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The Pandemic Should Be the Golden Age of Shared Services

IT leaders in government should team up with their peers in other jurisdictions to share expertise and technology. Sharing agreements can open up possibilities that could be out of reach when working alone.

by Teri Takai and Phil Bertolini / December 8, 2020

How many of you out there in government IT remember your kindergarten days? You were away from home for at least half a day hanging out with your new friends, maybe even taking a nap during the day. Above all else, teachers wanted to make sure that everyone learned how to share. Not everyone was ready to embrace sharing, but the mission was noble.

What does that have to do with government technology in these very difficult times? Governments are realizing with the challenges they now face that taking on every project alone is not an option. The need to collaborate and share with peers is critical to your future success. One thing we have learned about governments over the years is that sharing best practices, sharing information, and sharing technologies continues to take on more importance.

The pandemic gave everyone a reality check on what technologies are most important and what technologies everyone needs. But many of these technologies are perceived to be out of reach for some governments but very attainable for others. Sharing these technologies across jurisdictions could be the proverbial link in the chain that holds everything together for all levels of government. We will use the acronym "share" to help illustrate this point.

S: Synergize

One of the most difficult aspects of shared services is the ability to understand what each entity needs to enable the sharing. Governments should open dialogues with neighboring jurisdictions to assess what they have and what they need. Look for common needs and determine what technologies can satisfy those needs. Synergizing on needs will help drive a common push to gain the necessary tools together.

H: Harness

Each entity that is seeking to partner or share must understand what skills they have that can help drive the initiative. Harnessing those skills and bringing them to the table provides a “win-win” for each partner, especially when trying to enter into new sharing relationships. Private-sector expertise can also ensure the availability of the right skill sets for the right problem. Harness everything at your disposal.

A: Accommodate

Not every partner in a sharing arrangement fully understands all aspects of what is possible. Governments entering into sharing agreements must be a bit “bendable” in order to accommodate everyone’s needs. These arrangements are never cast in stone and will change as they mature. Accommodate the needs of each partner within reason to ensure complete buy-in for the future. Remember, sharing requires collaboration. It is not about getting everything you want to have; it is about what can you live with that accommodates the needs of all partners.

R: Reinvent

Now is the time for governments to reinvent their futures while embracing shared services like never before. This is not the time to keep things as they have always been, but it is time to shake up your processes and the technologies that enable them. Sharing technologies requires everyone to give a bit when entering the arrangement. Processes will need to change, and people will need to accept the new normal in order to take advantage of leveraging technologies across a wider base, thus driving costs down. Find the right technologies that will benefit everyone in the future.

E: Embrace

Sharing technologies is not easy when bringing partners together that have never worked together before. Embrace as many partners as you are able in order to become a larger entity that has negotiating power with private-sector technology providers. The only way to have smaller governments utilize larger technologies is to become larger by sharing. Private-sector partners will also embrace this philosophy as it will increase their ability to sell to a larger market. Private-sector partners also want to be there to help governments solve problems. What better way to do that than by having groups of governments that are sharing their expertise, their skill sets, their leadership, their technologies, and their need to service their citizens.

Governments of all sizes definitely get a passing grade when it comes to your willingness to help each other. Your kindergarten teachers would be proud. Our events here at the Center for Digital Government* have proven that government technology leaders will open their playbooks, provide guidance where they can, and be there when others need them. These events were virtual this year, but every bit as engaging as if we were together in person. Now is the time to take those conversations to the next level by sharing. Being there for each other in this way will make everyone more successful.

An organization that has been around since before 1900 trademarked a saying in 1950 that rings true now, especially during this very special time of year. That saying is “Sharing is Caring,” and the organization is the Salvation Army. The Salvation Army has helped so many people in need over the years and they continue to push forward with this mission, even in the toughest of times. Let’s all take a lesson from this amazing organization and reach out to help someone soon by being ready to share.

Enjoy your holiday season and remember, we are here to help.

*The Center for Digital Government is part of e.Republic, Government Technology's parent company.

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