More than ever, public sector agencies must do more with less – especially in IT. At the end of the 2021 fiscal year, the IRS was forced to make up a $600 million IT funding shortfall and highlighted an urgent gap in funding for technology modernization, largely driven by pandemic-driven demand for digital services across the government.
At the state and local levels, budgets prove thinner. According to SolarWinds recent annual Public Sector Cybersecurity Survey, 50% of security IT professionals across state agencies and 25% of local governments selected “low budgets” as the leading challenge plaguing their team’s success.
Despite limited funds, state IT professionals face the same challenges of managing critical systems essential to the mission and delivering citizen services. The question remains how can they do this successfully with less budget and resources?
Let’s look at three ways state and local IT leaders can save on IT costs without compromising outcomes.
1. Automate wherever possible
Automation can rein in IT costs and reduce human error, but agencies must develop an automation strategy to best fits their needs. As governments digitally transform and increase their digital footprint, IT and security teams are faced with an overwhelming volume of tasks, many of which can only be accomplished manually.
To maximize IT budget resources, IT leaders should closely review existing processes for inefficiencies and opportunities to automate. For instance, compressing multiple processes into one – such as tasks that perform similar functions – can help eliminate outdated IT assets and add further efficiency gains.
Consider IT monitoring. Typically, agencies rely on disparate toolsets to monitor different aspects of the digital environment, including network security, patch management, application and database performance, and cloud instances. Jumping between tools is time-consuming, but some systems can also escape notice, resulting in blind spots. Unified, single pane of glass monitoring can help identify stray assets and ensure comprehensive visibility across IT assets. Better yet, they layer in automation to improve discovery, troubleshooting, incident response, and compliance tasks while reducing alert fatigue and risk.
One last area to automate is IT support functions, including user service requests, troubleshooting, and ticket resolution. Using an IT service desk (not to be confused with a help desk), agencies can consolidate siloed IT and HR resources and workflows into a single shared space so IT teams can prioritize and fulfill employee needs quickly and efficiently.
2. Consider outsourcing
IT staff in the public education sector often prefer to develop software and services in-house – especially when there are SaaS, PaaS, or low code/no code solutions available.
But it’s often less costly to outsource technology implementation and management services. Accenture’s recent survey found government executives can reap average cost savings of 20-40% over the life of an outsourcing contract. Respondents also stressed that outsourcing drives additional benefits including improved capabilities, greater executive focus on priority issues, and the faster delivery of public services.
3. Don’t rush adoption
Government mandates and pressure from vendors and peers may make the choice to invest in emerging technologies an easy one. But these investments can strain already stretched IT budgets.
Before adopting new technology, agencies should evaluate the value and cost of the new technology to the business. They must also gain internal support among all stakeholders – even those outside of IT – so that the organization can share ownership of the initiative’s goals and outcomes. As such, the IT leadership team must be part of the enterprise-wide decision-making process, so they can gain visibility into enterprise priorities and needs.
Lastly, if a decision is made to outsource certain functions, government leaders should stay actively involved in leading strategy and operations for outsourced activities.
Do more IT with less money
At the end of the day, ensuring the right initiatives receive funding comes down to effective IT governance. Governance encompasses the policies, processes, and procedures that govern everything IT does – with an emphasis on continuous improvement. Instead of focusing on technology-first, an IT department that prioritizes governance focuses on the biggest pain points technology can address, gains cross-functional executive buy-in for IT initiatives, and finds the right partners to help the agency realize positive outcomes.
Brandon Shopp is Group Vice President, Product at SolarWinds.