This article originally appeared on Sophicity's CitySmart blog.
Many cities often wait to reexamine and modernize their technology only until a major disastrous event such as a server failure, virus, or natural disaster hits. But that likely doesn’t mean the technology worked perfectly until that point. Warning signs probably existed that were ignored or accepted as the status quo.
We understand. It’s sometimes hard to realize how bad you have it when aging technology and reactive IT support are your norm. Use the following assessment to see if you’ve been ignoring or putting up with failing technology—and ask yourself if it’s time to take a good, hard look at your current technology investments.
- Your city website goes down a lot. Your website is your public portal to the world, used by citizens to find information and visitors to learn more about your city. If your website is often down or unavailable, that situation doesn’t reflect well on your city. Often, website crashes stem from hosting issues either on your own servers or through a cheap web hosting provider. Because websites aren’t optional or nice-to-have anymore, you need a reliable web hosting provider that minimizes downtime.
- Your Internet access is slow or spotty. Internet access is essential to government business today. Many of your employees spend each day connected to the Internet in some crucial way to conduct city business. When Internet access becomes unreliable, productivity instantly lowers. A robust, reliable, high-speed Internet connection is absolutely essential. Internet problems usually originate with poorly set up wireless access points or ongoing problems with Internet service providers that have never been fully addressed.
- You can’t easily find electronic files and documents. Cities using free email accounts or lacking document management systems usually find it incredibly difficult to locate electronic information. This problem becomes especially apparent with open records requests. It becomes a major hassle to access an employee’s personal email account or documents located only on a person’s desktop. Cities really need business-class email software and document management systems to professionally and systematically collect, organize, centralize, track, and access information.
- Your IT support staff and technology vendors are always putting out fires. If there’s always a technology crisis going on, that’s not acceptable. Yet, this situation is often one that becomes a status quo at many cities. If servers always have critical problems, if computers are always crashing, and if there are always problems with your IT network, then your city is just limping along from day to day. Your technology needs to work like a utility, not like an old car that you constantly fix. Proactive IT maintenance, modernized technology, and upgraded software all help put out fires permanently.
- You use paper and phone calls as workarounds because technology fails you. Sure, paper and phone calls may do the trick when you’re frustrated with technology. But they are just stopgaps and time-wasters when technology needs to handle the brunt of repetitive, labor-intensive tasks. Paper adds to storage costs and presents a higher risk of data loss. Phone calls usually result from frustrated employees not able to rely on email or electronic document sharing, or from citizens calling when the website is down. Relying too much on paper and phone calls are signs that technology may be failing you.
It’s easy to become so accustomed to a negative technology environment that you think there isn’t much wrong with your situation. Hey, as long as you’re getting by day by day. But letting these technology problems go on introduces many risks including:
- Making it more likely that a major disaster will lead to permanent data loss and a long outage.
- Frustrating employees and citizens, which affects morale.
- Slowing productivity to a crawl when you could be running.
How did you do on this assessment?