Guest post by Liz Vega, Senior Manager, Government, Education, Healthcare Global Marketing, Xerox Large Enterprise Operations. This post originally appeared on LinkedIn.
Digital technology can transform the way governments serve citizens. Better citizen service starts by improving the work itself—how processes flow, how documents are managed, how teams collaborate and how data is protected throughout. Yet true transformation in the public sector has been slowed by budget constraints, aging infrastructure and an increasing lack of IT staff.
For IT staffing, digital transformation is both a blessing and a curse. Digital ways of working appeal to upcoming generations of workers, but becoming a digitally empowered organization is fraught with risk, cost, delay and miscalculations.
Coping with a Shrinking Talent Pool
Not only are government IT departments struggling to find talent for new ways of working, they are at risk of being understaffed for the older systems that are still needed. Agencies may find they’ve digitized content for systems that no one knows how to run. How many organizations still base their legacy systems on Cobol? Enough that it will be a problem when Cobol-trained staffers start retiring. The experienced IT workforce is leaving and taking their institutional knowledge with them, creating an impending “silver tsunami.” In fact, one-third of state workers are eligible to retire in the next five years. This personnel drain will further deplete already lean staffs. It’s hard to have a digital revolution without help.
It’s no surprise then that recruiting and retaining is the top workforce challenge for state and local government. To make matters worse, the private sector beats out government when it comes to recruiting. Although private sector probably has you beat on salary, your advantage is in the value of your work: serving citizens. Yet that attraction doesn’t always hold up in reality.
According to research, 87% of agency IT pros spend “most of their time” on day-to-day management. They’re too busy putting out fires and keeping the lights on to build relationships with the business side. This causes a serious lack of alignment between IT and the department heads or the citizens who are ultimately served.
Government IT Staffing: A Crisis in Process
Here’s further evidence of the staffing crisis faced by government IT leaders:
- More than 70% of respondents said they were either dissatisfied, very dissatisfied or unsure in their ability to attract and hire key IT staff including architects/system designers, security/risk assurance personnel and developers/programmers.
- State and local governments have reduced or eliminated internships, so the pipeline is small.
- Workforce succession planning is the third biggest workforce challenge.
- A shortage of qualified candidates for state IT positions hinders 66% of states from achieving strategic IT initiatives.
- 86% of agencies are struggling to fill vacant IT positions.
Answers Lie in Workflow Automation and Service Outsourcing
What’s the answer? For many government departments and agencies, outsourced document management services and solutions relieve the staffing pressure, while also giving IT the foundation for their digital journey. A document outsourcing partner can also help accelerate your digital transformation by guiding you step by step on the journey to digital workflow and innovation.
When process automation drives your digital journey, it makes IT work more worthwhile by eliminating lower-level, paper-based manual tasks that keep employees from focusing on higher-value initiatives. IT staff shouldn’t be stuck with pushing paper or maintaining printers and ordering toner. Instead, teams can focus on serving citizens and fellow workers. More time can be spent on continuing innovation and digitization as a strategy.
Just starting that digital journey is also part of the solution for finding and keeping IT talent. You have to show employees that you’re committed. By pursuing a digital agenda, government IT may attract more of the right talent because your actions show you’re a progressive organization.