The road to future-proof digital service provision for municipalities
The government has set out lofty ambitions in the coalition agreement ‘Vertrouwen in de Toekomst’ (Confidence in the Future). “Government communication that currently goes through physical channels should be possible digitally in the future: safely, fast and inexpensive.” If only things were that simple! How does a municipality decide where to begin, and how does it ensure that the limited resources are invested in solutions that really are future-proof?
Knowledge and expertise
A municipality that wants to move with the digital times has many aspects to consider, such as social developments, administrative developments, technological developments, changing legislation and regulations. Via the municipal organisation VNG Realisatie, every municipality can create a roadmap with at least twelve important areas for attention that municipal authorities should have on their agenda, or in any case in their sights.
Knowledge is required in order to make the right choices in this regard. Unfortunately this knowledge is scarce, and experience even more so. This is partly why Dutch municipalities currently spend a quarter of their budget for ICT staff on external experts. In the coalition agreement the following is stated. “Remuneration in government institutions must be at a sufficient level to enable the recruitment of high-quality and scarce specialists, for example with expertise in the field of ICT.” That sounds hopeful, but in an employment market with so much scarcity, more money does not automatically mean that the right people will be found. Furthermore, could that money be spent in a more useful way?
This is a broad problem. How can you retain experienced staff in your organisation, and where can you find the right (technical) employees in a rapidly changing (IT) world?
Outsourcing IT: what and how?
Most municipalities are starting to realise that outsourcing is the most future-proof solution for a modern IT strategy. Municipalities like to stay in control, but they will never become open and transparent if they try to solve everything internally. The question is not whether outsourcing should take place but rather what should be outsourced and what should not. By clearly defining what the core business of the municipality is considered to be and which tasks can better be left to external specialists, you not only prevent a situation in which a lack of essential knowledge puts the municipality at a potentially dangerous disadvantage (cybersecurity, for example) but you also free up time for internal teams to deliver added value (better services, for example).
The question of what should be outsourced and, especially, how this should be done can be a hard nut to crack. For instance, municipal authorities acknowledge all the advantages of cloud computing but then ask us to create a cloud in their own data centre so that they do not relinquish too much control. That may be possible but it is not future-proof. It is like deciding to utilise the invention of the steam locomotive by constructing a railway line that reaches the boundaries of your own business premises. It will not get you very far and you run a serious risk of cutting yourself off from others.
Like the steam locomotive, cloud computing is an invention that challenges you to think bigger. It enables you to use standard services (SaaS) and exchange data with other municipalities, for example. It gives you the flexibility to utilise innovative solutions, which you can activate and deactivate without the need for capital investment or the risk of substantial depreciation.
However, a transition to the cloud is not the only way to achieve a future-proof ICT environment. Another solution that could be considered is service integration. Municipalities are having to deal with increasing numbers of external parties offering ICT services. These services have to be carefully coordinated in order to ensure their optimum use. However, this in itself is another new specialist field with which most organisations, including municipalities, generally have little experience. You could try to recruit the necessary expertise, or you could call in an experienced partner who simply ensures that all systems that a municipality depends on continue to function optimally at all times.
Is it easy to realise the advantages of a modern IT strategy? No, not if you want to do everything yourself. However, consulting a reliable and experienced IT specialist will go a long way towards achieving this. At Solvinity we know exactly how you can structure your IT environment so that you can utilise all the advantages and all the corresponding innovations, both now and in the future. We also know how you can ensure that all IT services and providers merge together smoothly and logically. Smart use of these options and the available flexibility, possibly in joint initiatives or central schemes, will enable municipalities to respond better to the changing demands of its citizens. The future is now!
If you have any questions or comments in response to this blog, or if you would like to know what Solvinity can do for your municipality, please contact Rob van Ewijck, Sales Manager New Business at Solvinity, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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