By Tim Townsend
State and local governments in California face long-term cost pressures. Because of these fiscal constraints, government agencies are staring at a new reality of providing the same level of services with fewer resources.
So, how will government agencies respond to this challenge? Like their private sector counterparts, embracing new technology to increase productivity is crucial.
However, simply adding new technology for the sake of adding it is not enough on its own to increase efficiency. That’s where things like organizational change management and training come into play. Unfortunately, this important part of the equation often is not given the attention it deserves.
It’s not enough to just drop a new tool in a department and walk away. Employees should understand the need for it, how it can support them to do their job better, and, most importantly, be thoroughly trained to use it (especially if they have been doing something a certain way for a long time).
I saw many examples of this while working in the State Legislature, which, like many government organizations, is looking to incorporate new technology. However, when a tool did become available, the challenge was always getting employees to embrace it.
One project that particularly showed this challenge in action was an effort to create a new automated system to streamline making vote recommendations. This technology tool created for Legislative offices was extremely helpful and had the potential to save a lot of time if used correctly. It eliminated the need to print hundreds of pages of analyses and manually transcribe vote recommendations when preparing for Floor Sessions where large numbers of bills would be voted on. Prior to the creation of this tool, it would sometimes take up to eight hours to print and fill in the packets of information that Legislators relied on when it came time to vote.
Despite the potential to save time and free up resources to work on other things, few Legislative offices changed their internal processes to use it. Why? Because the organizational culture hadn’t yet adapted to the technology. Many preferred their old systems because it was what they knew. There were certainly efforts made to train all employees on how to use it, but it never got the traction that the technology deserved.
This same story can be seen in countless other IT projects in both the private and public sector. That’s why KAI Partners offers organizational change management and training as a component of our IT modernization project services.
People, process, and technology need to work together to achieve the desired results. This upfront investment into employees pays huge dividends down the road when technology delivers on its promises to save time and money. As I saw while working in the Legislature, the greatest technological tool is only as useful as how excited and willing people are to use it.
KAI Partners strongly values investing in organizational change and training for employees so they can make technology work for them and support their needs, not the other way around. As state and local governments across California look to technology for solutions on how to continue offering the public services with less funding, choosing the right approach on IT projects will be the determinant of success or failure.
About the Author: Tim Townsend is an Associate Consultant for KAI Partners and a communications specialist with on IT project developments. Prior to joining the company, he was a Chief of Staff in the California State Legislature, where he worked for eight years. He enjoys snowboarding with his wife and is a parent to two rescue dogs.