January 14, 2008 By The Center for Digital Government
Colorado created the Statewide Internet Portal Authority (SIPA) to oversee the official portal and grow it into a comprehensive and consolidated self-service delivery channel across agency and jurisdictional lines. The SIPA board includes representation from the legislature, the judiciary, local government and the private sector, plus the governor's office and the active participation of cabinet members from the departments of revenue, employment and regulatory affairs. This broadly-based ownership group resolves and reconciles competing needs for modifications and additions before issuing change orders to the crew on the ground.
In terms of governance makeup, Arkansas and Kansas have also taken a broad view and included representation from constituencies that tend to be underrepresented in governance models. Kansas and Arkansas have purposefully included private sector representatives from key user groups to ensure that the interests of external users are pursued.
The other key characteristic here is setting priorities -- clarifying that government operates in an environment in which resources are always finite and governance is needed to prioritize how resources are used to identify, develop, test, and market the solutions used to expand and enhance the portal. One of the benefits of a solid governance model is that quick, decisive action can be implemented without having to navigate the typical bureaucratic process of state government. If a governance board has the capability to set priorities, then this approach takes advantage of quick implementation without sacrificing government oversight of the project.
Colorado, Arkansas, Kansas and other states have learned by doing that governance is a lot easier to implement with a single-purpose transactional service than with one that relies on a network of service delivery. Yet it is in the context of complex networked service delivery where governance matters most, providing the formalized and institutionalized rules that help keep the foundation level and the walls plumb while matching the interdependent components with the structural capacity needed to operate consistently and sustainably.
The tools of governance -- such as contracts, memoranda of understanding, service-level agreements, statutes, executive orders, an issue prioritization, escalation and resolution process, including rules and policies for quick decisions on project approvals and oversight -- bring proven old-school disciplines to the important task of formalizing the work that formerly discrete organizations or entities do together while bolstering an effective governance structure.
Working with Contracts and Vendors
Much construction industry education from master builder associations and other such groups still echoes the caution "Caveat emptor" -- Latin for "Let the buyer beware" -- which, prior to statutory law, was the property law doctrine
This Digital Communities white paper highlights discussions with IT officials in four counties that have adopted shared services models. Our aim was to learn about the obstacles these governments have faced when it comes to shared services and what it takes to overcome those roadblocks. We also spoke with several members of the IT industry who have thought long and hard about these issues. The paper offers some best practices for shared government-to-government services, but also points out challenges that government and industry still must overcome before this model gains widespread adoption.