Technology Planning Helps a City Grow

portable

Located in the Denver metropolitan area, Commerce City is Colorado's fourth fastest growing city. Between the years of 2000 and 2015, its population grew from 20,000 to nearly 54,000 citizens. With a surging population, strong financial standing, and many ongoing and planned redevelopment projects, the city faced great opportunities and difficult challenges in its efforts to maintain a balanced and vibrant city economy, financially-sound government, and a quality community.

It was time to look at the information technology plan.

Technology planning involves the development of a strategic plan assessing the current state, present and future needs, goals, requirements, and options of an organization's technology investment. In practice, this aligns technology with business goals and objectives and allows management to make technology decisions and develop technology budgets based on business goals. The process of developing a technology plan defines company expectations in relation to technology.

Technology Plus Inc. (TPI) was engaged to aid Commerce City in the development of an information technology plan, to serve as a roadmap to govern IT investment decisions. This roadmap was the basis to update to the city's initial multi-year information technology infrastructure plan, for which the city also engaged TPI to assist in 2006.

In the case of Commerce City, the process was designed to address the following objectives:

  • Document and validate the city's future state business and IT goals, including the related priorities and imperatives
  • Define the city's IT direction based on an assessment of the current IT environment: business goals, data, software and infrastructure
  • Identify and prioritize IT strategic initiatives that are required to support the city's IT goals
  • Develop an IT infrastructure plan and roadmap defining the best application of IT investments for the city to achieve its short- and long-term objectives

Technology areas that were addressed included telecom systems, disaster recovery, BYOD, remote worker program, audio visual technology, external provider policies, the city's fiber optic network, data center/cloud storage architecture, hardware and software resource management, and IT governance.

An initial situational analysis was performed and data was gathered, identifying 26 strategic initiatives in the process. And in order to meet these objectives in a plan that is both realistic and useful, there was a critical factor: engagement.

The city's Director of Information Technology lead a city-wide effort to collect the necessary information, goals, and perspectives. Over the course of three months, every department provided input through individual and group interviews. External service providers were interviewed. In total, input from more than 50 stakeholders was solicited.

This effort produced an understanding that there was a growing demand for IT services from all stakeholder groups. Business drivers were identified that would require action from the city to meet its vision of providing "a quality community for a lifetime." These forces were economic, social, and technological. It was clear that there was a need for the city to view IT more strategically.

We produced an initial report assessing the current state, as well as the goals and objectives of the organization. Information from the interviews, documentation review, site visits, requests for information (RFIs), and other data gathering provided a comprehensive overview of where the city was at and where it wanted to be over the next few years.

This assessment report provided a platform to develop an options report that defined viable paths forward to meet those goals. In order to meet the multitude demands for infrastructure, citizen engagement, growth, and stewardship required of a growing city, a multitude of potential solutions were considered, specific to technology areas.

For each option, advantages and disadvantages were analyzed, as well as associated costs. City management used the options report to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of the potential solutions and to determine which options would be included in the plan.

With these choices made, TPI was able to develop a prioritized strategic technology plan for Commerce City. Migration strategies, budgets, staffing and training requirements, and an implementation plan would allow the city to move forward with a clear direction. The city would know where it needed to go, why, what it needed to get there, and exactly how it was going to happen.

The resulting plan reflects the input of many stakeholders. It provides a roadmap for aligning technology with the city's business goals. The process was designed to increase buy-in from various stakeholders, whose support is necessary for the city to reap the benefits for planning. The three-phase approach of data-gathering and assessment, options development, and final plan ensured that the plan addressed the correct goals and considered an accurate picture of the current state.

Commerce City was at a critical juncture. Rapid growth and a rapidly evolving technological world have increased the demands from both departments and citizens. A strong and realistic plan for the inevitable investments in technology will help to ensure that the city is able to meet those demands.

The technology plan is a vehicle that aligns technology to business goals and objectives and is developed to allow decision makers to make technology decision and set technology budgets based on short and long-term organizational goals and objectives. Planning generates buy-in from management by associating technology investment with business goals. Not all organizations develop technology plans, but those that do can reap the benefits of a well-defined approach to investment, based on a thorough understanding of the current state of their infrastructure and where they intend to be in the future. As more aspects of life, business, and governance converge on technological platforms, managing the technology underpinning our world becomes increasingly critical. Having a plan can make the difference.

"SCTC Perspectives" is written by members of the Society of Communications Technology Consultants, an international organization of independent information and communications technology professionals serving clients in all business sectors and government worldwide.