This article is posted with permission from Sophicity’s CitySmart blog and shares non-technical, municipal-relevant insights about critical technology issues, focusing on how technology reduces costs, helps better serve citizens, and lessens cybersecurity risks. Sophicity is solely responsible for the article’s content.
Many towns and cities still underspend on information technology in order to save money. Or, at least they think they are saving money. In reality, the lack of IT investment impacts the work of municipal employees every day in small ways. And these lost hours, the inability to complete tasks, and incessant delays lead to real hard costs in dollars.
If your car broke down once a week even though you paid $500 for it, would you consider this purchase a good deal? That’s the same reasoning behind underspending on IT. Its malfunctioning will sap the lifeblood from your workforce while bleeding money from your budget.
Let’s look at some ways that “saving” money for your town or city prevents your employees from getting their jobs done.
1. Slow and crashing computers
When servers and computers are old, unsupported by the hardware vendor, and kept until they die, they strain to keep up with modern software applications and the internet’s evolution. Consider your smartphone. You often decide to trade it in when the device can barely handle browsing the internet, running your apps, or storing your files anymore. The same rationale holds true with servers and computers.
Hardware needs replacing every 3-5 years, and even newer hardware needs regular support—patching, upgrades, and updates. These best practices help desktops, laptops, and servers function at an optimal speed. If your servers and computers are at the point where their slowness and freezing are noticeable, then you are wasting the time of your employees.
2. Malfunctioning equipment
Beyond slow and crashing computers, malfunctioning equipment can also interfere with people getting their jobs done. For example:
- Your internet access is often spotty and goes out at critical times.
- Your printer doesn’t work for long periods of time due to some “glitch.”
- Your wireless routers always need resetting and never seem to provide consistent service.
Recurring problems like these lower the morale of employees, raise frustration levels, and prevent work from getting done. Often, the root cause of these problems is easily solved—but the right IT resources are not around to correct these issues.
3. Members of your staff become the “IT people”
Yes, the city clerk, police chief, or a star employee may feel good that they have the technical knowledge to solve a few IT problems. But remember their jobs. Does a city clerk, police chief, or star employee have enough on their plate to keep them busy every week without serving as your IT support? (The answer should be “yes”!)
Non-technical staff becoming “IT people” is a waste of their time. Even if they are technically savvy, tackling IT issues takes up a lot of time. Experienced IT engineers might start with a simple issue such as an employee unable to log into their email or having trouble installing updates to a software application—but the “simple” issue may turn into an hours-long complex issue as they drill down into it. You never know, but a non-technical person getting sucked into such an issue can easily waste a quarter or half of a day.
4. Minor issues unable to get resolved
Minor IT issues will crop up all the time. Content doesn’t want to load onto the website. The printer isn’t connecting to your computer. You can’t find a document. Simple, and easily resolved with the right IT helpdesk. Yet, it’s these kinds of tiny issues that add up to a nagging sense of frustration as employees waste time stymied or working around IT problems that could be fixed by experienced IT engineers in less than an hour. You might brush these kinds of issues off when things are okay, but what about when you need to find that document, print that handout, or post that update to the website related to your city council meeting taking place in a few hours?
5. Inability to find data quickly
Underinvestment in IT usually also means there isn’t a centralized records / document management system in place or a business-class email system in place. This makes finding documents or emails somewhat tricky. A document or email:
- Might be on a single employee’s computer, located…somewhere.
- Might be on a consumer-grade email system with limited functionality to find a specific email.
- Might be on a server containing shared folders that are completely unorganized.
Without a centralized records / document management system or email system in place, your employees will usually store documents wherever they please or wherever is convenient. The inability to find information when needed—whether for work-related purposes or Open Records Requests—is a big, big timewaster.
Towns and cities need an IT helpdesk staffed by senior IT engineers with many years of experience supporting municipalities. When you invest in the right IT helpdesk, then all the above problems mostly go away—giving you a big sigh of relief and leaving you to focus on your work.