From: GOVERNING Management
To: Scott Jenkins,
Subject: Mobile Apps, the World's Worst Client, Traffic Decongestants and More
Date: Thu Jun 05 17:39:25 MDT 2014
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GOVERNING March 2014
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More Management Reading

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The B&G Report

BY KATHERINE BARRETT & RICHARD GREENE

Do you believe in multitasking? Many city, county and state managers are so overwhelmed with a variety of tasks that they find themselves forced into doing two or three or more things at a time (writing an e-mail, while munching on a tuna fish sandwich, while participating in a conference call with the phone on mute). Many public employees wonder whether they'd get more done if they just worked at one thing at a time.

B&G readers, we'd love to hear your thoughts on the subject. Is multitasking inevitable in your job or are there ways around it? And does multitasking potentially mean that you're never working at peak efficiency?

Mobile apps appear to be a good way to get information from a city or state to the citizenry. That's why we wanted to bring your attention to a website set up by the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) that provides links to these apps in all 50 states.

Some states -- like Virginia -- have many, including one that allows people to do business with the state's Department of Motor Vehicles and another that features extensive information about the state's parks. Other states have only one or two. The only app listed for New Hampshire, for example, is one that helps users identify peak times to see fall foliage.

The current list is incomplete, but NASCIO intends to continue adding to it.

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Each time we see a new auditor's report on government contracting problems, we get a sense of deja vu. The issues that stand in the way of effective contracting are remarkably similar from year to year and place to place. For example, last month, the Washington state auditor's review of personal services contracts found that some 20 percent "were not procured in accordance with state laws, policies and procedures." Moreover, some 21 percent of contract amendments were signed after the contract term expired. This doesn't make sense, and state policies dictate that amendments should all be signed before expiration.

The Washington auditor made some recommendations that we think could be of use in many states. They include improving and retaining documentation when procuring contracts, ensuring that established filing and public notice for contracts are met, and ensuring that all amendments are signed and approved before the original contract period expires.

"Any government is potentially the worst client in the world you could ever possibly want to have." -- Thomas Heatherwick, founder of Heatherwick Studio, an architecture and design firm, during a TED Talk

Decisions to buy technology are generally made after a fair amount of thought and investigation. But given the amount of time it takes to get a new IT or telecommunications system up and running, something much better often becomes available soon after new systems are installed. There are no simple solutions to this conundrum.

Oklahoma City could be used as a poster child for this problem. Back in 2003, the city government decided to buy 875 devices capable of transmitting data to and from mobile computers in police cars and fire trucks. Before the city even got its first new radio in 2006, it became apparent that this technology was already becoming outdated and that the manufacturer was planning to end its support for these units.

Did the city try hard to get out of the contract? No. About 400 radios were installed, and data and voice problems soon followed. The city had boxed itself into a contractual corner that made it difficult to return the radios. So, Oklahoma City just decided to move on to a new and better technology, finally negotiating a return to the vendor at a loss.

We often wonder whether many cities, counties and states are chasing after money when the cost of the chase may be more expensive than the amount sought. We hear about this kind of thing all the time: Taxpayers being repeatedly informed that they owe $1.27, or some similarly minimal account. Then three stamps in, it doesn't matter whether the city gets the money because it's already operating at a loss. Keep Reading >>

 

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