How to overcome IT budget challenges for city and county officials
As the sun rises over city hall and county buildings across Kansas, dedicated public servants and officials like yourself are gearing up to tackle another day of civic duty. Unfortunately, right now, you face a unique challenge: navigating the complex world of IT budgeting for your city or county.
This article is your complete guide to addressing and overcoming the IT budget challenges you’re experiencing. And to help you find practical solutions to get the most out of your technology for both our office and your citizens.
It’s no secret that IT budgeting for city and county officials can be a daunting task…and frustrating. Balancing the need for the latest technology and infrastructure with the reality of limited funding is a never-ending struggle.
This article will explore city and county officials’ most pressing IT budgeting challenges today. We’ll delve into practical strategies for prioritizing and allocating resources while also keeping an eye on the long-term needs of your community.
We’ll touch on the importance of collaboration, data-driven decision-making, and the value of building strong partnerships with IT vendors and other stakeholders.
As we journey together through this critical subject, we’ll demonstrate that overcoming IT budget challenges can benefit your local government and the people you serve.
Where do our IT budgeting knowledge and insights come from?
At Imagine IT, we work with city and county officials throughout Kansas. We have the privilege of strategically managing IT, cyber security, and technology for over 14 cities and communities in Kansas.
So, we understand your IT budget frustration and challenges.
It almost feels like an impossible task to balance the growing demands of technology with the reality of budget constraints local governments face. However, our experience has shown us that budget shortfalls can lead to Inadequate investments in critical areas like …
- Staff training
- Cloud technologies
In this article, we will provide actionable insights and strategies to help city and county officials overcome the challenges of IT budgeting.
By addressing the challenges of IT budgeting, we aim to offer a comprehensive and informative guide that can help you navigate this complex terrain confidently.
A quick background on IT Budgeting and Local Governments
As the world becomes increasingly digitally focused, the role of technology in local government operations has never been more crucial. From providing online connectivity to your entire community … to managing vast amounts of data, technology has become a key factor in keeping up with the ever-evolving needs of cities and counties.
However, for many cities and counties, major IT budgeting challenges must be overcome to fully leverage the benefits of technology.
Historically, IT and technology budgets have been limited and prioritized to maintain and maintain legacy systems.
… leaving little room for innovation or future investments
In recent years, there has been a shift towards recognizing the importance of technology in local government operations, with many cities and counties investing in new systems and infrastructure. However, these investments often come with their own set of challenges, such as determining the best allocation of funds and ensuring that staff are trained and equipped to use the new technology.
Moreover, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has further highlighted the need for robust and flexible IT systems to support remote work and online citizen services.
Despite these challenges, many examples of successful IT budgeting strategies are implemented by cities and counties. By understanding the historical context and current trends in IT budgeting, as well as the unique challenges faced by local governments, it is possible to develop effective strategies to overcome IT budget challenges and drive innovation in local government operations.
The following 7 sections will explore practical solutions and strategies to help local governments overcome IT budget challenges.
1. Lack of Funding: The IT Budget Crunch
In today’s interconnected world, cities and counties rely more than ever on robust information technology (IT) infrastructure to provide essential services to their citizens. However, many local governments need help to secure adequate funding for their IT and technology budgets, putting the quality and security of these services at risk.
Here we’ll delve into the causes and consequences of this issue, the current state of IT budget funding for cities and counties, and potential solutions to help lessen the problem.
The digital divide widens
There’s a growing digital divide between well-funded IT departments in large cities and their counterparts in smaller municipalities and counties with limited resources. According to a National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) survey, 70% of state CIOs identified budget and cost control as their top challenge.
This funding disparity leaves cities and counties needing help to maintain and upgrade their IT infrastructure, which can lead to many problems, including outdated software, hardware failures, and increased vulnerability to cyberattacks.
Cybersecurity: A growing threat
As cyber threats continue to evolve and increase, the need for more funding for IT departments in cities and counties aggravates the situation. Unfortunately, with limited resources, local governments often cannot invest in the necessary technology and skilled personnel to combat these cyber threats effectively.
This leaves sensitive data and critical infrastructure exposed to potential cyberattacks.
IT infrastructure and services
The lack of IT funding significantly threatens cities’ and counties’ IT infrastructure and services. With insufficient resources to maintain and upgrade crucial systems, local governments struggled to help pace with the rapidly changing digital landscape.
Outdated infrastructure not only hampers the efficiency of public services but also increases the risk of system failures and cyberattacks.
Consequently, the ability to serve citizens effectively is severely compromised. To safeguard the future of our cities and communities, it is essential to address this funding gap and invest in the IT infrastructure and services that cities and counties desperately need.
Poor Citizen Engagement
Citizen engagement is crucial for the success of local governments. It helps build trust between citizens and officials, improves service quality, and creates a more vibrant and active community.
However, a lack of IT budget funding for cities and counties can significantly hinder citizen engagement efforts. In this section, we will explore how insufficient funding for IT can cause poor citizen engagement and discuss potential solutions to the problem.
A lack of IT funding can cause these issues with your citizens:
- Outdated communication channels
Many local governments still rely on traditional methods of communication, such as flyers, posters, and paper-based newsletters.
However, these channels need to be updated, and many citizens are now turning to digital channels for information. A recent study by the Pew Research Center found that 81% of Americans own a smartphone, and 72% of those use their device to access the internet daily.
This shift towards digital channels means local governments must adapt communication strategies to meet citizens’ changing needs.
- Limited social media presence
Another issue caused by a lack of IT budget funding is limited social media presence.
Social media platforms are becoming increasingly popular for communication and engagement between citizens and local governments.
However, many local governments need more resources to maintain an active social media presence. This can lead to missed opportunities to engage with citizens and build relationships with the community.
Lack of online services
A lack of IT budget funding can also result in a lack of online services. For example, most citizens now expect to be able to access government services online, such as paying bills, renewing licenses, and accessing public records with adequate funding; many local governments need help to provide services.
However, a lack of online services, and the digital divide that occurs in many cities and counties, can lead to frustration and disengagement among citizens.
Solutions to the funding problem
While the challenges posed by a lack of IT budget funding are significant, there are solutions that local governments can implement to improve citizen engagement.
- For example, local governments can invest in online communication channels, such as social media platforms and email newsletters, to reach citizens where they are.
- Additionally, governments can collaborate with local businesses and community organizations to build partnerships that increase citizen engagement and trust.
- Another solution is to provide online services to citizens. This can be done through partnerships with third-party providers or by building in-house capabilities. By providing online services, local governments can improve citizen engagement, increase efficiency, and reduce costs associated with traditional paper-based methods.
Finally, local governments can invest in training and development programs for staff to improve their digital skills. By providing staff with the tools and resources to use technology effectively, governments can build a culture of innovation and engagement that benefits citizens and officials.
2. Cybersecurity and IT Budgeting
As cities and counties increasingly rely on technology, cybersecurity has become a major concern for local governments.
However, budget constraints often limit the ability of these entities to allocate sufficient funds to address these critical cyber risks.
The connection between budget limitations and increased cybersecurity risks
More funds can lead to adequate cybersecurity measures, exposing cities and governments to costly security breaches.
- It’s about risk management:
Significantly reducing risk will require Cyber Insurance AND a strong security posture. Obtaining affordable Cyber Insurance will require adopting a security framework, like the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Cyber Security Framework (CSF).
Since hiring and retaining staff to plan and execute is logistically and financially challenging, this must be outsourced to an IT Managed Service Provider (MSP) with a modern and proven Security Program.
Critical things to consider when evaluating any IT or security provider:
- Comprehensive Security Bundle (not just pick and choose protections).
- MFA enforced everywhere. If the MSP allows the customer to choose what to MFA, walk away.
- 24/7 Security Operations Center with the ability to quickly neutralize and contain.
- Continuous Vulnerability Management and Scanning (not just an annual assessment/scan).
- Multiple “Detection” systems (premise, 365, Dark Web). Every breach you hear about happened because the victim did not “detect” what got past the Password, Antivirus, Firewall, or VPN.
- Security Awareness Training that includes monthly phishing campaigns and quarterly short training videos w/quizzes.
- Incident Response Plan that is rehearsed at least twice per year. Can they prove it?
If your entity does not address ALL the above items, you will leave your systems, staff, and citizens at unacceptable risk.
Disaster recovery and business continuity: Financial constraints can impact the development of comprehensive disaster recovery plans and business continuity strategies, which are critical for ensuring seamless operations.
- Disaster Recovery is all about recovering systems and data within the desired timeframe from the desired snapshot.
- Business Continuity is all about the ability to function during a catastrophic event.
Critical things to consider regarding disaster recovery
Are all data locations protected by a 3rd party backup system, including servers, applicable workstations, Office 365, or Google Workspace?
- Are entire servers backed up, not just data?
- Do the backups run multiple times daily and maintain data for at least six months?
- Are the backup system login credentials entirely separate from Windows 365? If not, this is a huge risk. For example, if a hacker compromises a Windows or 365 administrator account, which is utilized to manage the backups, the hacker can destroy the backups.
- If the provider’s cloud back data is compromised, does the provider maintain a hidden recycle bin allowing recovery?
- Is the premise backup system a “standby server appliance” that allows systems to boot up if the production system fails?
- Are backups automatically mounted daily to a login prompt to test the quality of the backups?
- Can the provider ship the most recent backup data to the customer the next day after a catastrophic event?
- Is there a recently updated Disaster Recovery Plan (DRP) document? This document should contain the desired Recovery Time Objective (RTO) and Recovery Point Objective (RPO). Your MSP should be able to provide a template and perform most of the documentation.
If your city or county doesn’t address ALL the above items, you will leave your systems, staff, and constituents at unacceptable risk.
Strategies for making the most of limited cybersecurity budgets
Despite budget constraints, there are several strategies that local governments can implement to make the most of their limited cybersecurity budgets. These include:
- Conduct regular cybersecurity risk assessments to identify potential vulnerabilities and prioritize investments.
- Implementing cost-effective cybersecurity solutions, such as two-factor authentication and encryption
- Providing regular cybersecurity training to staff to reduce the risk of human error leading to security breaches
Incorporating these strategies into a long-term IT budget plan can help ensure that cybersecurity risks are mitigated and that local governments can continue to provide critical services to their communities.
3. Staff Training and IT Budgeting
Staff training ensures that local government IT departments remain up-to-date with technology and cybersecurity trends. In this section, we’ll explore the importance of investing in staff training and cost-effective solutions that city and county officials can implement.
The Significance of Investing in Staff Training for IT Departments
While IT budgets for local governments may be limited, allocating funds for staff training can provide significant benefits in the long term. IT staff trained in the latest technology and cybersecurity practices are better equipped to identify and mitigate potential threats and implement new technology solutions more effectively.
Cost-Effective Training Solutions for City and County Officials
While traditional training methods such as conferences and workshops can be costly, there are numerous cost-effective alternatives that local governments can consider. Online courses and webinars, for example, provide a flexible and convenient training option that can be completed at a lower cost. Additionally, partnering with nearby local governments to share training resources can be cost-effective.
Example: A County that Prioritized Staff Training and Saw Positive Results
One county that prioritized staff training is Johnson County, Kansas. In 2019, the county launched a new cybersecurity training program for its employees. The program consisted of various online courses and webinars and was designed to provide IT staff members with the latest cybersecurity knowledge and skills. As a result, the county saw a significant improvement in its cybersecurity posture, with fewer incidents of phishing attacks and malware infections.
Local governments can improve their IT department’s effectiveness and cybersecurity posture by investing in staff training, even with limited budgets.
4. Long-Term IT Budgeting and Planning
IT budgeting for local governments is a complex task that requires a long-term approach. It’s not enough to allocate funds to meet the cities or county’s current needs; officials must also consider the future of their IT infrastructure and services.
The Necessity of Taking a Long-Term Approach to IT Budgeting
Long-term IT budget planning is essential for local governments to avoid reactive spending and make informed decisions. By taking a proactive approach to IT budgeting, officials can prioritize investments and align spending with strategic goals. This helps to ensure that technology investments are made to benefit the community and not just to resolve short-term issues.
Best practices for creating a sustainable IT budget plan include:
Creating a sustainable IT budget plan requires a collaborative approach that involves all relevant stakeholders. This includes IT personnel, finance directors, city managers, and city clerks. In addition, the plan should be based on a thorough analysis of the city or county’s IT needs, current infrastructure, and budget constraints.
- Conducting a thorough IT assessment to identify current and future needs.
- Developing a multi-year budget plan that includes capital expenditures and operating costs.
- Prioritizing investments based on strategic goals.
- Evaluating the cost-benefit of new technology investments
- Considering potential cost savings from cloud-based solutions and other IT efficiencies
The Role of Technology Strategy in Budgeting for the Future
Developing a long-term technology strategy is critical for local governments to make informed IT budget decisions. Technology strategy involves identifying the city or county’s current and future technology needs and developing a roadmap for achieving those needs.
By aligning technology investments with the city or county’s strategic goals, officials can ensure that IT spending is directed towards initiatives that provide the greatest value to the community. A technology strategy can also help officials to anticipate future technology trends and proactively plan for them.
5. The Potential Impact of Emerging Technologies on IT Budgeting
Emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT), can potentially revolutionize how local governments provide services. For example, AI-powered chatbots can be used to provide 24/7 customer service to residents. In contrast, IoT sensors can monitor city infrastructure and provide real-time data to city officials.
While these technologies can provide numerous benefits, they also require significant investment. Therefore, local governments must carefully consider the costs and benefits of these emerging technologies before making any investments.
Overall, local governments face numerous IT budget challenges. However, by exploring unique and innovative solutions and taking a long-term approach to budgeting and planning, they can find ways to provide quality IT services to their constituents while remaining within budget.
The role of emerging technologies in shaping IT budgeting strategies
Internet of Things (IoT): The IoT is expected to impact IT budgeting for local governments significantly. With more devices and sensors being connected to government networks, there will be a need for increased investments in infrastructure and security.
Artificial intelligence (AI): AI is already used in local government applications, such as chatbots and virtual assistants. As technology advances, it may become a more significant part of IT budgeting for local governments.
ChatGPT is a free tool that uses artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to generate human-style conversational text responses to your questions. The answers from ChatGPT will cover any subject you want and can be long or short.
It is incredibly advanced software that uses AI to formulate answers and participates in discussions conversationally. Once ChatGPT answers your question. You can ask it to amend, reword, reorganize, or rewrite it in a different language style. The more detailed your question (input), the more accurate the answer (output).
It’s considered revolutionary because it’s trained to learn what humans mean when they ask questions.
6. Solutions to IT Budget Challenges for Local Governments
Local city and county officials need help managing their IT budgets. These challenges range from funding limitations to a need for IT expertise among government staff.
However, overcoming these challenges and getting the most out of your budget is possible with the right strategies.
Here are some solutions to IT budget challenges for local governments:
1. Conduct a thorough needs assessment:
Before allocating funds to IT projects, conducting a thorough needs assessment is important. This assessment will help identify the most pressing IT needs for the local government. It will also help to prioritize IT projects based on their importance to the overall goals of the local government.
2. Embrace cloud technology:
Cloud technology can provide cost-effective solutions for local governments looking to maximize the value of their IT budgets. Cloud services allow governments to access IT resources and services as needed. At the same time, it reduces the need for expensive on-site infrastructure and equipment. Additionally, cloud technology can improve collaboration and data sharing among government departments.
3. Leverage open-source solutions:
Open-source software can provide cost-effective solutions for local governments. Open-source software is typically free and is customized to meet the specific needs of a government department. Additionally, open-source software is more secure than proprietary software, as it is developed and maintained by a large community of developers.
4. Invest in training and education:
Investing in training and education for government staff can help build IT expertise within the organization. This can help reduce the need for expensive IT consultants and contractors. Additionally, staff with IT experts can help identify areas where technology can improve government processes and services.
5. Adopt a multi-year budgeting approach:
Adopting a multi-year budgeting approach can help local governments plan for IT expenses over a longer period. This approach can help reduce the impact of short-term budget constraints and allow governments to better prepare for IT upgrades and replacements.
6. Collaborate with other local governments:
Collaborating with other local governments can provide cost-saving opportunities for IT projects. In addition, sharing IT resources and services with neighboring governments can help reduce costs and improve efficiency.
7. Consider outsourcing IT services:
Outsourcing IT services can provide cost-effective solutions for local governments. Outsourcing can help reduce the need for expensive on-site IT staff and equipment. Additionally, outsourcing can provide access to specialized IT expertise that may be outside of government organizations.
By conducting a thorough needs assessment, embracing cloud technology, leveraging open-source solutions. Investing in training and education, adopting a multi-year budgeting approach, collaborating with other local governments, and considering outsourcing IT services, local governments can improve IT efficiency and reduce costs.
In today’s rapidly changing technological landscape, it’s important for city and county officials to stay up-to-date on the latest trends and advancements in IT budgeting. Here are some anticipated trends that may impact IT budgeting for local governments in the future:
- Increased emphasis on cybersecurity: With the rise of cyber threats and attacks on government systems, there will likely be a continued focus on cybersecurity in IT budgeting for local governments. This may involve increased investments in security technologies, staff training, and other measures to protect sensitive data and systems.
- Shift to cloud-based solutions: Many local governments are already adopting cloud-based solutions to improve efficiency and reduce costs. This trend will likely continue as more cloud services and applications become available.
- Greater use of data analytics: With the increasing availability of data, local governments are likely to use data analytics in IT budgeting. This may involve using predictive analytics to forecast future IT needs and identify cost-saving opportunities.
- Hybrid Workers: As more and more people are at home and in the office, the right technology to manage these workers is critical. City and county offices are no different. Also, public areas like libraries need up-to-date WIFI services to handle the influx of users.
- Emerging Technologies: New technologies are happening at breakneck speed. And cities and counties must anticipate these to attract and retain staff and offer their citizens the latest technologies.
As we look to the future of IT budgeting for local governments, it’s clear that challenges and opportunities are ahead. By staying informed and adopting the right strategies, city and county officials can navigate these changes and continue to provide efficient and effective IT services to their constituents.
IT budget challenges are a pressing issue for city and county officials.
Throughout this article, we have explored the various challenges and solutions related to IT budgeting and management, from insufficient funds for IT infrastructure and services to the importance of investing in staff training and taking a long-term approach to IT budget planning.
We have also discussed practical tips and strategies for maximizing the value of limited IT budgets, including innovative solutions to address IT budget constraints and best practices for efficient IT budget management.
Looking to the future, we anticipate the role of emerging technologies in shaping IT budgeting strategies and potential challenges and opportunities for city and county officials.
As a city or county official, staying informed and proactive in addressing IT budget challenges is important to ensure your community’s continued success and growth.