Technology is Operations - And it Must be Jointly Led

Technology is Operations - And it Must be Jointly Led

Eric S. Finch,Chief Innovation and Technology Officer – Mayor’s Cabinet, City of Spokane, Washington

Eric S. Finch,Chief Innovation and Technology Officer – Mayor’s Cabinet, City of Spokane, Washington

In the next ten years it is estimated that the typical mid-sized city will have upwards of 100,000Internet Protocol (IP) edge devices and sensors that will be capturing data and operational in nature across all lines of business. This massive change, including third-party devices, hosted applications, the multi-layered and software defined network, cyber strategy and risk mitigation, and the increasing mobile workforce must be planned for from both a technology and operations perspective. If leaders do not accept the increasingly operational and connectivity provider role then more technology silos will develop and challenges in technology support, integration, cyber security, and sustainable budgeting will grow. There will always be “enterprise-wide” technologies to support but suggest that as a percentage direct operational technology are increasing every year.

As the current generation of executive leaders retire and new “digital native” managers and executives start leading there is increased demand on smart technology and innovation to drive service enhancement and efficiency. Our stakeholders as operational subject matter experts must be partners in the increasingly specific technology requirements to ensure success. We are dependent on each other to meet the growing needs ofour government organizations. We must realize that digital-savvy stakeholders need (and will demand) increased ownership of the technology that drives their departments.

Many government services just10 years ago were still paper or manual process activities. With the significant rise of specialized and low-cost edge/mobile device technology, innovation on software and hardware has permeated each service area with increasing complex and unique systems and a trend to hosted and/or Software as a Service (SaaS) products. This has created new challenges for information sharing and secure access management.

We are not “technology enabled” any longer, we are fully “technology dependent” and operational services stop if technology fails

This presents three points. First, the current and future executive leaders must accept the fact that technology is operations. There is little or no separation from the business process to the technology process, and full dependency on technology often exists. We are not “technology enabled” any longer, we are fully “technology dependent” andoperationalservices stop if technology fails.

Second, the technology executivemust accept the fact they are more than likely not the primary decision maker for operational technology, they are the primary influencer. Technology needs and decisions must be driven by the line of business and informed and influenced by technology leaders that are invested at thatoperational level. The suggested approach is implementing joint leadership of technology that evolves the service-level model to true joint ownership with better distribution of technology support to the operational level. At the same time, we must ensure technology strategy and planning occur jointly and cyclically including all operational and technology stakeholders.

Lastly, there is anongoingshift in major technology decisions to be closer to the department level to meet that operational need. This is not a new concept, as it has happened for many larger systems for finance, public works, or public safety. What is new, in this recommended approach, is an evolved leadership model that makes both technology and operational departments accountable and provides better clarity on joint decision making and operational support roles to ensure alignment to the strategic AND operational outcomes.

Therecommended future structure is a hybrid where both department and technology executives jointly hire and empower an operational technology leader that serves the day-to-day operational needs of technology dependent departments while maintaining the technology ecosystem integration and strategic planning requirements for the technology group. This joint position defeats the “mine versus yours” debate and makes both executives accountable for success.Additionally, as technology or technology-related staff are required to support that department directly, a team can be built around that department technology leader to build “one team” that meets the operational and technology requirementsand can solve the “shadow IT” or defacto technology positions that may exist in a department but are not managed or budgeted that way.

Consider any current example of a successful major technology implementation. We can also take lessons from a couple decades of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) initiatives that have either gone well or especially ones that have not gone well. The common thread of success, in my analysis and experience, is when there was full collaboration and joint ownership of the problem and the solution path, and the executive team was unified in supporting and prioritizing the outcomes.Technology and operational departments must be partners, and lead and empower the same technology team together. From a collaborative leadership approach, witha commitment to meet both the strategic and operational outcomes needed, the ability to provide increased value and benefit to our organizations is limitedonly by our joint innovation and budgets. With the right joint leadership and executive partnership, we can do this.

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