There is a dangerous threat to the effectiveness of local government IT. It’s a threat impacting 67 percent of large entities―and it’s not cybersecurity. It’s a talent shortage, and if left unchecked, it could have a crippling trickledown effect on IT’s critical functions, such as infrastructure, open data, and yes ultimately security too.

IT Skill Gap in Local Government

According to the Manpower 2018 Talent Shortage survey, employers in every industry across the globe are struggling to find qualified talent to fill open positions, and that includes local government IT departments. According to the Manpower survey, the lack of applicants in the talent pool with the needed blend of human strengths and technical skills to fulfill critical roles is exacerbating the talent gap. Among the top ten most in-demand skills around the world, Manpower says number six is IT expertise, including a need for cybersecurity experts, network administrators, and technical support. Not only is the IT skill gap impacted by a shallow, qualified applicant pool, IT managers report that the rapid pace of technological advancements is threatening their infrastructure due to the need to retrain and reeducate tenured staff.

As local governments continue to compete with the private sector, and more specifically Silicon Valley, for the brightest minds in digital tech, insiders expect the IT skill gap to widen before it narrows. While smart cities and counties are looking to upskill current employees in both the hard and soft skills they lack and offering training to help close the gap, others are relying on innovative platforms and solutions to ease the IT workload. The need is for solutions that integrate critical operational systems and that are easy enough for non-technical staff to manage without constant reliance upon IT personnel. A critical step to implementing solutions that can be more easily managed by interdisciplinary teams with less IT intervention is the move toward a content as a service (CaaS) communication and content management model and putting the necessary systems and technology in place to sustain long-term success.

How CaaS can Mitigate the Skill Gap 

CaaS is a data management model that allows entities to access, manipulate, and share content from a single, integrated data repository. The platforms used to manage CaaS models rely on an API-first data integration model and allow entities to manage content in an agnostic way while easily distributing messages via multiple channels using a single publishing system. The secret to CaaS lies in the integration between a back-end data repository and front-end display layer. CaaS publishing tools enable content to be formatted appropriately for any communication channels from text-only in-office kiosks to your local government website.

If your administration needs to notify citizens of a boil water advisory, how many systems are used to maximize the reach of the message? We’re guessing you’d mention your local government website content management system (CMS), your citizen mass email notification system, Twitter, Facebook, your phone and text message alert system, your digital road signage software…go ahead and stop again. We get the idea, and so do you. Too many non-integrated systems slow the spread of time-sensitive information, resulting in the risk of errors and requiring endless training, upkeep, and management by you and your staff.

Consider these time-saving benefits of adopting a CaaS for resource-strapped IT departments:

  • CaaS tools offer more insightful reporting and analytics tools so you and your department leaders can collaborate on the channels making the biggest impact in your digital engagement strategies to further refine your outreach strategies. 
  • When information needs to move quickly, it can, which means you and your teams spend less time managing multiple systems and responding to questions from panicked content managers.
  • You have fewer systems, databases, hardware, and software to manage and maintain.
  • You spend less time training content managers from multiple departments on various software systems. 
  • Increased agility for deploying digital projects, which means faster implementations and launches.
  • Greater data security, which means less time evaluating, safeguarding, and optimizing security systems—and greater protections for your civic and citizen data.

System Solutions Necessary to Support a CaaS Model

The ability of local government to implement a CaaS model requires a dependence upon its ability to manage a wide variety of data and communication channels from a single platform. A successful CaaS strategy requires an internal operational model that prioritizes the collection and use of data across systems interactions. It means the convergence of data obtained from your parks and rec management software, your content management system, your employee management system, your enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, outdoor sensors, and all other technology channels that allow you to capture and analyze moments of engagement.

Anyone who has ever attempted to analyze data knows that the greatest hurdle lies in organizing and aggregating data elements captured from different systems with varying output methods and report functions. To achieve information management success, local governments need to shift their information management model to rely upon a single, integrated platform with robust data analytics capabilities.

Local governments will also need to ensure the interconnectivity of their software stacks. Through the power of APIs and webhooks, data can be shared between systems in fully customizable ways to reduce duplicative data entry, streamline workflows, and trigger routine functions. Successful information management requires breaking down the siloes that trap data and insights to enable broad visibility into prospective moments of citizen engagement and public service, without duplicating efforts or risking data integrity.

Your need for qualified IT staff may be likely to get worse before it gets better. Until then, by enabling content managers to self-service their data management and systems needs using a single data repository and CaaS distribution model, you can free up time among your existing staff to focus on critical IT functions and spend less time resetting passwords, assisting with difficult to use software and updating legacy systems.

About the Author

Rachael Walker is a Product Marketing Manager at CivicPlus. She holds a Bachelor of science in Business Administration with a major in marketing from the University of West Georgia, and an MBA from Jacksonville State University. She has over eight years of experience in the marketing space marketing space focusing on technology.

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