On Thursday the Arlington Information Technology Advisory Committee reached a significant milestone. We’ve been working for more than a year on a “technology needs assessment.” We interviewed department heads, town employees, and citizens, wrote reports, collated data, and synthesized common themes. Without claiming that it’s finished, we reached a point where we could share the work we did so far and make sure we were on track. So, on Thursday, we discussed the results in a meeting of the town’s department heads.
Here’s a quick rundown on the process:
- We asked people what they wanted in technology and what they already do with technology. We didn’t stop there; we also looked at what people actually do and worked to find things that they might not have thought of.
- We looked at information. What information do they store? What do they share internally? With other departments? With citizens/customers? With the state/federal government?
- We asked about applications and technology currently in use.
- We collected copies of forms used.
- We asked about disaster planning? Fire? Power outage?
- We asked about attitudes towards technology.
- Based on these interviews, we wrote up a needs assessment for each department.
- At this point, we were able to identify some common themese with confidence. We outlined the categories, and then went back through each needs assessment. We classified the various deparment activities into one of the categories.
- We looked at the resulting categories and department activities. You can see them here. The categories are across the top, the departments are listed down the left, and the individual activities are bulleted. Some of them need more explanation. If you look at the columns, you can see some commonalities. For instance, many departments collect small amounts of cash, and most log the information by hand – that might be a place for the town to add technology and improve efficiency.
- We outlined several areas where the town could invest that would help several departments at once. I’m going to list the bullets here, and I’m looking for the longer explanation.
- Utilizing existing software
- ITAC has identified a need from all departments for more training, especially in the software packages that are already installed throughout the town and school.
- ITAC has identified a need to provide more support to all departments both on software issues and hardware.
- Cross-departmental Business Analysis
- ITAC has identified a need for all departments to work regularly with each other and the Information Technology Department through a collaborative process on identifying common technology needs.
- Data and Applications sharing
- Based on address
- Later based on people
- ITAC has identified a need for a common depository of information that each department can use in unique ways. An example of this is a shared GIS system.
- Information Technology Department
- Business analysis
- Requirements gathering
- Synergies – departmental
- Data and application sharing
- Internal customer service
- Technology planning (budgetary)
- Continuity of Operations
- ITAC has identified a need to improve the Information Technology Department in the above areas.
- Empowerment (culture change)
- ITAC has identified a need for the employees to participate in the changes that, through technology, will improve the work product.
- Small monetary transactions (automation)
- ITAC has identified that several departments deal with small monetary transactions which could and should be reviewed for automation.
- Customer Service Response
- ITAC has identified the need to enhance our customer (internal and external) service response through technology.
- ITAC has identified the need to constantly review the hardware available to the employees to insure that it can perform the functions that we require of them.
- Records Management
- ITAC has identified the need to insure that our records comply with the state law and that every record is also in an electronic version for back-up and retrieval.
We shared all of this with the department heads. We got good feedback in return. They showed us a few places where we had missed things. We quizzed them on what they perceived as the priorities. I think our only notable failure was that we’d managed to omit several of the library functions (I’ve got the updated information and will put it on the grid shortly). Overall, the meeting was a successful exchange of ideas.
Most of this needs assessment and analysis will find its way into the report to Town Meeting. It will also be used to help inform the to-be-hired town information officer. I also intend to make it a part of the budget process for ’08 and going forward.
I think at our next meeting we’ll review what we learned with the department heads. Then I think we’ll start fleshing out how to meet the highest-priority needs that the process has identified.
I have two disappointments. The first, as always, is speed. I wish we were moving faster. Some progress is better than no progress, of course, and we’re definitely making progress. The second disappointment is that some departments did not attend the meeting. There are some offices in town that desperately need technology updates, and they were the ones least likely to attend. I hope that they will notice the improvements as they are implemented and get involved.
Updated 1/30 with detail on the draft priorities