Viewpoints

Maximizing public sector ROI on technology investment

By Ivan Seselj


Many government officials still cling to the belief that ROI in the public sector is impossible to demonstrate. How can you calculate ROI when there are no revenues or profits?

Unfortunately, refusal to believe in the power of public sector ROI prevents many agencies from developing a comprehensive approach to evaluating human resources, training, and performance improvement initiatives. Studies of public sector ROI show significant cost savings from improvements in productivity, quality, time reduction, and direct cost reductions resulting from investment in technology.

There are many things agencies can do to impact the ROI on technology investment. One of these is effectively leveraging process management.

Take a look at two recent technology implementations in the public sector, as an example. In the first, the agency was attempting to consolidate two internal business units. While the agency was deploying an ERP system to integrate both units’ core business processes, neither unit had completely documented its current business processes prior to implementation.

As you might expect, issues with the implementation arose almost immediately. Because neither the ERP vendor nor the systems integrator understood the agency’s business processes, implementation slowed to a crawl. This resulted in problems with segregation of duties (SoD) in the processes, which in turn undermined the effectiveness of the new system. It also had a negative impact on staff confidence in the new technology.

Compare that to a second agency, which began its technology implementation by documenting all current business processes. The agency took the added step of creating a series of detailed use cases to clarify system requirements and speed up the design phases. Only after completing these steps did the agency consider possible technology options. 

By taking these initial steps, the second agency was in a significantly better position to consider possible tech options, structure testing in order to get the desired coverage, and validate its thinking by getting input from all stakeholders. This approach also helped the agency deal with any issues presented by the two business units, while creating staff buy-in.

But why focus on business processes? By understanding current processes, what they are designed to accomplish, and why they were established in the first place, agencies will be in a significantly better position to successfully manage change and optimize ROI.

I would suggest there are four key factors which government agencies should consider in order to maximize ROI on their technology investment:

  1. Begin by capturing and understanding all your current processes. Organizations don’t always appreciate the complexity of their processes until they see them mapped. It is particularly important to investigate and understand the reasons behind any nuances that exist within the processes.
     
  2. Take ownership of those processes. Although the agency might require some external assistance, this should not be delegated to an outside vendor who will not know the agency the way you do.
     
  3. Involve all areas of the operation which might be impacted. In change management, it’s important to get everyone affected by the changes on the same page to overcome any resistance and preempt staff complaints. Let employees know not only what changes are being made, but why.
     
  4. Plan and analyze first. That way it’s easier to make the right decisions about what the solutions should be, easier to design those solutions, easier to test those solutions, and easier to implement – and, if necessary, change – those solutions.    

To maximize ROI and drive successful change, business processes represent the logical starting point. Beginning with processes will positively impact employees and result in savings generated through improved work output, time savings, and direct cost reductions. That’s good news for any business.

 

Ivan Seselj is CEO of Promapp Solutions, a provider of cloud-based business process management (BPM) software for creating and managing business processes online. You can contact him at ivan.seselj@promapp.com or follow him on Twitter at @Ivanseselj.

 

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