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How Tech Leaders are Reimagining the Role of IT

States and cities are retraining technology teams for the post-pandemic environment.

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In the government workplace, the pandemic has dispersed employees and ushered in a new era of remote communications tools and contactless service delivery. But it has also led to a major realignment in the necessary skills and capabilities for technology teams.

“We’re asking ourselves, ‘What are all the things we’re going to have to do to create this new normal effectively?’ San Jose, Calif., CIO Rob Lloyd said recently. “It’s everything from facilities improvements to policies to the budget actions to management skills.”

Lloyd made his comments during a recent panel discussion, “Mad Skills in the (Government) House: Reskilling and Upskilling Your Employees,” part of a new series of virtual conversations hosted by Governing and Government Technology on the Future of Work.

The city of San Jose has taken a “very concerted approach” to retraining employees for the post-pandemic environment, Lloyd said. Known as “Powered by People 2.0,” the initiative is being coordinated through the city’s emergency operations center. It consists of four objectives: Safe Workplace; Employee Health and Wellness; Drive to Digital; and Effective Teams. Within the city’s IT department, for example, Lloyd said that effort breaks down into three layers. First is operational: Do people have the tools they need to get their work done?

Second is collaboration, which has clearly been impacted by remote work and the need for stronger communications platforms. Finally, Lloyd said, the focus must include culture: “How are you building a culture that’s going to be highly productive, that’s going to support and reinforce people?”

Elsewhere the disruptions of the past year have led to a wholesale reimagining of the purpose of public sector IT teams.

In the Maryland Department of Information Technology, for example, employees have been redeployed as Portfolio Officers focused on different parts of government organized by topic area.

“We’re attempting to build cross-agency efficiencies,” said department Secretary of Information Technology Mike Leahy, who joined the recent panel discussion. “Folks in the Environmental portfolio have lots of the same problems, but they haven’t talked to each other before.”

As a result, the department is moving away from rote tech support and helping IT employees develop greater business intelligence and robotic process automation skills, so they can focus less more on higher-value questions of increased efficiency and service delivery.

“That’s been a huge change,” Leahy said, adding that he anticipated “it’s going to take a year or two” to fully implement.

Lloyd echoed the idea that the disruptions of the past year have led to new ways of thinking about the role of IT.

“The pandemic has collapsed a lot of traditional barriers” he said. “No one’s saying, ‘This is mine; this is yours.’ We’re all saying, ‘What does it take to take care of the community, to take care of our employees?’”

Watch the full discussion, and find other tools for empowering the public workforces, at governing.com/futureofwork.

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