This article originally appeared on Sophicity's CitySmart blog.
A new year provides a good excuse to take a fresh look at your city’s information technology. After all, it’s 2016. The great thing about information technology today is that many services have drastically improved in quality while lowering in cost over the last few years. If you haven’t taken a fresh look at your information technology during the last two or three years, then you might be missing out on some powerful cost savers and productivity boosters.
But where do you begin? Here are some technology areas and questions to help you assess the current state of your IT. Use this assessment to help you take a fresh 2016 look at your city’s technology investments.
Your city’s website
Today, many people first go to your website to find online services, research your city, or look for city council information. That means your website needs to work even harder than city hall to provide information on a constant basis and serve as the first impression of your city for many people. Because first impressions are so important, ask yourself:
- How old is our website? Has it been five or even 10 years since we had a redesign?
- How old is the content on our website? Have we updated it recently with fresh news, events, and city council information?
- Do we offer online payments and services?
- Do we host our website with a reliable, reputable provider? Does our website go down a lot?
Your data backup and disaster recovery
Currently, many cities use aging, unreliable, or incomplete data backup solutions that fail during a crisis. Data backup is one of those things that goes unnoticed—until a server fails or a disaster strikes. In those moments, you may discover too late that you cannot recover critical data. Ask yourself:
- Is all of my important data backed up?
- Can I quickly recover any lost data from an event like a server failure?
- Do I back up my data offsite in case of a severe disaster?
- Have I tested and audited my data backup recently?
Your ability to find information and respond to open records requests
As you may know, finding information is half the battle when it comes to open records requests. But many cities use insufficient email programs or lack modern document management systems. Free or cheap email software prevents cities from easily finding information and blurs the boundaries between personal and business email. And if your city isn’t storing documents in a centralized place where authorized people can easily search for information, then you’re making city business that much harder for yourself. Ask yourself:
- Do I use a free, cheap, or difficult-to-use email program?
- Do I have enough storage for email and documents? Or am I always hitting storage limits?
- Can I easily find emails and documents, especially for open records requests?
Your hardware, software, and network equipment
Many cities slow down to a crawl because of aging equipment. Old servers, workstations, and network equipment (like routers or firewalls) can lead to constant crashes, slow computers, and frustrated employees. Plus, aging software that consists of expensive servers and software licenses may need revisiting by looking at some modern cloud options. Ask yourself:
- Are my servers and workstations more than five years old?
- Do I often have major issues with hardware and software?
- Are there cheaper cloud options available for which I don’t need to have as much hardware on site?
Your IT issues getting resolved
Do you have overworked IT staff who take a long time to get to technical issues? Or maybe you use an “IT repairperson” of sorts who comes over every now and then to fix a lot of issues at once? In the meantime, lingering technology issues means your employees wait a long time for fixes and struggle to do their work. A 24/7 helpdesk used to be a luxury for many organizations, but today they have become more cost effective. For way less than an IT person’s salary, you get experienced engineers constantly working on any IT issue you throw at them. Ask yourself:
- Is my current IT staff or vendor always available to help me?
- Do IT issues get lined up in a long queue that takes seemingly forever to get resolved?
- Is someone clearly accountable so that I can always follow up on the status of an issue?
With this assessment, you’ll be able to quickly identify if you have any problem areas or opportunity for improvement. If at least three of these areas worry you, then seriously consider evaluating the current state of your information technology in depth. Look for more modern, cost-effective options that meet the needs of your employees while lessening the number of ongoing problems.