Stephen Goldsmith is a professor of government at the Harvard Kennedy School. He was formerly the two-term mayor of Indianapolis and deputy mayor for operations for New York City.E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
In my years in public service, I have noticed that one thing that government is really good at is developing expertise within specific verticals. We get really good at collecting garbage, designing parks, keeping our streets safe. But the expertise developed in these silos often becomes a barrier in allowing us to communicate and collaborate effectively across agencies. In the midst of severe budget pressure, government entities are rethinking the way that they do business -- and finding ways to work together in new and different ways is more critical than ever.
This week New York City and Microsoft announced a strategic partnership that will transform the way NYC uses and purchases its technology resources in order to break down some of those barriers between agencies and employees. The partnership consolidates the dozens of individual agreements city agencies previously held with Microsoft, covering more than 100,000 city employees. The agreement also represents NYC's first move into Internet-based or "cloud" computing for an initial 30,000 employees, allowing employees to cross agency lines to collaborate more effectively.
Over the next five years, the agreement is expected to save the city $50 million. The savings stem largely from a more cost-efficient pricing structure that better aligns employee needs with the appropriate package of tools, the decreased hardware demands of cloud computing and the ability of city IT professionals to design programs that can be used across agencies. However, these savings are only a down payment on the savings the city will realize over time as better technology opens the door to improved employee efficiency and collaboration.
In a city government as large as New York -- more than 250,000 are on the payrolls -- the ability to communicate and collaborate effectively across agencies is both extremely important and extremely challenging. By using cloud-computing technology, New York will leverage the capabilities of the latest technology to engage in collaborative computing technologies, such as Internet conferencing and shared document workspace. Cloud computing software is also updated instantly, ensuring city employees always have access to the latest technology and eliminating the onerous task of updating individual computers with newer versions of software.
But the agreement represents only one (albeit big) step in the larger effort to make New York City a leader in public-sector innovation and efficiency -- an effort we are calling SimpliCity. This includes eliminating unnecessary regulation and red tape, leveraging technology to work smarter and making it easier for citizens and businesses to interact with their government. Creating a more efficient government requires breaking open the internal silos that hamper collaboration and productivity in the first place.