Predicting 2024 Public Sector IT Trends: Embracing Automation, ITIL

As we kick off a new year, one thing is clear – state and local government IT departments are working hard to manage and support more applications than ever before. A recent study from the Center for Digital Government (CDG) and TeamDynamix shows that managing these complex IT operations has resulted in some challenges including staffing and budget constraints, aging infrastructure or systems and a lack of automation.

Although the number of full-time IT staff members varied among respondents, the survey results show that local governments often rely on lean IT teams. More than half (56%) of city respondents and 41% of county respondents said their organization has 10 or fewer full-time IT employees. When you add to that the fact that nearly half of respondents said their organization manages 51 or more applications and services – you get a clear picture of public sector IT departments that are working hard to juggle an ever-expanding tech stack with lean teams.

“A decade ago, a government was more likely to manage about 10 applications,” CDG Senior Fellow William Rials, a former government CIO, CTO and CISO, said. Rials is now a professor and associate director of the IT and Cybersecurity program at Tulane University’s School of Professional Advancement.

“With the advent of specialized, cloud-based tools, it’s easier to acquire applications as a service, and there are lower hurdles to deploying them,” Rials said. The extent of management needed for cloud-based solutions varies, but internal IT teams remain the first line of support.

And the lack of automation in most public sector IT organizations can exacerbate these staffing and workload challenges.

According to the survey, government IT teams continue to spend significant time on manual service desk tasks including ticket triage, onboarding/offboarding employees, data entry, Active Directory updates and more.

Respondents are also struggling to manage their current ITSM solutions. They ranked “system administration” and “creating integrations with other systems” among their most time-consuming ITSM tasks, suggesting that agencies could benefit from modern low-code/no-code ITSM platforms.

The Value of Investing in Modern ITSM

The world of service management and service delivery has evolved quickly over the last few years, especially in the wake of the pandemic. For many state and local governments, this has created a situation where the IT Service Management (ITSM) or IT service desk software in use is now outdated.

Newer ITSM solutions tend to provide easily configurable workflows and integrations that allow IT staff to spend more time on higher-value ITSM tasks.

Modern ITSM solutions also enable workflow automation, a critical goal for most government IT organizations. More than half (59%) of CDG survey respondents said they are automating ITSM workflows now or plan to do so over the next 12 to 18 months.

Along with automation, agencies are planning a range of other ITSM improvements, according to the survey. Top priorities include software asset management, integrations with enterprise systems and IT self-service portals.

But to make the most of ITSM modernization, IT leaders must take an enterprise approach. This helps IT shops coordinate services across multiple agencies and departments and collect data to understand overall needs, usage trends, potential threats and opportunities to leverage economies of scale.

At Pima County, one of the goals of bringing on TeamDynamix for ITSM and iPaaS (integration platform as a service) is to reduce toil.  

“People feel so much more empowered and have so much more worth when they are doing things that are intellectually rigorous and challenging versus when they are just repeating the same mechanical actions over and over and over with very little thought,” Mark Hayes, information technology leader at Pima County, said.

“Our ITSM is our entry point to our entire IT organization, and we want our employees to graduate out of this area into other roles within our organization – network technicians, client services, desktop technicians, developers and project managers,” he continued. “If all they’re doing is handling tickets and doing the same mundane, manual tasks over and over that’s not particularly great training. So investing in tools that allow our employees to engage in meaningful work is something that’s important to us as an overall IT organization.”

With TeamDynamix now in place, Pima County is looking to automate and integrate as much of the manual ITSM processes into workflows as they can.

“The drudgery of working through mundane, repetitive tasks doesn’t exist just in IT,” Hayes said. “I think the more we can reduce toil within the departments that we support, the more people are going to buy in and understand the value of what we’re trying to achieve. There’s nothing like success to breed more success, and once other departments see the benefits they’re going to want these tools too.”

Upping IT Maturity with ITIL

One of the biggest surprises of the survey is that only 38% of respondents have adopted or are in the process of adopting the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) framework, the technology industry’s roadmap for delivering high-quality IT services. Nearly three in 10 (28%) respondents reported having no plans to adopt ITIL, and almost as many (27%) said they didn’t know the status of ITIL in their organizations.

Despite low ITIL adoption rates, many respondents said their agency has fully implemented critical IT service functions such as event/incident response, project management, change management, integration with enterprise systems, self-service portals and software asset management. That can cause challenges, says Rials, because these functions work best when following ITIL best practices.

“You can’t do these things well if you don’t have a mature ITIL process in place,” Rials says. “Without ITIL, organizations may be doing tactical things without a strategy. It becomes a hodgepodge of solutions.”

The City of Goodyear recently switched to TeamDynamix for ITSM to address their lack of ITIL maturity and growing workloads.

“It’s one thing to say we’re overworked—and it’s another to be able to illustrate this with concrete data,” said Lisa Faison, deputy CIO for the City of Goodyear, Arizona, municipal government.

A few years ago, the City of Goodyear didn’t have any way to track the status of IT projects. The city government had a ticketing system for managing the delivery of IT services, but this system was very limited in what it could do and what information it could provide.

“We wanted to increase the maturity of our IT operations by moving to ITIL processes,” Faison said.

This meant bringing the oversight of IT services and projects together under a single platform for IT Service Management (ITSM) and Project Portfolio Management (PPM) to give leaders a holistic view of the work employees were doing. What’s more, the platform had to allow for simple configuration and automation of IT processes, without a lot of coding or administration needed on the back end.

On the IT service side, using a modern ITSM tool like TeamDynamix has allowed the city to set up a service catalog and a self-service portal that routs tickets to the correct staff members for fulfillment automatically, reducing the number of times that service tickets bounce around from one person to another. This has helped speed up incident response times significantly.

“We did a training roadshow,” Faison said, whereby IT staff met with various departments and showed them how to use the self-service portal. They also handed out pens with the link to the portal etched on the side. This internal marketing campaign has contributed to widespread adoption, with about three-fourths of service requests now being submitted through the portal— and this is leading to faster resolution for employees.

Automated workflows have also helped streamline key processes and improve the delivery of IT services. For instance, the IT team established an automated workflow within TeamDynamix for purchasing hardware and software, with requests being routed automatically to the appropriate people for approvals.

“It’s a nice, fully automated workflow,” Faison said. “We’d like to implement automated workflows in other areas moving forward as well.”

On the project side, TeamDynamix gives the city’s IT department a simple way to evaluate, approve and manage projects of all sizes. Managing IT projects and service requests within the same platform gives leaders a holistic view of the work that team members are doing.

“It helps us evaluate whether we can take on new projects based on the people we have available,” said Remi Nunez, senior IT project manager. And this is critical for reducing resource drain.

Having clear data showing the scope of the work that team members are doing also gives IT leaders the evidence they need to advocate for additional staffing in areas that require it.

For instance, Faison and her colleagues knew the GIS team had a constant backlog of work, but they weren’t able to quantify this challenge before. With TeamDynamix reporting, they were able to demonstrate this need and hire another full-time GIS employee.

One year into using TeamDynamix, having better visibility into project and service information has helped the city’s IT department improve customer service for employees—and the city has only begun to scratch the surface of what the platform enables.

As Goodyear’s IT maturity continues, Faison and her colleagues will be looking to use the data they collect on IT projects to accurately forecast the amount of time that new projects will take, so they can allocate resources to projects more effectively. They also plan to help other city departments use TeamDynamix for enterprise-level service and project management.

To read the full report from CDG, check out: 2024 Outlook for Trends in IT Service Management

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