ARTICLE

Moving Away From Operating in Silos

Government agencies are more effective when they work together towards defined goals.

Dealing with today’s societal challenges requires rethinking how we go about delivering community services. Coordination among agencies charged with interrelated responsibilities ensures the provided service is appropriately addressed and effectively delivered. Integrating and coordinating services ensures that we address the full spirit of the objective.

This interrelationship requires crossing agency lines and breaking down silo-delivered solutions in favor of collaborative action.

Technology provides tools that help accomplish the goals of coordination and integration.

Interconnectivity- smart phones, wired desktops, smart appliances, monitoring systems, mobile application- is one of those tools. It facilitates communication and enhances service delivery. Using technology to speed up and improve communication throughout the service delivery process is today’s challenge for effective management.

Economic development is an example. Regardless of how diligently a lead agency pursues this mandate, unless it has collaboration and involvement from others charged with licensing, financing, work force training and development- even taxation- economic development efforts fall flat and prove unsuccessful.

Consider tourism. The most glossy and attractive marketing program is hostage to the visitor experience. Getting someone to visit but having that individual walk away with negative impressions negates the value of the most sophisticated marketing program. Personal reviews are shared among friends and acquaintances. Social networking amplifies the reach, life cycle and impact of negative comments.

An indifference towards delivery of services, a despoiled natural environment, cost of doing business that requires premium pricing for subpremium service, the inadequate and inefficient transportation services, the absence of security that reduces the day and evening experience- all are outside of the control marketing.

Without a joint agency effort focused on raising the level of the visitor experience, competitive advantage is reduced, and others leap frog in the competition for visitor subscription.
Successful service delivery, therefore, requires the involvement of all having direct and indirect responsibility for achieving a stated goal.

Promoting economic expansion, tourism and employment requires integrated government services as do the delivery of social services that address quality of life concerns.

Job preparedness and/or skill development, will not achieve the desired objective of getting individual meaningful employment unless attention given to placement services, reliable public transportation and childcare services.

Gateway infrastructure such as air and seaports need congestion-free and cost-effective ground transportation options once the visitor reaches the community.

Web-based licensing or registration must go hand in hand with record keeping and information retrieval capabilities, leading to a printable product that renders office visits unnecessary in all but the most unusual situations.

Entrepreneurial activity requires not only investment capital but also training, incubator services and networking opportunities.

Coordinating services among agencies places the emphasis on collaboration. Silo activity, single agency action, makes way for joint agency operations. The common good benefits when agencies come together to plan and implement strategies that address community challenges and objectives.

Implicit in this approach is the need for well-articulated goals to which agencies subscribe and are held accountable. Assessment of effectiveness should be continual and ongoing, leading to constructive criticism of how well the desired goal is achieved.

Feedback sharpens information on the consumer experience and the assessing of how effectively the user expectation was addressed.

We are all increasingly oriented to this level of service. It is widely available in our commercial interactions, from on-line shopping to our purchase of airline tickets.

Government’s inability to deliver competitive services is not only frustrating but reduces a community’s competitive positioning, particularly in the key area of economic growth and expansion.

Coordinating across agency lines of responsibility is nothing novel. We have interagency task forces that address the range of societal challenges, including homelessness and mental health. The question is how effectively do these efforts work?

Are we using the most effective tools to assess user experience and feed this information back into the service-delivery development loop to enhance future efforts? Are our coordination efforts truly successful in leveraging available resources to achieve the goal?

Longevity can suggest that an approach has withstood the test of time and that a workable model exists. Alternatively, longevity might indicate that inertia has set in; that no effort has been made to assess whether ongoing efforts are effective. User feedback allows differentiating between the two.

Having timely access to information allows agencies to be at the top of their game in coordinating and integrating service delivery. Today’s toolbox, available courtesy of the digital revolution, allows accomplishing in hours what here-to-fore required months of data gathering and analysis.

Effective use of technology greatly facilitates inter-agency collaboration and coordination.

Developing programs that gather, analyze data and evidence outcomes was formerly the domain of software specialists. Now, there are numerous computer and mobile applications that offer these capabilities. Information can be aggregated and extracted across data platforms that give new meaning to questions. Historical data can be reconfigured to provide answers for decision making. Data management applications allow sharing and integrating information to provide real-time guidance on actions needed to address situational demands.

Technology and data management can be applied in a manner that among other things eliminates the need for office visits to register for government services; complete license and registration requirements; identify resources that can be leveraged for development or business growth; and eliminate the use of return mail services to receive stamped records of tax filing.
These resources are available and can change the way things get done. It does require being open to that change. Use of these tools will also reorient how we manage, operate and view roles and responsibilities.

In the business sector there is an increasing emphasis on cross-departmental collaboration and the use of technology platforms for upping a company’s competitive position.

Marketing, which has the responsibility of attracting consumer interest, can share information with product development to ensure the offered product is useful and has the needed attributes. Distribution makes the product available when needed. Working together, and using technology facilitates the timely sharing of information. Production, marketing and distribution are brought together in a collaborative effort to achieve a desired outcome.

When government agencies work similarly, the public good is advanced and the community becomes a more attractive and competitive entity.

Coordination does not diminish the role of any one agency but places the emphasis where it should be, addressing the needs of the community in the most efficient manner.

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