New tools can make a government’s digital transformation less painful—and maybe even exciting. Skeptical? Let’s look at government IT modernization.
“Change is hard but inevitable.” – Jenny Han
Change can be difficult for government agencies. Because they must serve the needs of an entire population, it’s hard to choose where to focus time and money.
Governments have dozens, if not hundreds, of complex systems to serve their communities’ diverse needs. These systems typically work on their own hardware and software, with their own unique processes—many of which can be decades old.
As many have wisely stated, change is inevitable. Whether or not agencies are ready for it, the public is demanding enhanced, more responsive government services. Many agencies are being forced to adapt, and the transition can be painful.
Fortunately, new tools can make a government’s digital transformation less painful—and maybe even exciting. Skeptical? Let’s look.
Challenges to Progress
A common complaint in communities that want improved services is that governments are too slow to change or that they’re “backward.” But government agencies are working to make their services more modern, and public servants have dedicated their careers to making government work better. If an agency isn't as advanced as people might like, it’s not for lack of effort.
There are several reasons progress is slow.
As noted, governments try to serve everyone in their community. That means policies, programs, and services must consider everyone’s needs—and sometimes, those needs are direct opposites. As a result, policies get “watered down,” programs must be very large and thus inefficient, and services can fail to improve because planning never ends.
There are also operational challenges. IT teams have limited resources for dealing with the variety of demands they face. And the demands aren’t just from policy and decision-makers—they’re also from the regular onslaught of security threats, daily tech support, and routine maintenance of existing IT systems. Finding time and resources to upgrade and add solutions can be a distraction.
IT managers are careful not to make change for change’s sake. They plan strategic moves, so changes solve more problems than they cause. This takes time, and because the technology landscape changes so rapidly, it's hard to know if an investment will be made obsolete by a more appropriate, less expensive option that appears before the ink dries on the sale agreement.
And don’t forget the importance of proper change management to ensure project success. Making sure the system users are informed, engaged, and educated throughout implementation can make or break a project. However, that’s not a simple task, and it can add time and budget. In worst-case scenarios, an unhappy staff will derail or end a project.
Making Change as Painless as Possible
The effect of these challenges is inertia. With so many obstacles to overcome, change—and progress—happen slowly. And sometimes not at all.
Fortunately, there are many strategies to break through the barriers and advance your agency’s digital transformation.
A great place to focus is making technology choices that minimize disruption to current processes. Often, this means ensuring you have the latest version of your applications, as new features are typically released gradually, and users can slowly adapt to them.
There are two other critical tactics to evolve your IT setup: 1) migrate your existing systems as-is to a cloud hosting environment and 2) connect your existing systems to enable new functionality through automation.
Sometimes called a “lift and shift,” taking an existing on-premises solution and moving it to a cloud-hosted environment allows you to take advantage of some cloud benefits (e.g., enhanced security and scalability in response to usage demand) while maintaining a familiar interface for users.
However, it’s not necessary to have your systems in the cloud. If they’re connected to the internet, you can integrate them and connect them to new solutions you might want in your software stack.
Integrations are a powerful way to add new functionality because they allow separate systems to share information. However, it’s easy to lose track of what’s connected, and if something breaks, it can be frustrating to track down the issue and resolve it.
Fortunately, there’s an excellent tool to help you keep track of, and even quickly add, new connections. It’s an integration platform as a service (iPaaS) called The Saltbox Platform.
Get Organized With Saltbox
An iPaaS is becoming a critical tool for agencies because individual components of the organization “go digital” separately. Eventually, this leads to a collection of discrete solutions with their own interfaces, data, and processes.
As the organization matures and more systems come online, the iPaaS becomes more valuable for connecting these systems so they can share data without the need to, for example, manually output spreadsheets and email them so another person can input the data into another system.
As systems become more connected, the potential for automation and additional functionality grows. This is where integrations come in: Beyond simply making a connection, an integration takes data from one system and manipulates it for use by another. And because managing these moving parts can get complicated (and potentially risky if they stop working), it’s essential to house them all within an iPaaS like Vision33’s Saltbox.
First off, all your integrations are in one place, so you can monitor them. This is valuable for several reasons. Say your permitting and licensing platform connects to your GIS (mapping) system, payment processor, document management system, and financial software. What if one system has an upgrade that changes how a data field is labeled and causes the connection to stop working? How would you know about this failure? You could miss critical transactions and not find out until you have a reason to look at the data—maybe days, weeks, or even months in the future.
You can avoid that and other crises with Saltbox’s real-time monitoring.
Another benefit of Saltbox is its intuitive no-code interface. It’s easy to set up and test new connections, so you can integrate your existing systems without doing major upgrades or hiring technical experts. And because you can integrate systems quickly, you can do more of them. Remember: Integrating existing systems is an excellent way to enable new features without replacing the applications your staff is used to.
Speaking of staff, the incredible ease of building new integrations means you can get more people involved and excited about modernizing your IT software stack. By giving control to the individuals who want new functionality, you can empower folks to solve their own issues and innovate new solutions—all with minimal training.
Ultimately, the Saltbox iPaaS enables you to build and test new functionality with minimal cost and risk. You can also plug in best-of-breed, purpose-built apps without buying and implementing larger solutions with extra features you don’t need.
Check Out Our Saltbox Webinar
Integration platforms are essential for government agencies’ digital transformations. The benefits of using Vision33’s cloud-native Saltbox iPaaS go beyond the ones discussed in this article, so if you’re interested in learning more, please register for our free webinar, Advance Your Government Agency’s Move to the Cloud.