10 reasons why local governments should outsource all IT: Post pandemic view

It’s time for public managers to take a deeper dive into their technology systems, people, and capabilities as it relates to current threats and ever-growing deficiencies.

Growing ransomware attacks have brought to light many weaknesses in digital hygiene that have exposed deficiencies regarding system recovery let alone preventing the attack. Many cities and counties are performing well in meeting the growing challenges of security, modernization, innovation, and lending edge applications, however far too many are living with serious deficiencies.

Given the growing complexities of planning and maintaining technology as well as having the right staff, many local governments might be much better off outsourcing some or all of their IT operations.

We must delve deeper and actively assess what vulnerabilities lie within our systems, as well as looking more closely at staff competencies and expertise.

Just as important, one cannot ignore the fact that outsourcing to any degree does not absolve the jurisdiction’s responsibility regarding issues of compliance and security. Someone will still need to manage any contract in terms of performance and outcomes.

What follows then are 10 factors that require further exploration and action.

Retirement of senior staff. The large retirement boom is leaving many jurisdictions short of talented staff, institutional knowledge, and areas of needed expertise.

Staff turnover. Younger staff are generally not staying at one place for a lengthy period of time as did their predecessors.

Reduced incentives. Governments were traditionally known for their generous health and retirement benefits. But ever since the Great Recession of 2009, benefit packages have shrunken in all categories. This makes it even more difficult to recruit qualified staff, especially with technology professionals.

Inability to pay higher salaries. The private sector has traditionally recognized the need to pay competitive salaries based on supply and demand. Government has been stuck in time and in most instances adheres to rather inflexible pay scales that are more focused on treating everyone similarly as opposed to addressing the reality of market forces.

Lack of training resources. All too often technology staff find it difficult to attend conferences and seminars. While in some cases tech staff feel they are too busy and don’t have the time—more often than not they are told there is no or little money for training and travel to meetings.

Added to the list is the lack of certified CIOs where the need has never been greater. Any recognized professional certification program requires the obligation of recertification.

Career development indifference. It is not unusual for technology staff to be classified with non-transferable classifications such as “technician” 1, 2, etc. The issue here is not how staff are classified internally—it is having public titles that more closely reflect one’s real responsibilities.

Lack of realistic strategic planning. Approximately one-third of local government CIOs still report through a finance official and far fewer are routinely invited to sit at the head table when key plans, policies or decisions are being made. For technology to be fully optimized, the IT operations and infrastructure must be continuously reviewed and with senior staff tasked with seeking ways to align technology with that of the business needs of all departments and agencies.

Aging infrastructure. Too many local governments are beginning to realize that deferred equipment upgrades turn out to be costlier in the long run. Those communities who experienced the most difficulty in pivoting were the ones with the oldest and least flexible infrastructure. Today more than ever, when a vendor declares a software or hardware system as no longer supported, one needs to understand the implications as well as the consequences.

Cyber security challenges. Even with local government, there are state and federally mandated compliance regulations. However, compliance alone cannot solve the ever-growing threats governments face. Reasons to not maintain upgrades most often are that it would be too expensive, or “we are too small” to have to worry about cyber beyond what we are currently doing. The expense to recover is far greater exponentially then the price to adequately staff, train and invest in the latest threat protection systems.

Failures in scope and scale. Perhaps the most pressing and overriding issue facing local governments when it comes to technology is scope, scale, and staff competencies. Technology can be expensive to operate and maintain and one must question whether it makes sense for every government entity to own its own systems and equipment. Among the alternatives are outsourcing; shared services among neighboring jurisdictions; or simply seeking managed cloud solutions.

In the end IT performance is critical to every aspect of government operations and service delivery. The outsourcing of IT, in whole or in part, is one such option that must be considered.

Summarized from Americancityandcounty.com

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