My background is in community journalism, so public sector challenges — strained municipal budgets and efforts to improve education, health care and other city services — are all too familiar to me. But rarely do I get to put that knowledge to work nowadays, as I did this week in my story on implementing an IT governance framework in the public sector.
In researching my piece, I reached out to the CIO of the commonwealth of Massachusetts and to the chief deputy director in the state’s Office of the CIO in California. I spoke with each of them about how they’ve worked with their state governors to structure IT so that it can best serve not only the governor and his staff, but state residents too.
That’s one of the differences between public sector challenges versus private sector challenges for CIOs. In the private sector, CIOs are focused mainly on finding and implementing solutions that will move the business’s vision forward while cutting costs and boosting revenues. In the public sector, money matters, of course — particularly with California, as we’ve all heard about the state’s budget crisis — but the bottom line is far more intangible and difficult to measure with traditional ROI formulas.
A successful IT deployment might mean a better database of roads in need of repair, so the local Department of Public Works can fix a pothole before a kid on a bike tumbles into it. Or it might mean planning for the purchase of new desktops so that high school students without Internet access at home can work at the school library. On a much larger scale, the government push to electronic health records underscores the importance of technology in meeting citizens’ everyday needs.
Do I sound like the overzealous press person for a city mayor right now? Maybe a bit (I’m all too familiar with them as well). But one of the many things I’ve been impressed to learn through my reporting at SearchCIO.com is that IT — supported by a dynamite IT governance framework — can enable innovation and success at any level, from the multibillion-dollar corporation to the 5,000-person town.