The following is a description of the five primary challenges faced by Stanislaus County for which an IT-based solution may be indicated, or that are directly related to IT service delivery.
For each challenge, the reader will see a brief summary of specific recommendations of this Plan intended to address some component of that challenge. Details of the recommendations are provided in a later section.
In examining the challenges faced by Stanislaus County where technology currently plays a role, or arguably should play a role, it’s useful to ask the following 5 questions:
- How do we best meet the customer where they are – summarized in the IT Innovations mantra of “Online not in line”?
- How do we select the best products to solve the given challenge or issue?
- How do we best secure the systems and data we are responsible for?
- How do we best support the use of County IT systems, whether owned or subscribed?
- How do we do all of the above in the most efficient way?
From the 5 questions we could potentially construct a mission statement for IT (writ large) in Stanislaus County:
Our mission is to efficiently support the citizens of Stanislaus County by striving to select, secure and support technologies in the service of meeting our customers where they are.
Challenge One: Meeting the customer where they are. “Online not in line.”
Our IT efforts must be focused on creating the best environment to encourage customer self-service. The benefits of allowing the customer to engage directly in government processes electronically are well documented. Not only is an engaged citizenry a compelling goal in and of itself, self-service can cut down on staff time and effort, and minimize errors. Citizens should be able to answer their own questions, to be able to find easily what is required of them, to complete any forms that must be provided, to submit, respond to and follow their issue, request or process to successful completion via our technology solutions. This is as true for our internal customers (County staff), as it is for our external customers (County citizens).
For the foregoing to be successful, Stanislaus County must continue to emphasize the provision of high-quality public-facing services via the Web and on mobile devices. These services must be friendly to use, real-time and responsive.
Additionally, services intended to be used primarily by County staff should embrace mobile and Web-based implementations. Encouraging delivery of services outside of the traditional office environment both creates efficiencies, and provides a more friendly option for meeting the customer where they are.
Key Recommendations in response to Challenge One:
Recommendation 1A: Continue to emphasize Web-based services through the IT Innovations program. The IT Innovation program’s focus on moving services online in support of providing service delivery “Online not in line” should continue. Departments should also incorporate this emphasis wherever possible into their practice, regardless of whether Innovation funds are involved or not.
Recommendation 1B: Seek opportunities to make online services more accessible and usable via mobile devices such as smartphones and tablet computers. This recommendation is described in more detail in the Key Recommendations section.
Challenge Two: Selecting the right product or products
When selecting a product to solve a business challenge, one is confronted with many possible options. It is important to take into account whether a Commercial Off-the-Shelf (“COTS”) solution is the best fit, whether software developed in-house (e.g. by employee Software Developers) or developed by consultants or contractors is the best fit, or if a solution can be crafted utilizing existing platforms such as Microsoft Access or SharePoint or some similar product without the need for, or with a minimal need for custom software development. While this analysis can be a complicated undertaking, it is important to consider each option diligently.
In looking at potential commercial products to meet the business need, the maturity of Cloud-based services has been realized to the extent that such solutions should be included in any investigation.
Key Recommendations in response to Challenge Two:
Recommendation 2A: Cloud services should be considered for most, if not all, future acquisitions of IT systems or services. This recommendation is described in more detail in the Key Recommendations section.
Challenge Three: Securing IT Systems and Data
We have all witnessed the ever-increasing threats facing our IT systems. It is no longer the case that the greatest risks are limited to high-dollar-value targets such as financial institutions. Attackers today are as likely to be motivated by ideology and political views as by financial gain. As the threat landscape has become more complicated, every organization, Stanislaus County included, needs to up increase its efforts in regards IT security.
A rationale often given for why County departments have not fully embraced Cloud services, customer-facing technology solutions and mobility is the fear of increased security risks of such an implementation. From this, we can conclude that improving our security posture will also support our response to other challenges identified here.
In approaching IT security, we focus on threats to the availability of our systems, on protecting the confidentiality of the data, and of ensuring the integrity of the data.
This strategy has several recommendations related to the challenge of securing our IT systems and data. Each is identified in the following contexts: security at the network edge, inside the network, related to staff and related to policies and practices. These recommendations are described in more detail in the Key Recommendations section as Recommendations 3A-3M.
Challenge Four: Supporting the use of County IT systems
Once selected and implemented, the IT systems employed in Stanislaus County must be effectively managed. It is not enough to simply continue to manage a given system into perpetuity, however. The County must have plans for managing the full lifecycle of a given IT solution, including determining at which point it is necessary to investigate replacement of that system.
This strategy has several recommendations related to this challenge. These recommendations include investigating alternatives to the current implementations of the Oracle Financial Management System and eopleSoft Human Resources Management System (Recommendation 4A), of developing sustainability plans for significant IT expenditures (Recommendation 4B), as well as recommendations related to IT staffing. These may be found in the Key Recommendations section.
Challenge Five: Improving efficiencies in our IT practices
Stanislaus County citizens expect that we strive to be efficient in our practices. Citizens understand that it is not acceptable for us to deliver a service at a high level of quality if it could be conducted to a similar level of quality at a lower cost or using fewer resources. It is important that we consistently emphasize the need to revisit how our practices might be made more efficient.
This strategy has the following recommendations related to this challenge:
Recommendation 5A: Implement a single sign-on solution County-wide
Recommendation 5B: Implement a County-wide email system using Microsoft’s Office 365 product
These recommendations are described in more detail in the Key Recommendations section.
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