Many cities, municipalities and state agencies are facing massive budget shortfalls, furloughs and even employee lay-offs. I have worked with government entities for most of my career. Today the environment for working with government entities is very different from any other time I can remember. In a 2006 article featured on the cover of Business Solutions Magazine I stated: “Back in the late ’90s, many state, county, and city governments made significant investments in imaging and document management technologies, where their criteria for provider selection was based largely on price,” I went on to conclude that many entities ended up scraping large ECM initiatives in part due to underfunding of the project by focusing on the lowest bidder and not enough on the overall solution or project delivery models being proposed by vendors. “Unlocking the secrets to Government ECM Sales”.

That was then and this is now, today the budgets are tight or non-existant and together policy makers, agency directors and local government managers face tough decisions. Just 18 short months ago I met with State of Washington’s central Information Management division, DIS. I had a couple of ideas for saving money. At the end of this post I will share what those ideas were. I believe it is important to build long-lasting relationships with people that I have worked with and to not be a ‘fair weather’ vendor. Lately I have been reaching out to past clients, schedule meetings to follow up and see how they are dealing with these economic impacts. Almost everyone who does agree to meet with me qualifies the meeting ahead of time stating that they have no money and no projects on the horizon. I believe them, but I also believe it is a mistake to stop meeting with vendors or consultants simply out of fear of being ‘sold’ too. I can understand that they might wish they could find a secret bunker, send all vendor calls to voicemail or decline meeting requests all together. After all the only thing a vendor wants to do is sell you something right? This is true in most cases but there are some folks that actually do want to help make a difference.
I believe there are vendors and consultants that can help guide government organizations to mitigate the ongoing costs associated with legacy information management platforms. There is real savings and efficiencies to be had by adopting newer cloud based computing models and mobile technologies. Yes there is a ton of hype and hundreds upon hundreds of new solutions and companies to evaluate. But hiding in a bunker waiting for this economic downturn to pass is not the answer. Now is the time to educate yourself and to lead your organization by asking questions and seeking answers. Work with consultants and vendors that are willing to work with you to help formulate a strategy for the future.
  • What is the cloud?
  • How do we enable BYOD?
  • How can we mitigate security issues?
  • Could we save money?
  • How do we get there?

In ‘An introduction to Cloud Computing’, Timothy Chou posts “The last major wave of business computing was known as client-server computing. It was driven by a major shift in the economics of hardware and software and gave rise to many companies we consider today as the “tech industry” – names like Intel, Oracle, EMC and Microsoft. Names like CDC, Prime, Data General and DEC have all but faded into the past. This next wave of computing, cloud computing, is creating another major shift in the economics of hardware and software. Who will we be talking about ten years from now?”

In my own State of Washington I am encourging cities, counties and State Agencies to explore, learn and work to help fill the gaps as we walk together towards a brighter future. Recently a new CIO, Bharat Shyam was hired by the State of Washington. A recent article in Information Week’s Government section highlights his 18 year background with Microsoft. I have not met him personally but I was told that he handed in his State issued Blackberry and Laptop because he had a smart phone and a tablet that he had connected to State information systems. These devices gave him access to all the information he needed and probably a lot more functionality. Although I cannot corroborate that first hand I like that kind of leadership by example and I am encouraged that the State hired someone who understands the advantage of Cloud, Mobile and newer information management technologies.

The ideas I shared with DIS 18 months ago were adopting Check21 solutions to reduce the amount of bounced checks received by State Agencies for fees or fines. My research showed $150,000+ was written off each year due to bad checks. The Washington State Department of Financial Institutions was the first agency to implement Check21 as a cost saving measure. The second idea was to completely revamp the State mail system by implementing a mail room automation solution to eliminate the physical movement of paper mail. Both ideas fell on deaf ears, I was told that Check21 would only amount to saving chump change and mail room automation would jeopardize to many state jobs. Maybe now is the time to reevaluate these ideas and more.

Comments welcomed. Do you think Mr. Shyam can make a difference for the State of Washington?

Check out