City IT has issues

February 10, 2012

The City of Pensacola hired H2 Performance Consulting Corporation (H2PC) to conduct a review of the Management Information Systems (MIS) function of the City. The consultants found several problems with the department.

H2PC found a number of issues preventing the City and Departments from taking advantage of newer technologies and efficiencies. These include

1. A lack of IT Governance, which leads to MIS Staff expending time and effort on projects that may or may not have any business value for the City Leadership.

2. Most Departments expressed frustration with calling the existing “help desk” only to have it go to voicemail because it is staffed by one person who is also dispatched out to fix issues. Many Departments choose to call staff in MIS directly on their cell phones to get their issues resolved. This practice goes against every industry best practice for IT Service Management.

3. A majority of Departments also expressed their frustration that new technology platforms are not supported, even though their daily business could become more cost-effective and efficient through the deployment of new technologies. Tablets and mobile devices were most often mentioned as cost-saving technologies that are not currently supported by MIS. This situation will worsen as desktop sales plummet. Industry is seeing a monumental shift to mobile platforms.

4. IT Project Management as defined by industry standards issued by the Project Management Institute (PMI) are non-existent within MIS, even though they were practiced a few years ago on a successful financial system implementation. There are currently multiple projects underway, with no project charters, schedules, status reports, or formal project reviews to keep them on schedule. In fact, a Document Management project has a team of temporary resources that is still ongoing after being launched more than 5 years ago.

5. Several Departments brought up an issue regarding Microsoft Access Databases and their use throughout the City. Several years ago, these databases were created by a City Employee who has since retired. Currently, MIS has no one on staff able to maintain or fix these databases when problems occur, so this is a risk to multiple Departments and their ability to operate in the future.

H2PC recommended 10 Fixes:

Priority: Immediate
Timeframe: 0-3 months

IT Service Management
0-3 months

IT Blanket Support Contract
Short Term
3-6 months

IT Project Management
Short Term
3-6 months

Modernize RP Process
Short Term
3-6 months
Database Consolidation
Medium Term
6-12 months
Re-organize MIS
Medium Term
6-12 months

Enterprise Architecture
Long Term
12-24 months

IT Training
Long Term
12-24 months

Cloud Services
Long Term
12-24 months

City Administrator Bill Reynolds sent the report to the city council (H2PC MIS Review). Reynolds told the council in his email that he heard from various city departments when he came on board last year that the MIS department was hurting them from delivering quality customer service. Invariably, I would receive a response that directed me to look more closely at MIS.

“But let me be clear, the problems with MIS are not employee driven,” wrote Reynolds. “They are managerial, structural and technical. They are the result of not having the proper policies and systems in place to ensure that employees can succeed. They are the result of not properly training our personnel. And finally, they are the failures of not properly funding the organization (meaning the employment of strategic funding decisions – not necessarily increased funding).”


RO Note: It may be time to consider privatizing MIS.

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