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Information Technology Budget

Information Technology Budget

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Published by Saul Tannenbaum
Written testimony about the Cambridge IT Budget.
Written testimony about the Cambridge IT Budget.

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Published by: Saul Tannenbaum on May 03, 2012
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CommentaryontheCambridgeInformationTechnologyBudget
Saul Tannenbaum Page 1 5/2/12
TheCity’sInformationTechnologybudgetfailsitsbasicpurposeofinformingtheCouncilandCambridgecitizensofhowtheirtaxdollarsarebeingspent.Lackingeventhe“statutoryanalysis”required,thebudgetrequestconsistsofthreetoplinenumbers,oneforthedepartment,andtwofortechnologydepartment.Thegoalsstatedarepoorlydefinedanddonotreflectaninnovative,progressivetechnologyagenda.Theperformancemeasuresofferedarelargelyrawnumberswithoutcontextandarenotmeaningfulmetricswithwhichtoassessthedepartment.
TechnologyPolicy
Technologydecisionsarerarelyneutral.TheCityrecognizesthis,forexample,whenitcomestoenvironmenttechnologywhereithaschosentoembracesustainabilityasacorevalue.Informationtechnologydecisionsalsorepresentvalues.Differentdecisionswillhavedifferentoutcomeswhenitcomestoopenness,transparencyandinclusion.TheCityhas,forexample,chosen“Remedy”,acommercialoff-the-shelfsoftwareproductastheunderlyingsoftwaretotheCambridgeRequestSystem.Thus,whentheCouncilsuggestedinvestigatingSeeClickFix,theITdepartmentreportedthatitwouldbeveryexpensivetointegrateSeeClickFixwiththeCRS.Thiswasn’tafailingofSeeClickFix,whichhasbeenintegratedwithnumerousothercity’ssystems.Rather,itreflectstheattributesofRemedy,whichisdesignedbeaninternalsystem,notonemeanttofunctionasanopen,transparentinterfacewiththepublic.This,inturn,leadstothewayiReportwasimplemented.Othercitiesseemobileproblemreportingappsasameanstoengagecitizensandbecometransparentastohowthecityfunctions.Theymakeallcitizenreportspubliconwebsitesgenerallyonmaps,usingthisasameansofcommunitybuilding.Resolutionsarealsopublic,withalldataeasilyavailable,thusmakingthecity’sresponsivenessamatterofverifiablerecord.iReportdoesnoneofthis,thuskeepingthecity’sfunctionasanopaqueblackbox.ThetechnologyecosystemthatisbeingbuiltwillbefurtherreinforcedbyarequestedupgradetoRemedy.Foranopengovernmenttechnologyadvocate,thereisnomoreimportanttechnologydecisionCambridgewillface.Perpetuatingaclosedsystemwillmaketransparencyfarmoreexpensiveinthefuture.TheCouncilcannot,andshouldnot,dictatethespecifictechnologychoicesoftheITDepartment.Itcan,andshould,however,adopttechnologypoliciesthatassurethattechnologyisusedforcitizenengagement,andinwaysthatsupporttransparencyandinclusion.Itcould,forexample,adoptapolicy,thatthecityshouldsupporttheOpen311standard(http://open311.org/),anopenstandardforissuetracking.Thiswouldopenuptheproblemreportingsystem,yetallowtheITdepartmentthefreedomtoimplementitwithwhateversoftwareitselects.
 
CommentaryontheCambridgeInformationTechnologyBudget
Saul Tannenbaum Page 2 5/2/12
GoalsandPerformanceMeasures
TheITbudgetsubmissionfailstoarticulateacoherentsetofinnovativegoals.Theperformancemeasuresprovidedoffernobasistoactuallyjudgetheperformanceofthedepartment.ComparisonstootherCambridgedepartments,outlinedbelow,aretelling.
 
GOAL1:OrganizeITWorldCafemeetingtoencouragepublicinputtotheIT planningprocess.
Ithastakenoneyeartoorganizeasinglemeeting.Arobustefforttogatherpublicinputwould,forexample,haveawebpresenceandongoingcommunications.YetyoucannotevendeterminewhotheCommunityRepresentativesareorwhentheymeetfromthecitywebsite.CommunityDevelopment,forcomparison,runscomplex,controversialpublicmeetingsroutinely.
 
GOAL2:DevelopaformalITstrategicplan.
Thisisthesinglemostimportantgoalsetbythisbudget,whichitselfisashort-termplan.TheCouncilshouldask,however,whethertheITDepartmenthastheskillsettodevelopaformalstrategicplan.Sincenoplanhascomefromthedepartment’scurrentmanagement,it’sfairtodoubtthethisiswithincurrentcompetenciesofthestaff.Engagingexternalconsultants,experiencedinthedevelopmentofstrategicplansshouldbeconsidered.
 
GOAL3:Maintainahighlevelofcomputeravailability,applicationdevelopmentandusersupport.
Noneoftheperformancemeasuresoutlinedactuallymeasureanythingrelatedtothatgoal.Countingticketstellsyounothing.But,assuming200workingdaysperyear,3200ticketsrepresents16ticketsperday.Whilethatnumberiseasiertoconceptualize,itremainsmeaningless.ComparethistosomeanalogousperformancemeasuresfromPublicWorks.Forstreetlighting,PublicWorksreportsthenumberoflightstheymaintain,howmanytheyhadtofix,andthepercentagefixedwithin72hours.Thoseareperformancemeasures,allowingreaderstogetasenseofhowwellthedepartmentisdoinginoneofitsfunction.Moretothepoint,itisgenerallyagoalofITdepartmentstoreducethenumberofusersupportrequests.Thisisdonebymakingprocessesself-service,increasingthequalityofservicesandtraining.Thisisdoneasacostcontrolmeasure–usersupportrequeststendtobeexpensive–butalsoas

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