Spring is in the Air: A time for renewal?

The temperature gets warmer. The skies get bluer. The occasional snow squall becomes less frequent. Spring has sprung and we can now come out from under the gray skies of winter. But what should we do? Should we simply bask in the sunlight for a time or jump in on something new? These simple questions pop into our heads every year and as government leaders we sometimes see spring as the time for some sort of renewal. The sad part of the spring renewal is that in reality we should be strategically developing the “new” all year round. For purposes of this blog let’s use spring as the renewal period for what needs to be done. Our spring renewal topic will tackle three tough topics. First we will discuss needs from an infrastructure perspective. Second we will discuss efficient business processes with enabling technologies. Finally, we will discuss everything people related.

Infrastructure has become the conversation of the day, year and decade especially due to what has happened with the water issues here in Flint, Michigan. Every government leader knows that the costs for new infrastructure increase each year especially for the assets we have buried all over Southeast Michigan. Water & sewer, roads & bridges and utilities are the biggest issues in our communities today with massive price tags to fix. Governments will struggle to garner the appropriate funding to satisfy these needs but we must not throw up our hands in surrender. Spring is a perfect time to continue working these issues as government leaders have been for many years. The efficient use of tax dollars must be a priority if we are going to acquire the necessary funding. Government leaders must make their operations as efficient as possible. A task that is not easy but can be attainable.

Making governments more efficient through the use of modern technologies is a requirement and not a “nice to have” if governments are going to survive these current economic times. Old business processes must be taken apart and new processes must be built that take into account a lower use of human resources with an increased need for quality services to the citizens. Governments must be willing to take the time to strategically plan for creating foundationally strong processes. Enabling technologies allow governments the ability to service millions of residents with minimal human interaction. Technologies can be an expensive investment so governments must also be willing to leverage their dollars by sharing. The G2G Marketplace provides a free portal where governments can share technology information and leverage collaboratively purchased solutions. Spring is a good time to share with each other so governments must make it happen.

Where would we be without all of the people? Government is a large customer service provider that helps people every day. The average citizen is becoming very savvy on how they want their services provided and government must be up to the task. There is, however, a very serious people issue that we must explore. Finding and keeping qualified government workers, aka the team. There is a shortage of qualified workers in Southeast Michigan in general and the battle for people is being waged across industries. The economy has been rebounding which makes the competition between the private sector and the public sector even more fierce. Competing for quality resources makes the work of government more difficult to perform. Leaders, in government, must adopt modern work processes and create an environment that entices employees to come on board while retaining the best of the rest. Someone asked me what the best part of my job is and I responded, the people. This same person asked me what the hardest part of my job is and I responded, the people. People are tough but they are also the most rewarding aspect of government leadership. Modern workplaces invest in their team which in turn creates a better product for the citizens. Spring appears to be the perfect season to invest in people so governments must engage in the process.

So, the temperature is warmer. The skies are definitely bluer and the snow has all but gone away. Spring has sprung and we in Oakland County, Michigan, under the leadership of our County Executive L. Brooks Patterson, are investing in our future. When the flowers begin to bloom we will already be pushing forward with our strategies on how to continue making Oakland County the best place to live, work and play in Michigan. Other governments will be making the same effort and we stand ready to work collaboratively for the benefit of us all. Happy spring!

Author: Phil Bertolini, Oakland County CIO & Deputy County Executive