IT must not neglect the basics when working on e-government projects, says Nigel Blair.
Central government is continually raising the bar for local authorities by setting new Key Performance Indicators. Each new KPI requires IT managers to interrogate their databases in new ways to generate reams of reports, and some spend up to 20% of their time generating reports for Whitehall agencies.
So how can local authorities accommodate Whitehall reporting requirements while integrating all corners of the organisation to deliver the "joined up" vision of e-government, and maintaining existing IT?
The best approach is to start with core, mission-critical systems. For the majority of local authorities, the revenues and benefits system is at the heart of their operation.
Archaic mainframes are finally giving way to open architecture, web-based software. The new software achieves two important goals: it delivers fast, number-crunching performance because it is not lumbered with the same heavy database structure as a mainframe; and it provides rich seams of data for detailed management reports.
The best software on the market should also allow reporting templates to be pre-configured, ensuring reports are generated and dispatched at the right time.
The web-based software can be installed, populated and tested offline. To ensure the roll-out runs smoothly and a mutiny is avoided on the day the system goes live, it is important to establish a project stakeholder group.
Select team leaders from all departments and encourage them to feed ideas into the melting pot. The earlier this group is formed, the better as it will garner support for the system and prove that IT is working to the needs of the organisation and its employees.
Finally, dedicate a small, focused IT team to the implementation of the system. If necessary, provide additional resources for managing day-to-day IT needs and general fire-fighting. This will preserve the sanity of those responsible for rolling out the new system and ensure the project meets objectives and remains on schedule.
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Nigel Blair is product manager for revenues and benefits at infrastructure services firm Sx3