In the private sector, the service delivery manager has been a mainstay of IT management for years, but in government it’s just now starting to catch on. In Colorado, two service delivery managers have been hired since the state started rethinking IT management in 2011. As full-time, dedicated positions, two service delivery managers, one for Google services and one for the state’s eligibility system, are responsible for seeing that services are delivered in the most efficient, sustainable way possible.

Colorado CIO Kristin Russell has a background in management in the private sector, having worked for Sun and Oracle -- companies that use service delivery managers. Government lags behind the private sector in this respect because service delivery managers are a natural outgrowth of enterprisewide architecture, which Russell points out is relatively new in government.

“The private sector centralized IT 20 years ago. And just now government is starting to do that, and so I think the permutation of service delivery managers will continue to expand as we look at enterprise IT for government,” she said. “The image that the public sector has is that the private sector has tried out a lot of things and we are now coming into a position where we can learn from the gaps that the private sector found in managing enterprise IT.”

The state started looking at adding the position in 2011, but it wasn’t until the following year that the effort really began in earnest, she said. “I think the organization struggled a little bit because while I had a very clear picture in my mind about what that would look like, it’s a foreign concept in government. It took us awhile to really get our arms around what the intention and the need for this was.”

What the state found, Russell said, was that the service delivery manager was needed to ensure that a service is effective and to know as much as possible about the service as an expert. “It’s this very holistic, enterprise-level service manager that helps us to make sure we are not only getting the return on investment for the service and how it’s being delivered today but also advocating on behalf of the business for our needs down the road,” she said.

Since deploying its service delivery managers, Russell said, the state has seen a much greater adoption of services. The state has 67 applications in its Google Apps for Government environment, and the service delivery manager has helped agencies move beyond the typical email, calendar and contacts applications and into other services. Russell described Google Sites, for example, as a great way for groups to create a central hub for information that can be customized for their own needs and the needs of their partners.

“More often than not, the business-side innovation is then reverted back into the service delivery to improve support across agencies,” she said. “On more than one occasion, service delivery staff have taken sites developed by programs and generated templates for no additional cost support to other programs and agencies. Force multiplication and the ability to see where tools in one area can be applied in another is a powerful time-saving and cost avoidance element of the disruptive support model.”

The service delivery manager, account executive and solution architect positions form a “three-legged stool” that enables enterprise IT to perform well, she said. The concept behind these positions is part of what led Russell to make the switch to IT, she said. “I felt there was this huge gap between the potential that IT had in delivering solutions to the business and the business’ ability and understanding of what is possible,” she said. “I came over to IT because I thought I can really help them to translate some of these opportunities into solutions.”

An effective service delivery manager is difficult to find, Russell said, but the state has been lucky in its two hires so far. One manager was hired internally and the other externally, and both methods have their benefits, she said. External hires from the private sector can bring knowledge of the position, while internal hires can bring knowledge of the organization, which is also important, she said. A good service delivery manager has great communication skills, collaboration skills, technical acumen, financial skills, and understanding of how to translate business needs into technology solutions.

The state plans to hire three more service delivery managers in the next 12 months, Russell said.  Ideas so far include a position in the Department of Revenue, one for its SAP environment, and one for its internal cloud.

Many states don’t use enterprisewide solutions for a lot of their services today, but as more organizations make that upgrade, service delivery managers will become more common in government, she predicted. “If an organization hopes to be effective, the service delivery manager is one of those key people needed to do so,” she said.

Colin Wood  |  Staff Writer

Colin has been writing for Government Technology since 2010. He lives in Seattle with his wife and their dog. He can be reached at cwood@govtech.com