John O'Leary is a former GOVERNING contributor. He is co-author of "If We Can Put a Man on the Moon: Getting Big Things Done in Government."E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
First off, this 87-page book is available free as a download, so it has an endearing quality right off the bat. Secondly, it offers a boatload of practical, timely advice for practitioners looking to apply IT to streamline government services.
The revolution is well under way. A recent article by Stephen Goldsmith looked at how the combined use of a cell phone, camera, and GPS, integrated with municipal service delivery systems, is revolutionizing city services. The field of "unified communications" looks at a broad array of similar innovations that involve the mash-up of communication and IT tools.
According to the book: "Unified communications is really a description of the evolution of telephony coupled with the integration with other data, video, and information resources of the network. Government leaders recognize how unified communications tools enable real?time contact throughout the work day with family, friends, colleagues, and citizens."
This book is a valuable resource tool for public sector practitioners. Written in a no-frills style, readers are pointed to other resources to help them dig deeper into some of the ideas covered in the book. For example, the section on the use of self-service Unemployment Insurance practices points you to four different states to look at the different ways that function is being rendered.
The Shortcut Guide to Improving Government Services Through Unified Communications focuses on four facets of unified communications technologies:
Self service - From unemployment to social services, IT is enhancing the ability to link citizens with the resources they need quickly and efficiently.
Telework - Technology enables this growing strategy, which, when done right, can be both cost-effective and environmentally friendly. IT means that work is increasingly independent of both time and place--and telework capitalizes on that.
Contact centers / Call centers - Rapid changes are transforming this function in many areas of government.
Social media - A great introduction to some of the ways social media tools is revolutionizing public operations.
This isn't the sort of book most people will bring to the beach. But it is an information rich and well laid out guide to some of the most important IT trends in the public sector.
Says author Ken Camp: " The Shortcut Guide to Improving Government Services Through Unified Communications is written to benefit all levels of IT leaders in local, state, and federal government agencies. They will come away with a strong understanding of the value these unified communications technologies deliver in terms of both current tactical technology decision making and strategic planning."