What Government CIOs Should Know Before Integrating Software Stacks

Written by Ben Sebree

Integrating your vital software stack components may feel like a process that presents the possibility of more headaches, data risks, and complications than benefits, but the truth is that eliminating silos and allowing for shared data across systems and departments enables greater efficiencies, reduces data-related errors, and mitigates time-spent entering and managing duplicative data sets. Local governments with department-specific procurement processes have long operated in siloed environments. However, with budgets shrinking, staffs growing leaner, and citizen expectations for on-demand access to transparency documents, data, and resources escalating, local governments can no longer operate within a siloed data environment.

If your local government is ready to take the first step toward shifting its content management structure from independently-operated systems to maintaining a single platform as a data repository and conduit for data integrations, here is what you need to know to get started with a successful software stack integration transition.

Start with a Roadmap

The most successful IT initiatives require strategic planning. Before you meet with vendors or sign any contracts, start by building a roadmap that outlines the critical systems that must share data, and the implementation steps that will be necessary to unite them. Such actions should include, software design and development, configuration management, quality assurance, solution partner selection, internal and external communications, risk management, and deployment. As part of your analysis and planning process, conduct technical reviews of existing systems and meet with department heads to understand what data is most valuable to their operations, where they are currently stymied by blind spots, and what reporting capabilities they will need to manage workflows and service citizens.

Conduct a System Design Assessment

System integration should improve both the way that your staff manages data and the way your citizens interact with your digital solutions and self-service tools. To ensure your integrated software stack improves these integrations, include in your planning process a system design assessment that involves the managers of all departments that interact with citizens, including human resources, parks and recreation, and even your clerk’s office. Holding discovery sessions and mapping workflows with these departments will help you and your solution partners understand citizen requirements and how your software stack can help your administration better service them, which should be the foundational considerations that guide your integration efforts.

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Create, or Consider, Your Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity Plans

Before you pull the plug on any existing systems or begin migrating years of citizen and civic data to a new system, ensure you have a plan in place to continue critical public service operations should a critical system failure occur, or—worst of all—any data be lost or compromised during the migration. Every public and private sector entity should have a disaster recovery plan in place to minimize any operational downtime. In addition, having a business continuity plan in place means identifying all possible threats and risks to municipal services and being able to quickly execute a plan to ensure critical personnel can accomplish the tasks needed to move operations forward. If you do not already have a disaster recovery and business continuity plan, develop them as part of your planning process. Also, make sure any digital solution providers you work with have their own reliable data recovery and disaster management plans.

Understand that APIs are the Keys to Software Integration

Application program interfaces (API) provide access to necessary business assets. From a technical perspective, an API enables programmatic access to data and application functionality. What this means to local governments with access to internal or outsourced technical expertise is that APIs can be leveraged to enhance existing software applications to fit their unique business processes either through creating custom experiences for end-users or integrating systems to reduce the need for redundant tasks. In this way, APIs enable the sharing of data between disparate software systems, facilitating interoperability, extending the power of existing software, and streamlining workflows. Learn more about why you should simplify digital workflows using the power of APIs.

Allow Ample Time for Testing and Training

When working with your solution partners to establish system integration go-live dates, be sure you have built in time to validate your data, test systems and workflow accuracy thoroughly, and train all staff who will be utilizing your platform or integrated systems before you officially go-live. The end goal should be for your system integration to be invisible to the public. While integrated systems will provide end user conveniences, such as the ability to register for a community class and remit payment online directly to your payment gateway, what you don’t want is for a citizen self-service tool that worked yesterday, to fail today.

Today’s most successful local governments need to foster collaboration not just among their people, but among the systems and software that power their administrations. The powerful CivicPlus® Platform is the foundation on which all CivicPlus® solutions are built, allowing them to work seamlessly and securely, leveraging existing data and reducing information silos so your administrative staff can collaborate efficiently. Click below to download our product brochure to learn more.

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