Converting IT Operations from a Cost Center to an Innovation Center

Converting IT Operations from a Cost Center to an Innovation Center

IT operations, while not citizen facing, are at the heart of government agencies. IT operations professionals are tasked with keeping agencies running so that they can serve citizens quickly and effectively. They keep a vigilant eye on the pulse of an organization, ensuring that all channels that citizens use to contact and obtain service from agencies are open and ready.

As IT operations have grown in scope, professionals have likewise grown and blazed trails that have led to best practices in serving citizens. Innovation results from devising solutions to problems, and innovation is at the core of most IT development and operations (DevOps) processes.

The following processes and products, all of which have become or are becoming standard in serving citizens, have come out of IT DevOps. They point to the keen advantage of having a robust DevOps team in place.

Project Management Portals Provide Global Views of Operations and Streamline Workflows

IT operations departments have often used project management portals to maintain a clear focus on the frequency and type of interactions employees are transacting every day. Knowing the kinds of service issues being reported ensures that agencies can keep tabs on operations.

Project management portals give DevOps teams a centralized place to schedule jobs, manage software, backup and restore systems, and perform maintenance. These dashboards also provide agency stakeholders with a clear view of operations at any given moment. Portals permit managers and employees to report issues and track those issues as they are being addressed. Taken in aggregate, a dashboard affords managers a view of IT problems that can affect citizen experiences as they are occurring.

IT managers can also see how IT problems affect citizens. By simply glancing at data aggregated and then displayed in the portal, IT managers can quickly see if citizens are contacting an agency about internal problems, such as functionality with a website or tools, or outward-facing issues, such as changes in services resulting from external mandates. Managers can then proactively address issues while they are still small and manageable.

For example, a data point on a portal may indicate that employees cannot log in to an internal wiki that gives them answers to citizen queries. If several employees experience the same problem and all put in service requests, the problem is probably larger than a forgotten password. An IT manager can quickly diagnose the situation and implement a solution.

A portal allows individual employees and their management keep track of service requests and gives a global view of issues. With this view, IT managers can send a message about a disruption in service, for example, to the entire department or agency, keeping everyone informed as needed. By addressing issues quickly and effectively, smooth IT operations improves both employee experience (EX) and customer experience (CX).

Low-Code/No-Code Development Platforms Provide Space for Fail-Fast Proofs of Concept

As the speed of development continues to increase, government agencies want to keep pace but may find their efforts to do so stymied by entrenched legacy mindsets and financial constraints. One way to foster innovation is to support development platforms that can be used by anyone with an interest in improving service.

Low-code or no-code development platforms are low-stakes, fail-fast programs that help qualify exploratory systems and encourage experimentation and innovation. For example, a contact center query may lead IT professionals to sketch and conceptualize a low-code or no-code innovation. The IT professionals can take advantage of drag-and-drop functionality on a development platform to create an application that they believe will improve operations, CX, EX, or another sticking point related to the query.

These development platforms permit internal IT operators to develop business solutions in house and try them out in a low-cost, low-stakes environment. Stakeholders can think of this as predevelopment, much like a designer would create a wireframe for a web page. Developers can create a proof of concept before they bring potential solutions into a more formalized software development process — whether that is Agile, waterfall, DevSecOps, or a hybrid strategy.

Innovative IT Solutions Are Adapted at Large

Several innovations that IT professionals have developed to solve problems have already scaled and are being rolled out to better serve citizens across agencies. For instance, cobrowsing, or dedicated screen sharing between an IT professional and a citizen, is becoming more common in contact centers. End users no longer have to rely on verbal descriptions of issues or even screen captures. They can download and execute lightweight programs that permit IT professionals secure, single-time access to their machines. Professionals can then see issues firsthand. They can also walk users through fixes themselves, should the same issue arise later. This saves everyone time and effort.

Similarly, IT operations groups have spread the use of automation beyond their internal systems. For example, many citizens are now comfortable interacting with chat bots when they have queries. This type of automation, which arose out of devising ways to streamline tasks within DevOps practices, has been successfully rolled out to people outside of IT operations. Citizens have almost come to expect a chat bot when they visit an agency website and often opt for an automated response to a simple query instead of calling in to a contact center, waiting in a queue, asking a question, and receiving a response.

Portals, low-code/no-code develop platforms, and citizen service solutions, like co-browsing and chat bots, have all come from IT innovators. Government agencies and the citizens they serve are better off because of them.


This article was originally published on LinkedIn by Sudhir Pucha, Vice President of Information Technology at HighPoint Global.