TECH INSIGHTS: 7 Benefits of a Technology Partnership
The information contained in this article is not intended as legal advice and may no longer be accurate due to changes in the law. Consult NHMA's legal services or your municipal attorney.
Municipalities, especially smaller municipalities, can often feel left behind with information technology. It’s understandable. With constrained budgets limiting the ability to hire expensive IT professionals, municipalities can struggle to maintain computers, internet connectivity, wi-fi, and email. Because municipal staff are so strapped for time, they often let essentials such as antivirus software, data backup, and cybersecurity best practices go by the wayside—or settling for a “good enough” situation.
Yet, municipalities struggle heavily when IT fails them. Old hardware and software, no longer supported by vendors, constantly breaks down. Relentless cyberattacks that you read about in the headlines threaten to topple your municipality any day. Your data backup may fail if an incident occurs, from a server failure to ransomware.
If you irregularly use a break-fix vendor that only puts out fires, then answer this question silently to yourself: Are you happy and satisfied with this situation?
Probably not. But you may feel that a better IT solution is out of reach.
Many municipal leagues have crafted programs (such as IT in a Box) to ensure that even smaller municipalities can have proactive IT support, maintenance, and planning. The benefits are like night and day compared to what most municipalities currently use—whether it’s a break-fix vendor or an overwhelmed IT employee.
Below, we discuss seven benefits of a technology partnership with a trusted IT vendor experienced with municipalities.
It can cost less to hire a trusted IT support vendor than to hire an employee.
The price of IT support can be significantly lower than the full-time cost of an IT employee (including benefits). Plus, IT talent is difficult to procure, especially if you find yourself far outside of a major metropolitan area. The right IT partner can provide you access to a team of top talent at a lower cost than a salary. That partner will also never get sick or go on vacation.
If you already have IT staff on hand, then an IT partner can supplement their work by offloading the day-to-day tactical tasks that consume a lot of time, freeing up your internal IT staff to focus on strategic initiatives and projects.
Dedicated IT support teams can maintain, monitor, and support your systems 24/7.
Proactive monitoring and maintenance of your systems can seem out of reach when you’re only putting out fires. A dedicated IT support team can maintain your hardware, software, network, and systems while also monitoring them for issues and alerts. By proactively maintaining and monitoring your IT, you uncover issues early and prevent more serious, expensive problems from occurring later down the road.
Many municipalities also need support outside of 9-to-5 hours. City council meetings, police departments, or employees working from home may all require IT support at odd hours. A technology partnership with a trusted IT vendor offering a 24/7/365 helpdesk can provide this support without having to pay overtime or rely on an on-call IT employee.
An IT partner can keep up on trends, share knowledge, and introduce opportunities.
Maybe there is an advance in cybersecurity that will help you fend off cyberattacks. Maybe adding some new features to your website will help benefit residents. Maybe a new software application can help you increase productivity within your municipal operations. An IT partner will give you access to a team who stays up-to-date about the latest trends and technologies, sifting through the noise to see what might benefit you. (It’s important to work with a municipal-experienced IT partner so that they are not inundating you with technology ideas and solutions that are impractical.)
An IT partner can help you decrease liability.
Many IT-related threats relentlessly inundate municipalities including:
- Cyberattacks: In particular, ransomware can devastate your city as much or more than a natural disaster. Other cyber threats include malware, viruses, credential theft, and data breaches. If successful, these cyberthreats can have a serious impact on your city or town.
- Data loss: Without a reliable, tested data backup solution, your municipality is at risk to permanently lose data on servers, computers, or external hard drives. The permanent loss of data can lead to operational, financial, legal, and public embarrassment repercussions.
- Compliance with federal and state laws: Many federal and state laws apply to municipalities including Freedom of Information Acts (FOIA), CJIS compliance for public safety, IRS laws, laws about protecting personnel information, and PCI DSS standards related to payments. An IT slip or oversight can lead to non-compliance.
An IT partner can mitigate risks and lessen your liability related to cyberattacks, data loss, and compliance. By implementing cybersecurity best practices, deploying a data backup and disaster recovery solution with periodic testing, and ensuring you have policies in place to comply with various federal, state, and local laws, an IT partner can help you avoid many of the serious issues and incidents that have the ability to take down a municipality for weeks or months.
An IT partner will help you maximize expensive IT investments.
In quite a few cases after we’ve assessed a municipality’s IT situation, we have discovered that they avoided using a tech partner for many years because of cost. Yet, we often find the following:
- Old hardware that needs constant fixing and upkeep.
- Old software that creaks along and barely meets the municipality’s needs.
- ISP or telecom contracts locking municipalities into poor yet expensive service.
- Municipalities not taking advantage of free support from existing hardware, software, and technology solutions contracts.
- Municipalities paying for redundant, expensive software when they already pay for the same software included within another application (such as Microsoft SharePoint included within Office365).
- Overpaying for website hosting, maintenance, and support.
An IT partner can assess your current situation, look for ways to save money, and streamline your technology assets so that you are maximizing your investments. Newer hardware and software save you money in the long run, renegotiated contracts can lower your costs, and finding uses for applications you already pay for can save you even more money.
Vendor management and procurement get taken off your plate.
At your municipality, you may dread getting on the phone with a technical vendor. With a lot on your plate and realizing you don’t have deep technical expertise, you do your best. Along the way, you hear a lot of jargon, try to explain the problem as best as you can, and hope the problem gets fixed. Each time, you’re not sure if you’re identifying the right problem, explaining it correctly, and providing the right information. If it’s complex, constant calls to the vendor eat up valuable time.
An IT partner can handle vendor management for you. They cut to the chase quicker by identifying the right problem, knowing what questions to ask, and making sure the vendor is held accountable as they fix the issue. Plus, an IT partner has dedicated time to stay on top of the vendor until the problem is resolved. This saves a lot of time for you and can even save money, as many hardware and software vendor support contracts often go unenforced.
Procurement can also get handled more quickly with an IT partner while also saving you money. Experienced IT support engineers will know how to source the best technology and aggressively get government pricing from vendors.
An IT partner will help you set strategy and vision.
Beyond the proactive day-to-day IT tasks that keep your operations running smoothly, an IT partner can also provide you the equivalent of a Chief Information Officer who can help you with planning and strategy. They can help take your municipality’s strategic vision and see how technology can help you with it. This may include using technology to help with special projects, improving operations, or enhancing resident services.
John Hey is Director of Operations for VC3, a leader in providing managed IT support to its clients (especially the local government sector). At VC3, John provides leadership over daily operations, strategic leadership, and visioning while driving continuous improvement. Deeply passionate about culture, quality of service, and community leadership, John vigorously pursues VC3’s successful standing in each. John’s specific areas of expertise in business, coupled with technical acumen around business continuity, practical security, and IT infrastructure, make him unique in the marketplace. John is based in Columbia, South Carolina.