Four government IT departments cluster into one
The director of a branch of a government department wanted his managers to create a strategic plan. The branch was mandated to roll out new information technology across the entire department, and potentially several other departments. The director wanted the managers to figure out how to accomplish this, and to lead their respective front line staff in all aspects of the rollout.
The situation and factors at play
In the late 1990s new technology and increased capacity of the Internet were encouraging government departments to envision new e-services, where people could access government information directly rather than having to visit branches and make requests. until that time, most government departments purchased their own computers and bought their own programs, which were generally incompatible with each other. Some departments, however, had similar needs and were beginning to form clusters (or departments) with a matrix reporting structure.
For instance, social services have similar technology needs as education departments, and the needs of agriculture and environment departments are also similar. This particular branch was within a large department that had similar technological needs as three other large departments. The plan created by this branch would have repercussions on all four departments.
The director and his seven managers allotted two full days to create a strategic plan for the branch. The managers had already done considerable research on the needs of the branch, their department, and the three other departments. Their planning event included a trend analysis for the past several years, a session to envision their best-case technological requirements, an analysis of the blockages they were experiencing in their work, a workshop to develop a set of strategic directions for all the staff, and a timeline of milestones for the next two years, along with a plan for key topics to be covered in monthly meetings over the next year. They also considered the complete set of stakeholders who would be affected by their plan.
Impact and results
The branch director and managers were able to report immediately to their Deputy Minister that they had a comprehensive plan of action and would create a set of deliverables that the other branches in the department could depend upon. The Deputy Minister shared the deliverables with the DMs of the three other departments. One by one, the information technology branches in each of the other three departments requested a similar strategic planning retreat. Within four months, all the information technology branches in that cluster of departments had their plans in place. The Chief Information Officer (Deputy Minister Level) of all four departments then requested a similar retreat for the 65 managers of all the departments at once, to ensure that the plans all had synergy between them.
Within three years, the new technology, information architecture, information management, and knowledge management were all in place, and the legacy data for the four departments had been consolidated. Help desks were up and running for government staff and external users. A voice-over-Internet protocol was being used to allow staff across the province to interact with each other to learn how to access the entire system and create or update new systems.