Doing more with less. For Kevin Burns, chief information officer for the City of Miami, Florida, “that’s what we do here every day – because we have to.”
Burns and his team are the IT backbone for between 4,000 and 4,500 City of Miami employees, a figure that peaks during summers when the city hires more parks and recreation staff. The various supported departments and functions include building, planning, zoning, finance, HR, public safety (both police and fire departments), code enforcement, solid waste management and public works.
“We maintain all the systems and servers, manage and secure the data, provide all the networking, the phones, the devices – the whole of the IT and telecommunications footprint,” Burns says. It would be a full plate for any IT department. Nonetheless, Burns says, “the workload never gets any lighter.”
In fact, quite the opposite. Instead, the pressure to perform is only increasing. For starters, the City of Miami, like many other major metropolitan areas, is still reeling from the lingering recession. Consequently, headcount for the city’s IT department has been slashed from more than 100 in 2006 to just over 50 today.
Burns pushes his team to do the best they can with the resources available. “We view our business units, the departments we work with, as partners. It’s their job to perform for the people of Miami – to provide the highest level of service they can as efficiently as possible.” That, says Burns, “is a mission and a focus we share.” Accordingly, the culture in the IT department “is one of doing whatever it takes to move at the pace our business units need.”
And, as the pace of technological advancements has increased in recent years, the pressure to keep up has intensified. Citizens, city officials and city workers alike, says Burns, all see the ever-improving levels of service the private sector is achieving. “If you can bank or shop online, or by mobile, why can’t you interact with government in the same way? Why should you have to drive downtown, park and then perhaps wait in line to do business with the city?” Everyone today, says Burns, “expects more convenience and service, never less. They know when there are better ways to get things done, and they wonder in cases where government isn’t doing it.”
So Burns and his team are working closely with city business units to harness technology to improve processes, making them more efficient and effective. A good example is an application the building department is developing to solve a very real problem: “Imagine you’re a homeowner or a contractor, and you’re told an inspector is coming today, but there’s no way to know exactly when,” says Burns. Such instances mean citizens “spend more time than they should just waiting around.”
Enter technology. The new app allows citizens to track the schedule and the whereabouts of the inspector in question. “They can follow the inspector throughout the day via GPS,” Burns says. A location indicator even changes colour to show when one inspection concludes and another stands next in line. Citizens can now “plan better, making more effective use of their own time,” says Burns.
In addition to providing better service to citizens, the building department can also make more efficient use of its own resources. Managers can, for example, track individual workloads and evaluate factors such as distance, location, traffic and weather to more effectively optimize scheduling. They can also see progress in real time and make adjustments as needed. The City of Miami’s building inspectors and code enforcement teams are also equipped with the ability to upload or download needed photos or documents and to issue permits or other documents on site “without having to return to the office,” says Burns.
Burns is so confident and pleased with progress to date that a new key tenet of the city’s IT strategy “is that, from now on, any functionality that we add or improve must be 1) mobile and 2) cloud-based.” Applications that reside in the cloud, he explains, “are just so much more flexible, so much easier to maintain, so much more cost-effective and so much more secure — it doesn’t make any sense to do it any other way.”
The above story is an abstract from the Forbes Insights research report From Promise to Reality: How Local, State and Federal Government Agencies Achieve Results in the Cloud. Developed in collaboration with Microsoft, the study includes interviews with a number of government executives that are leading the charge in cloud adoption, plus insight from analysts and technology providers, including Microsoft and its partners. To read more, download the full report.
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