Some departments and personnel may have more work and others, less. It will become apparent that some people are no longer required in their current positions and possibly entire departments will be reorganized or become obsolete. Those who perceive themselves to be negatively affected by this coming new order are likely to circumvent you and attempt to interfere with or quash the project.
Here is another project risk: Sometimes people quit during large, disruptive projects. I is quite common. Everyone can be replaced and if you have programs for cross-training, it shouldn’t be a problem. If you don’t currently cross-train and thoroughly document processes and procedures, you have another great opportunity to improve your business processes.by
How is your IT Operation Performing?
Is your Municipal Information Technology department delivering amazing and cost effective customer service? Are they operating using best practices and industry standards for IT Governance? If the answer is no, or if you are not sure, keep reading and I will provide you with some simple tools and a high level overview of improving your IT business processes and operations.
Expertise in, and a deep understanding of technology disciplines isn’t required to get the most out of your IT Manager; understanding basic principles of IT Governance is. As a County or Municipal Executive, you can provide the necessary leadership to improve your operations by ensuring that your IT management is adhering to industry standards and best practices. If you are fortunate enough to have a CIO, these standards and practices are probably already in place. However, there are over 22,000 County and Municipal entities in the United States and most can’t justify the cost of a full-time CIO.
There are tried and true standards, methodologies, policies and procedures that smaller counties and cities can and should establish in order to improve IT operations. If you don’t have a CIO, you can familiarize yourself with the basics and see if they are in place in your organization.
In highly regulated industries such as insurance, pharmaceuticals, health care, and banking, there are clear regulatory guidelines that define many of the basic functions, best practices and requirements for an organizational IT operation. Audits and evaluations are conducted routinely to ensure that IT operations are following applicable regulations and guidelines. There are no such required standards for municipal and county governments in most states. However, IT departments should always be operating as if an audit is imminent.
Part of the management problem is statistical, and I have written about it here, but solutions are readily available and a few of the basic management components that should be in place are described below.
Some Root Causes of Problems with Information Technology Departments
IT staff members under an audit generally blame poor customer service, poor performance, security problems and technical problems on an insufficient budget and understaffing. Sometimes they also blame the customers (end users). They often argue that if only the organization would increase the budget and hire more people, they would do a better job. In my experience, this is rarely true and two root causes of organizational IT problems are described in the table below. I have seen many IT departments that would function better with a smaller staff and a more focused business mission.
|Lack of Focus on the mission.||The IT operation is attempting to be everything to everyone. They don’t understand priorities and the business mission of your organization.|
|Tech Decisions||The Department is making technical decisions rather than business decisions.|
Customer Service Problems and Solutions
IT is a customer service driven business. If your IT customer service isn’t exceptional, you have a significant business problem, not just an IT problem. In the following table I have provided information about two tools that can help you improve customer service immensely regardless of what IT staffing model you use.
|Service Level Agreement||A Service Level Agreement is a required document for any IT Department, even if it is a department with only one staff member or the services are entirely contracted.|
|PSA System||A system for tracking IT problems and their resolutions is also a required, essential component of a well-governed IT operation. Such a system provides information about the productivity of your IT staff, but it also provides a wealth of information about your end users and your business operations. The data available from a properly configured PSA system can provide valuable management information for executives, not just for IT management.|
Cost Metrics, TCO, ROI
Here are some basic business questions to ask about your IT operation. If you haven’t performed these calculations before, the answers might surprise you.
- What is the total cost of ownership (TCO) of your IT operation?
- How much does it cost per end user?
- How does that cost compare to other organizations similar to yours?
- How do you define an IT cost?
- What value and return on investment (ROI) does the operation provide?
Mission Critical Functions
If your IT staff does nothing else, they should at least be focused on Backup, Disaster Recovery, System Security, and Contingency Planning.
|System Security||HIPAA (full text of regulation here), ISO 27001, and NIST, to name a few, provide excellent frameworks for your Information Security program.
Even if you only have a 1 – person IT operation, information security should be a primary responsibility and your IT management should be well versed in these standards and how to implement them.
|Backup, Disaster Recovery, and Contingency Planning||Again, even in a 1-person IT operation, security, DR, Backup, and Contingency planning should be their main focus.|
|Information Security Policy||You must have a comprehensive information security policy!|
Are all of the components mentioned above in place in your organization?
Nothing I have discussed here will work in a vacuum. Improving operations and lowering costs will require your leadership and relentless follow-up. My father always taught me that good management is 10% telling people what to do and 90% making sure they do it. If you want to improve IT operations in your organization, go make sure they do it!
Feel free to e-mail me at email@example.com if you would like to discuss Information Technology projects, operations, or other business problems in your organization. If you are working on a major procurement project, you may find my book to be of interest.
Copyright © Jeffrey Morgan 2016