Lori Pinz, director of IT for the city of Pueblo, Colo., knows first-hand that cities with tight budgets need to be especially careful where and how they invest tax payer dollars.
Since 2002, she has lead the Pueblo IT department on system consolidation and has streamlined business operations with an enterprise planning system. By eliminating manual processes and duplicated data entry functions and replacing them with automated processes managed through workflow engines, she has reduced annual support and operations and maintenance costs.
Her CTO Pathfinders Q&A reveals that Pinz and Pueblo’s IT department are true stewards of the city’s technology. They carefully select solutions, leverage dollars to implement technology that solves multiple needs and seek out cost-sharing partnerships with other Federal, state and local governments.
What are the major benefits that municipalities stand to gain from adopting new technologies?
Pinz: Technology has the ability to invigorate municipalities, it can help cities sell themselves. It is important to Pueblo to attract tourists and new residents to our city, we also believe in providing services to our citizens in a manner that will support all generations of people. We are careful to never exclude any of our citizens through the adoption of new technologies. We try to implement new technologies as an alternative to traditional methods of offering services.
That being said, today’s generation seeks to engage and communicate through technology so it is a governments responsibility to adopt the technologies its citizens are currently using as means to increase engagement and quality of service.
What are the major risks municipalities face when attempting to adopt new technologies?
Pinz: Governments need to be extremely cautious when adopting bleeding edge technologies. Government is spending tax payer dollars and needs to do so responsibly. Technology needs to have real benefits, it is not just good enough to be better and faster. Civic tech leaders are required to examine the tangible benefits of technology, what is the ROI? Is the technology sustainable? Does it meet the needs and objectives of what our citizens want?
What challenges has Pueblo faced when implementing new technologies?
Pinz: Change is always a challenge for any government. In this age of transparency, it can be difficult for governments to remain compliant while becoming transparent.
It can also be difficult for governments to weed their way through the “hype”. It is difficult to avoid becoming lost in the marketing of new technology. Before spending money, an organization needs to perform thorough due diligence, which is never easy. It is important to speak with other communities, do your research and seek out third-party consultants who can reveal new aspects of the solution you are reviewing.
What are some of the ways in which Pueblo has overcome these challenges? Are there any best practices that your municipality adheres to when adopting new technologies?
Pinz: We are fortunate to have internal project managers (PMs) who are capable implementing many of our projects. Many of my PMs wear multiple hats, which has its advantages during an implementation. But, for large projects, it may be necessary to bring in third-party consultants to act as PMs or change management specialists. We attribute a lot of our success to the collaboration and cohesiveness we have with our end-users. Our end-users are our customers, and it is important that we are meeting their needs with any technology solution.
As described, we are very careful when selecting a new technology vendor. We evaluate industry research, engage with third-party consultants to get their perspectives, reach out to other municipalities; but most importantly, we pilot the technology before we ever purchase it. Piloting the technology in our environment ensures we purchase and deliver the right solution to our customers.
Pueblo strives to create partnerships with vendors, not just select the technology that is most affordable. Strong partnerships means there is a mutual interest in providing the most beneficial and cost-effective solutions to our end-users and the services we are responsible for delivering to our citizens.
From your perspective, what is the IT Department’s role in government?
Pinz: It is the IT department’s responsibility to provide a service to the various departments, not act as an authoritative body. IT should seek collaboration and desire to gain end-user buy-in by engaging department staff throughout the decision-making process. By doing so IT can avoid departments going out on their own and procuring technologies that do not fit with the overall IT strategy of the government. This eliminates unnecessary spending and waste.
As a technology leader working within the public sector what specific technologies interest you?
Pinz: I often ask myself how can technology help make our city a safe place to live? For instance, how can big data be used to enable our staff to make timely and informed decisions when serving our citizens? How can it help us improve the trust in the services we provide? How can current consumer technologies (social media applications, for example) be leveraged to help governments entice and engage with our citizens on a more efficient and deeper level?
We are on the cusp of change, and our reliance on data to make decisions and provide quality services to our citizens will rely heavily on our ability to correctly and accurately analyze data from multiple sources in a timely manner.
EfficientGov’s CTO Download column highlights the work of civic IT leaders that achieve notable, forward-thinking technical solutions that change the game for their local governments. Who they are, what they believe and their approaches advance cities governing under limited resources.
Civic technology leaders who would like to participate in CTO Download should email firstname.lastname@example.org.