Yesterday I had inquiry with the service provider of a local government in an undisclosed jurisdiction. This is the sole provider to the local authority, although it is run as a separate, private concern and not formally as part of government.
They wanted to discuss how they could become more relevant to their (only) client by deploying innovative technologies. In particular they were looking into providing better access to internal data, to inform decisions as well as official communication by the executive leadership. Technologies like BI, data analytics, social networking analysis all provide important building blocks, but this provider was looking for ready-made templates that would allow to show value for the investments made so far.
At that point I felt I had to ask the question: do you know what your client cares about, and what priority problems they need to solve? They gave a rather confused answer, which – in the mind of the cynical analyst I am – sounded like they really have no clue. They were genuinely trying to be more proactive than reactive, but they hadn’t focused on the single most important aspect, which is what keeps their client awake at night (or, less dramatically, what the executive leaders could lose their next election on).
This is not such an unusual situation though. When a government organization has a single service provider and has no choice, the service provider has little incentive to be proactive. When it decides to be proactive, it may lack the culture, the skill and the attitude to do it successfully.
Many internal or captive government IT organization exhibit the same symptoms. Their view of being proactive is to spend on a bunch of new technologies and then figure out whether there is a problem they can help solve.
The irony is that, while tighter budgets and sustainability issues should drive IT organizations to become much better at listening to and understanding their customers’ problems, the current move toward centralized and shared IT service organizations may exacerbate the disconnect between the business and its IT provider.
Of course the supporters of greater consolidation claim that what is being targeted for consolidation are uncontroversially similar services, such as managing IT infrastructure, email or payroll, for which there seems to be a rather weak case for differentiation.
But who is drawing the boundary between efficiency and agility, between productivity and responsiveness, between leverage and innovation?