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The Product verse Project Approach to Government Technology Services
Philip Savino, Director, Information Technology Department, Arapahoe County Government
It comes as no surprise that with increased demand from our internal customers we face challenges from compounding project requests, resource availability, and static budgets. Government technology operations are often project focused and addressed individually, which can make the path to system interoperability difficult and sometimes unachievable. This also puts a greater demand on resource allocation and contributes ultimately to failed expectations for project completion times and delivery of services.
Traditionally, government agencies have technology steering committees to evaluate technology projects from cost to resource allocation and, in some instances, to fulfill legislative mandates. Projects then leave these steering committees and are put into a queue, where they await resources to be assigned based on the specific requirements of the project.
However, this type of project-driven portfolio eventually creates a large debt for the technology department to carry. This one-off process and singular focus mean that the number of solutions and the breadth of types of solutions will grow linearly, to no end.
To tackle some of these challenges, the Arapahoe County technology department is transitioning to product-based operations. We have identified the major services that the county supports and have categorized them into product classifications. Each major group of products is managed by a product manager who focuson two areas. The first is understanding the intersection of the department’s processes and technology. This understanding will promote the reuse and retooling of existing solutions to meet the department’s needs. Instead of individual departments launching a new project to solve a singular process needed, the product managers will be working with the many departments under the product to understand their needs and apply enterprise-based solutions that could potentially scale across the agency.
“Product-focused teams give Arapahoe County technology operations many advantages. It creates the opportunity for interoperability with the systems and solutions that we are implementing as we focus on a one-to-many approach”
The second and more impactful part of the product manager will be creating alignment and synergy between departments’ solutions that work within the same domain, and beyond that, creating a cohesive experience for our residents. Our product managers will be coordinating product experiences across departments on the technology and business level. A continuous complaint with government service delivery is that residents must go to many touchpoints to get all the services they need, which can become a frustrating experience. Therefore, one of the goals of the product manager is to coordinate department technology working in the same domain to create “one door” all-inclusive experiences. This can then segue to the digital transformation process that many agencies are going through today.
Product-focused teams give Arapahoe County technology operations many advantages. It creates the opportunity for interoperability with the systems and solutions that we are implementing as we focus on a one-to-many approach. This allows us to build teams that have a continuous focus on the product and develop the product over time, creating better technology for our customers. It allows us to think holisticallyand increase the opportunity to create a better experience for our residents. Finally, it delivers technology that not only saves the county government time, but tax payer dollars as well.