On October 1, 2013, Healthcare.gov launched. Touted as the crowning jewel for the Obama administration, it should have gone off without a hitch. Instead, it became one of the most epic failures of modern technology. High school students build working websites all the time on spare funds left from their summer lawn-mowing jobs, so how is it possible that the United States government, backed with $634 million in funding, could generate such a disaster?
The entire government seems to be trying to change their ways. DJ Patil, formerly a part of the brains behind a number of successful private sector endeavors like LinkedIn, Skype, PayPal, and eBay, has been named the first-ever chief data scientist for the White House, as well as the deputy chief technology officer for data policy, overseeing the government’s $80 billion technology budget.
Patil’s designation is not the only place where the government is instilling private sector knowledge and experience into governmental technology endeavors. Meagan Smith (former vice president of Google) has been named CTO (chief technology officer), Tony Scott (formerly of tech giants including VMware and Microsoft, as well as The Walt Disney Group) has been named CIO (chief information officer), and Alexander Macgillivray (formerly of Twitter, who also comes with practical, hands-on experience in coding and software development) has been named Deputy CIO.
What can the IT service desk learn from the government’s new policies regarding technology and the people it takes to do the job right?
Hire the Right People
Fancy degrees look nice on a resume, but it takes more than a degree in computer science to develop and utilize the right technologies for your business. It takes someone who is capable of grasping the big picture — a person who can see and understand the entire corporate IT landscape, and identify the best technologies to help the business meet its goals. IT employees should also have good people skills, problem-solving skills, and the ability to communicate well with people at all levels of the organization. Knowing it all means nothing if they can’t communicate what they know to users and to upper management. The government is actually on the cutting edge by hiring a data scientist.
Open the Right Positions
Does your company have the right positions to get the job done? For example, some companies need software and/or application developers, while others do not. Larger businesses need CIOs, while smaller businesses can sometimes get by without this position. If you collect, house, and analyze significant data sets, you need a database administrator, and probably a data scientist, but if data analytics isn’t part of your business strategy, these positions are unnecessary. Make sure the right people are in the right positions to get your tech work done properly. One issue with governmental misuse or failure to use technologies has been a lack of the job titles that come along with particular responsibilities and accountability.
Give the Right People the Right Tools
Without the right tools, the best people in the perfect positions can’t get the job done. Using the example of Healthcare.gov, there are numerous languages, applications, and platforms to help create a workable, secure website to collect personal data, compare various insurance options, and keep the wrong people out of the system. Do your people need additional tools to be successful? Sometimes the most valuable tool is training. If your people need classes or tutoring in Python, C#, or other languages, software, or platforms, make sure you empower them with what they need to assure your IT department is top notch.
Unfortunately, setting up a successful IT service management system isn’t a one-and-done proposition. The industry is continually in flux. Reexamine your personnel, IT infrastructure, and other critical tech components regularly to stay agile and competitive. By hiring some of the best talent Silicone Valley has to offer, the government is setting the bar ever higher.