I have worked with a lot of government organizations around the world and one thing unites them, regardless of what type of department or country they may be situated in. It’s the belief that the private sector is far ahead of the public sector when it comes to acquiring and using technology. It’s a complete myth, as in reality the private sector often tends to follow the public sector. Over the past decade or so the differences between these two worlds has started to fade, and though they remain different, the similarities are beginning to outnumber the differences. The world of enterprise collaboration is a case in point.
The world of transactional processing remains and will always remain with us. Citizens or employees filling in forms, and those forms then triggering rule driven manual or automated workflows constitutes major activities for many government departments. Yet increasingly we are seeing collaborative, often project based, working methods emerge. In these situations rules play a less dominant role, the outcome of a project may even be unclear and often undecided. We work together with a common goal or endpoint in mind, but quite often have little idea in advance how we are going to reach it. Cross departmental and agency projects are now more common than ever before, and the ability to tap into another departments resource pool is again becoming common practice. The walls between government departments at local as well as national level are starting to become more porous and transparent. The change may seem to be slow, but looking back over the past decade will show remarkable change compared to the few decades before.
Though such changes are to be applauded and encouraged, and if possible accelerated, those same changes pose a major challenge to legacy information management systems. Systems that were designed to support strict divisions of responsibility and ensure secure limited access silos were created. Systems that are not at all conducive to collaborative work, and often in fact hinder such efforts. As a result there is an explosion of interest in developing and delivering collaborative systems. Systems that can provide at a minimum, project working environments, document and information sharing, provide communication tools, all without the user being tied to a location or specific computing device. These are systems that require a minimum amount of time and investment from IT and yet can be closely and securely controlled.
Such tools are gaining traction around the world and they are in my opinion if not in their infancy then only in adolescence. In the future we will see ever more powerful predictive analytical capabilities embedded in these content collaboration systems. These will be analytical software tools that can make sense of and find connections between people and information. Connections that would be near impossible to make manually, prompting better and better interactions, locating expertise and preventing the all too common reinvention of the wheel.
Collaborative working is with us to stay, and will only become more common in the future. Right now outside of simple human reluctance, legacy technology investments that tie workers to specific locations and groups are an obstacle. But as secure cloud based computing becomes a more common factor in government purchasing decisions, and both human and technical collaborative working practices emerge things will start to change rapidly. Of course in the real world there is no change without fear or loss of some kind. We often resist change even if our old ways didn’t work all that well, and that is a condition we can’t resolve too easily. But the mechanics and tools to work better are with us now and ready to be leveraged.
Alan Pelz-Sharp has more than 20 years experience in the information management industry, working with a wide variety of end-user organizations and suppliers around the world.
Alan was formerly a Partner at The Real Story Group, ECM Consulting Director at Indian Services firm Wipro, and VP for North America at industry analyst firm Ovum.
Alan will also be speaking at our ‘Government in the Cloud’ conference on Wednesday 16th January 2013, which you can sign up to here.