Municipal IT Budgeting in Three Parts

Information technology is a critical part of a municipality’s annual spending. It’s important for cities and towns to flesh out a fairly detailed IT budget to uncover inefficiencies, save money, and better develop operational goals.

This high-level overview describes how to use an IT budgeting process to help fix what’s broken, find ways to save money in the long-term and execute a municipality’s strategic vision.

1. Fixing what’s broken 
Bad technology impacts the bottom line every day, and it’s often a hidden source of increased expenses. Here are several points to consider for identifying broken technology.
  • Is data backup tested and operational? All it takes is one data loss incident to impact a municipality’s budget significantly.
  • Is the hardware more than five years old? Hardware provides substantially diminishing returns after three to five years — costing the city money once it becomes obsolete, ineffective and unable to meet the demands of municipal business.
  • Has the city recently evaluated its internet service provider or telecom provider? If it has neglected to examine or challenge this line item for many years, the budget item may be ripe for potentially saving money with a change.
2. Maximizing IT investments
Creating sound long-term IT investments helps municipalities from a budget standpoint and allows them to benefit from the evolution of various technologies.
  • Does the city need all its hardware? Many systems and services previously needing on-site servers are now accessible through the internet.
  • Is there a hardware lifecycle replacement plan? Cities that plan to replace their hardware after three to five years do the best job of maximizing those investments.
  • Has the city evaluated its software lately? By “subscribing” to software per user, cities avoid paying for expensive servers and software licenses. This includes remote-access solutions, cloud applications, and video conferencing tools to make remote working and collaboration easy.
  • Are all IT support needs covered? Proactive maintenance will offer savings in the long-term when cities no longer pay to fix recurring problems that seem to never go away.
  • Does the city waste time on manual data backup? Automated data backup may be a better investment in terms of cost, certainty and productivity.
3. Let technology spur the vision
Many towns and cities often separate vision conversations from technology conversations. Instead, leaders should let technology help enact their vision.
  • Create a list of projects with options. For example, the city may want an expensive accounting system that fulfills all its demands, but its IT staff or vendor provides an option that has 95% of what leaders want for 50% of the cost.
  • Don’t forget any operational goals. Are there ways for technology to make accounting, public safety, finance, city hall, or other departments more efficient?
  • Think about making residents happier and more informed. Explore ways to improve the website, video streaming capabilities and social media. Or, think about ways to improve the online payment process and offer more resident services online.
Once a city fixes its broken technology, starts to truly maximize its IT investments, and connects its vision with technology, it can make positive leaps forward in ways that its leaders never before imagined.

John Hey is the director of operations at VC3, the Municipal Association’s technology partner.