What’s your municipal organization’s most valuable asset?
The correct answer is information, but you wouldn’t know it by observing the casual, haphazard manner in which information is managed in many county and municipal operations. Information is often the least valued and least understood asset in local government organizations.
Tangible assets such as buildings and equipment are insured and can be replaced with relative ease. If your data vanishes, you may never be able to replace it. A breach of confidential information can never be made right and your organization’s reputation will be tarnished for years to come. Litigation that results from poor information management can cripple your organization, and the cost of discovery alone often forces organizations to settle.
The core problem
Does your municipal organization have a formal information governance (IG) program?
Most municipal entities don’t have IG programs and consequently lack institutional, enterprisewide understanding of their information assets. The root of the problem is a dearth of leadership in information management that starts with senior executives and elected officials. In many cases, there are departmental managers who do understand their own information universes, but those individuals rarely carry enough clout to influence the decision-making processes at the enterprise level.
“Jeff, hold the phone! We already have a records management program and a CIO. We’re on top of this.”
Information governance isn’t records management, although records management is a subset of IG. Robert Smallwood provides an excellent definition of information governance: “Security, control and optimization of information.”[i] He takes it a step further and writes “Information governance is policy-based control of information to meet all legal, regulatory, risk, and business demands.”[ii] These two statements sound simple, but if you ponder their meanings a bit, they have enormous implications not only for information management in your organization, but for the way in which your entire organization is managed.
The role of the municipal CIO
In my experience, municipal IT operations are often poorly aligned with the business divisions they support and silos are an endemic problem in such organizations. I don’t want to paint with too broad a brush because there are plenty of CIOs who do understand their organizations’ business and information requirements. However, in municipal government, such people are rare.
While the title chief information officer implies a deep understanding of information, many municipal CIOs function more as technology directors and sometimes they more closely resemble purchasing managers or other roles. Since there is no universal definition of a CIO’s role, it is not reasonable to expect that they all come to their job with a clear understanding of information governance. Moreover, municipalities can have several dozen lines of business, each with its own set of complex regulatory requirements, so asking your CIO to be a Master of the Universe may be asking too much.
The solution: What IG can do for your organization
If you don’t have an IG program, I encourage you to start one. I am talking about creating an ecumenical view of your organization’s information assets and aligning that view with your business requirements at every level of your organization. Establishing such a program will allow you to build a superstructure that includes the following:
- Enterprise information management and strategic planning: auditing, risk management, records retention, metadata standardization, storage, FOIA, defensible deletion, eradication of silos and more.
- Enterprise information security (infosec) and cybersecurity: Develop policies, processes and procedures for security that are aligned with your organization’s risks and requirements. Create a culture of security in your organization. Vastly decrease security risks.
- IT service management (ITSM): Improve IT services by aligning them with the organization’s business requirements as determined by the IG committee. IT governance is often treated in county and municipal government as if it is somehow separate, but IT may be more productive if it is treated as a component of an overarching information governance program.
The IG committee
I am not a proponent of management by committee, but in a county or municipal setting with many lines of business, an information governance committee is appropriate not only to oversee information policies and procedures, but to provide guidance and oversight for IT operations as well. The makeup of your municipal IG committee will resemble the following:
- An executive sponsor: Preferably the county executive, city manager or similar role.
- An elected official: A county commissioner, city council member, etc. The primary governing board must be key part of IG team.
- The municipal attorney.
- A human resources official.
- An IT professional.
- A risk management specialist.
- A records management staffer.
- Representatives from other key departments, potentially including law enforcement, corrections, nursing home services, public health, mental health, social services the county recorder, etc.
References and resources
Following are links to some resources for more information about developing an IG program.
ARMA International, a not-for-profit association for professionals specializing in governing information as a strategic asset.
Information Governance Initiative, a forum for information governance professionals.
AIIM, a nonprofit membership organization for information professionals.
Institute for Information Governance, a provider of training in the fields of information governance and electronic records management.
EDRM, a provider of resources related to e-discovery and information governance. Part of the Duke Law Center for Judicial Studies.
“Defining the Differences Between Information Governance, IT Governance and Data Governance,” by Robert Smallwood, Aug. 18, 2014. Retrieved April 17, 2017, from the AIIM website.
Information Governance for Executives, by Robert Smallwood. Bacchus Business Books, 2016.
[i] Smallwood, Robert. Information Governance for Executives, 2016
[ii] Smallwood, Robert. “Defining the Differences Between Information Governance, IT Governance and Data Governance,” 2014
This article first appeared on CIO.com at http://www.cio.com/article/3192530/security/information-governance-for-counties-and-municipalities.html
© Copyright Jeffrey Morgan, 2017by
Over the course of the last year, both Macys stores within a reasonable drive closed. No doubt, those closings will seal the fate of the malls for which they were anchor stores.
I am getting a little tired of reading the business obituaries of Macys that claim Amazon is somehow to blame for their decline. It is easy for me to understand what happened to them and it has nothing to do with Amazon.
Macys committed suicide.
I remember buying a beautiful pair of 100% wool, Italian import navy dress trousers from them in the late 1990s. My Italian tailor loved them. As soon as I drop the 15 pounds I put on this winter, I will wear them again.
As a customer of Macy’s for decades, I don’t need to study financial statements and demographic trends to understand what happened. I have watched the slow, relentless decline of the quality of their merchandise for the last two decades. Since I bought those Italian pants nearly twenty years ago, I haven’t bought much from them and certainly not men’s clothing. They went from carrying excellent products to cheap, low quality “designer” products, manufactured in Chinese or other Asian sweatshops. Fit is a problem as well. Their men’s clothing all seemed to be designed for twenty-somethings who drink skinny soy lattes and have never seen the inside of a gym.
These days, I get suits and wool trousers from my haberdasher – H. Strauss. I can still purchase quality products there and they are often made in the United States. I buy underwear from Brooks Brothers because they fit nicely and last forever. I used to swear by their shirts too, but the fabric doesn’t seem to be of the same quality as it used to be and the selection is much smaller. Fortunately, my haberdasher does custom shirts for just a little bit more than I can buy them off the rack at Brooks Brothers.
Don’t blame the decline of Macys on Amazon. They did themselves in by abandoning quality.
© Copyright Jeffrey Morgan, 2017by
A client recently made a statement to me that roughly translated as I am concerned about the high cost of doing a quality job. Wow! Talk about not understanding the impact of quality. The organization was hemorrhaging from the consequences of low-quality work in a major software implementation. One of several root causes of that situation was a complete lack of quality management in the software build.
Unfortunately, they were contemplating the same ineffective approach the second time around. It was as if their failure had been caused by some mysterious external factor rather than poor management. If an enterprise software implementation is a disaster the first time around, using the same management approach will produce the very same outcome every time thereafter. Quality must be envisioned and planned from inception. “Once the plans are part way in place, it is too late to build quality into a product.” (Deming, W. Edwards. Out of the Crisis (p. 212). The MIT Press. Kindle Edition.)
High-quality work is expensive, but you only pay for it once. Low-quality work is unaffordable, because your organization will pay the price forever.
Quality is universal and interdisciplinary
I found my first really good piano teacher when I was 16 and the fundamentals of quality I learned from her still resonate intensely nearly 40 years later. I have yet to master and live up to the standards she taught me in the late 1970s. Over the ensuing years, I learned a great deal from many other fine teachers and mentors, but none instilled in me the work ethic and pursuit of perfection that Bella did.
Bella had been a student of Isabelle Vengerova at the Curtis Institute of Music along with many of the finest musicians of the 20th century. Every week for several years, Bella and Max (her English bulldog) put me through a grueling workout that included a devastating blend of castigation, insults and humiliation. In our second lesson, she told me, “My god, I do believe that is the worst thing I have ever heard.”
I kept going back for more because the value received was far greater than the pain inflicted. She was a chain-smoker and bore a striking resemblance to Max — they were both adorable. Neither she nor Max were proponents of the namby pamby, “I’m OK, you’re OK” coaching and management style that rules today’s world. I had to work my ass off to get a minuscule compliment, and her brutal honesty toughened me up considerably.
Bella taught her students to seek perfection by relentlessly focusing on fundamentals while adhering to the highest standards of quality. “It’s not what you play; it’s how well you play it” she taught.
Most of the managers I encounter could learn a great deal from Bella’s approach to quality management, but only if they could learn to tolerate brutal honesty and the deep introspection that it should trigger. Too much management is based on quantity rather than quality.
Consequences for delivering poor quality
A while back, I had a contract with a generally well-managed company that was 300% over budget on its ERP implementation. The executive team quickly grasped the root cause of this problem: The CIO had championed the project, established business requirements, and managed the implementation. It was his responsibility to ensure that quality goals were met. That company believed in accountability so the CIO decided it was time to retire.
Quality is inclusive
One of the things I like about an agile approach for business process and software development is the inclusion of end users from the very beginning. Agile recognizes that quality is defined by the customer rather than by specifications. Customer-centric quality control is built into the process.
End user participation and input is absolutely essential to creation and validation of quality during the process of building a system, whether it is a commercial product or custom-developed software. Some of you are probably saying, “Jeff, that’s self-evident. Everyone already knows this.”
Unfortunately, everyone does not. Every major enterprise project failure I have studied over the last 20 years has largely excluded end users from the development and quality validation processes. The application was dumped on the plate of the end user with an attitude that said Here it is; you had better like it. In those failed projects, quality was defined by a developer or by managers who would never use the product. Consequently, there is a direct correlation between project failure and exclusion of end users, at least in my experience.
In many of these failures, a traditional project management approach had also been used. Maybe the result was due to the practitioners rather than the approach, though. There is no reason why one can’t modify a waterfall project management approach to include end user quality validation. The only thing likely to get in the way is the ego of the project manager.
Quality creates a chain reaction
I have seen the results of brilliant quality management in many organizations. Outstanding quality is visible when you walk in the door, and you can hear it through a phone in the voice of a receptionist. Every employee in the organization radiates excellence, and the entire organization is just wet and dripping with exceptional quality. One organization that immediately comes to mind is the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan, but many organizations do it fantastically well.
When you do it right, the quest for quality becomes part of your organizational culture. You can implement quality in your department, but you’ll find it easier if you have executive support.
Improvement of quality transfers waste of man-hours and of machine-time into the manufacture of good product and better service. The result is a chain reaction — lower costs, better competitive position, happier people on the job, jobs, and more jobs.(Deming, W. Edwards. Out of the Crisis (p. 2). The MIT Press. Kindle Edition.)
How about your organization? Is it slick and shiny with quality? Or dingy and rundown like a barracks in a Soviet gulag?
If you would like to read more about quality, try the following works:
Out of the Crisis, by W. Edwards Deming.
Managerial Breakthrough, by Joseph M. Juran.
© Copyright Jeffrey Morgan, 2016
This article first appeared on CIO.COM at http://www.cio.com/article/3131977/leadership-management/we-cant-afford-quality.htmlby
Reduce the Cost of your operations by improving Quality: William Edwards Deming and Quality Management in a Public Sector Organization
If you improve the quality of your product or service, productivity is automatically increased and costs go down.
I first learned about W.E. Deming while I was in graduate school and also working in the Product Engineering department of a Fortune 500 company. At the time, the company was implementing Total Quality Management (TQM) and I was really impressed by the scope of changes the company was employing in order to improve its product quality.
Deming’s approach to quality and productivity is widely used in manufacturing, but not so well recognized in the Public Sector where I do a lot of my work. However, applying Deming’s concepts and methods to Public Sector organizations can create a profound improvement in the quality of that service while automatically improving productivity and lowering costs.
Combine with a Business Process Assessment
Any time you are working on a business project such as procurement of a new software product, a perfect opportunity to review and streamline all your business processes presents itself. In fact, this may be the only opportunity you have to make improvements in the delivery and efficiency of services for the next decade or two if your organization functions like many in the Public Sector do. There is no software product that will magically improve your business processes – you must analyze the business processes and build your new, improved processes into your new system.
A business process assessment in advance of your upcoming software acquisition can identify the bottlenecks in your business processes that create inefficiencies in your operations. I can provide a few of the many examples that I have encountered with my clients. In one organization, I found a 10-step process for recording of revenue that resulted in a 3 month delay in that revenue being booked. This process should have consisted of a single step with instant booking of the revenue. While doing a business process review in another organization, my client identified a 17-step process that resulted in a lengthy delay in booking revenue and sometimes in the total loss of that revenue. Again, that process should have consisted of a single step.
Is your organization plagued with bureaucratic processes like those mentioned above? No one knows why the process is that way and no one can remember when it started, but “We’ve just always done it that way.” This is the reason why I do a bottom-up business process assessment. There is no way to capture these processes unless you interview and observe the people who actually do the work. The gulf between Minion and Management is vast and Management often has no idea of what the exact processes are in various departments and functions of a large organization.
Once you identify all of these process bottlenecks, you will want to make sure you build the new, more logical and efficient process into your new software system. Unfortunately, many organizations do what a colleague of mine describes as “recreating all the dysfunctional processes in the new system.” If you are going to take that approach, why bother with a new system?
If you want to read more about improving quality and productivity while lowering costs, try Out of the Crisis by William Edwards Deming (1982, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Center for Advanced Educational Services, Cambridge, Massachusetts). If you want to discuss methods for increasing the quality of your services, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright © Jeffrey Morgan 2015by