Sometimes, even with the truth staring you in the face, taking decisive action can be rather difficult.
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) and its corresponding injection of funds into state and local government could serve as a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reinvest in and modernize America’s aging infrastructure — including and especially through technology infrastructure. The $1.2 trillion bill contains an estimated $550 billion in new spending above baseline levels, meaning government agencies should take this moment not just to upgrade their digital tools and automation capabilities but to build a stronger foundation for new levels of service excellence and overall success for many years to come.
Moreover, it’s become clear during the COVID-19 pandemic that the digital “haves” are separating themselves from the pack, by leveraging emerging technologies and practices to maintain operational continuity — and even improve it. Meanwhile, the digital “have-nots” have fallen further behind.
And yet, nearly two-thirds of public-sector respondents (60.6%) to a recent survey said they either didn’t know whether their organization would use IIJA funds for technology improvements, or they didn’t believe it was at all or very likely that it would. It’s time to change that mindset. Those in the public sector should be investing in their digital futures, and they should be fervently committed to doing so.
Why state and local agencies should invest
Let’s address one reality of this moment: Ambitious and potentially visionary legislation like the IIJA simply cannot have the long-lasting, transformational impact on physical infrastructure that leaders aspire to without the intelligence and efficiency inherent in digital technologies. This moment requires integrated, smart technologies to serve as critical enablers.
Simply put, state and local governments must seize this moment to better automate their operations — from the ground up — and to meet increasing demands for secure and smooth project execution as well as ongoing service delivery. Intelligent enterprises will be integrated enterprises, those that use digital tools to feed their knowledge, improve their decision-making and make their citizens’ lives better, every single day.
Taking a tactical, piecemeal approach to system improvements means missing out on the chance to create a fully digitally transformed agency, one that works effectively from the bottom up, by enabling citizens, customers and employees to benefit through:
- Integrated applications, data and processes.
- Innovation with industry best practices.
- Flexible value chains.
- A fuller understanding of citizen and employee sentiment.
- Improved efficiency, resiliency, responsiveness and sustainability to better manage environmental impacts.
What investing in technology will look like
The most advanced, versatile and efficient technologies today are built in and for the cloud.
The cloud offers higher levels of security (through managed services); the ability to accommodate a broad continuum of public, private and hyperscaler-based cloud models; the capability to integrate and scale data, applications and processes as needs evolve and change; the opportunity to take advantage of intuitive, powerful data intelligence, analytics and reporting features; and practical applications for next-gen technologies, such as process automation and artificial intelligence.
This is where all investment must start and end. In addition, big-picture goals should focus on the following five areas:
- Modernizing infrastructure.
- Pursuing targeted, industry-specific tech enhancements.
- Continuously improving sustainability.
- Better understanding and supporting stakeholders’ experiences.
- Gaining better insights into business process improvement opportunities.
This is a window into what it will look like for state and local agencies to best leverage these federal funds and improve their technology infrastructure — and, in turn, eventually their physical infrastructure.
Where our future investment will take us
Moving IIJA project portfolios forward in a thoughtful and timely manner will require a strong enterprise technology blueprint that combines the legislation’s objectives with organizational priorities. Short-lived, siloed or throwaway improvements will not serve the purpose of the IIJA, wisely leverage public funds or position an agency for success. It’s vital that stakeholders embrace the opportunity at hand with well-defined goals and a clear vision.
Technology infrastructure is vital now. It’s no less important than the very roads, bridges or water distribution systems it supports. And now is the time to start down the path to long-term success.
So, stop thinking about it. The truth is out there. It’s time to take action.