In today’s tight job market, filling open technology positions can be an enormous challenge. This is especially true for state and local governments, which compete with the private sector to hire the best and brightest minds. Meanwhile, government tech teams are stretched thin as they support operational needs and take on increasing numbers of new project requests. They must find ways to do more with existing resources. MeriTalk recently sat down with Andrew Graf, chief product officer and co-founder of TeamDynamix, to discuss how leaders can turn to technology solutions that allow them to better utilize IT team members without causing burnout.
MeriTalk: State and local government agencies have historically struggled with hiring enough skilled technology resources to support all of the work that they are asked to do. Short of hiring more people, what are some ways agencies can overcome the challenges of limited technology resources?
Graf: State and local government leaders should look for what I call “force multipliers” – solutions that allow existing resources to do more with their time without causing burnout. Self-service tools are an example of a force multiplier – they allow internal customers to serve themselves, giving IT staff more time for other tasks. Automation is another critical force multiplier. Technology teams spend a tremendous amount of time on mundane tasks – password resets, permission changes, Active Directory membership changes, name changes, onboarding processes, the list goes on and on. Technology resources spend an average of five hours per week on activities that could be automated to save time for high-value work. Other force multipliers are technology tools and processes that make work easier, such as consolidating tools onto a single platform.
Looking beyond force multipliers, to really maximize existing resources, IT leaders can implement resource capacity planning, which maps a resource’s time against tasks and projects.
MeriTalk: Can you explain how resource capacity planning works, and what benefits agencies can realize by implementing resource capacity planning?
Graf: At its foundation, resource capacity planning is the intersection between your supply of resources – whether that’s dollars or people’s time – and the demand of the work you need to accomplish. Resource capacity planning allows leaders to map the amount of time resources spend on required operational work and the amount of time they spend on project work, providing a holistic view of all available work hours. With that knowledge, leaders can project how much available resource time they have to take on new projects. Or, the plan may show that resource tasks need to be reshuffled. The plan allows leaders to model open resource time to find a scenario that works for future projects.
Resource capacity planning becomes a powerful tool to push back on unreasonable expectations. CIOs, project managers, office directors, and portfolio managers often say that they’re being asked to do more than what they have the capacity to do. Resource capacity planning offers data that demonstrates why there is no capacity to take on a new project, and that the solution to add a new project is to hire more people, outsource project tasks, change schedules, or reshuffle existing work.
MeriTalk: Walk us through how IT service management and project portfolio management tools support resource capacity planning.
Graf: Those tools give us a baseline of how much time resources are spending on different activities. The IT service management tool outlines how much time resources are spending on operational activities. The project portfolio management tools capture how much time resources are spending on projects. Using those data sets, IT leaders can start looking at demand that is forecasted for new projects and overlay that forecast with current operational and project capacity. Using that data, leaders can run models and choose to commit to a project if they have the capacity or push back and ask for additional head count or outsourcing solutions.
MeriTalk: Do most organizations today use these tools separately?
Graf: Unfortunately, a lot do. Most organizations have an IT service management platform, and they might have several different project tracking tools. In many cases, different departments within the same agency have different project planning tools. There is often no enterprise-wide view of project work, and the project work isn’t overlayed with the IT service management work. Technology leaders don’t have the full data picture on how their teams are actually using their time – and how much open time they truly have available – which ultimately could lead to employee burnout as team members are tasked with more projects than they realistically have the time to do.
MeriTalk: What are the benefits of integrating IT service management and project portfolio management on one platform?
Graf: Having a single platform that offers a holistic view of resource workloads supports leaders in resource capacity planning and allows them to allocate their resources in the best way to get the work done. A single platform also allows them to be confident in their decisions on handling project requests, including pushing back on unreasonable expectations. One platform can also typically reduce costs when it consolidates several tools.
MeriTalk: What do government agencies need to do to adopt a one-platform approach for IT service management and project portfolio management?
First, they need to take an inventory of what IT service management and project portfolio management tools they have and understand what they are used for. From there, they can start to look at a unified platform. A change management element also needs to be addressed. Many people may want a unified tool because they work across departments and individual tools are too cumbersome to use. But changing the status quo can be hard, so demonstrating the value of one platform – for example, it meets departmental needs and provides additional benefits, such as improved collaboration – can help with adoption.
MeriTalk: Can you share an example of a state or local government that implemented this one-platform approach?
There are so many great examples of state and local governments improving processes and doing more with limited resources with a one-platform approach. Oklahoma City had a legacy sales management platform and fractured project management tools. When the city implemented an integration automation platform, IT leaders described it as bringing simplicity to their work and operations. They could use their existing resources better because they had the tools to make work easier. They also launched self-services that dramatically reduced the inflow of requests that their technicians needed to field. They support more than 5,000 people, and the self-service implementations really streamlined their operation.
Another example is from Sunnyvale, California. The IT team had a real challenge around resource management and needed to get a better understanding of what their teams were being asked to do. With a fractured set of tools, they didn’t have good visibility. They had staff management issues along with asset management issues. They partnered with TeamDynamix to manage service projects and assets and added project management onto our single platform. IT leaders now have the reporting data to make better decisions regarding their resources.
MeriTalk: What makes the TeamDynamix solution different than others on the market?
TeamDynamix offers a single unified platform for project portfolio management, IT service management, and integration automation, which is unique. Most other work management solutions don’t support complex automations, which involve many different systems that need to talk with one another. Our integration automation platform doesn’t need to be used alongside work management platforms. It’s one platform.
TeamDynamix is also very easy to own and operate. Other solutions may have tremendous enterprise capability, but they require several full-time people to operate the system. On the other end of the market, you have products that really aren’t meant for the enterprise. They’re very good for small organizations, but as an organization starts to scale, like most municipalities, those solutions falter. TeamDynamix strikes the right balance. We have tremendous enterprise capability, yet we are really inexpensive to own.