Why should Local Government Outsource IT?
The complexity of planning and maintaining technology is a consistent challenge to local governments, as the threats to cybersecurity are ever-increasing but the resources of local governments are, generally, not. While local government workers may well be doing their best, their effort is often insufficient to assess and address vulnerabilities that increase exponentially as new technologies, new threat actors, and new devices/users are introduced into the system. For local governments, outsourcing all IT may be the best solution. As Dr. Alan Shark remarks, “Today, technology comes with a greater price, and this will be paid one way or another- be it investments or damages.”1 Ten considerations for local governments who may be considering making the change:
Retirement of senior staff. With the largest retirement boom in recent history in progress, many jurisdictions are finding it challenging to fill positions requiring a great deal of expertise.
Staff turnover. Compared to their predecessors, younger employees are changing jobs and employers more frequently.
Reduced incentives. With less generous health and retirement benefits than there were in the past, technical jobs in the public sector have a harder time competing with private sector jobs.
Inability to pay higher salaries. With less competitive and less flexible salaries, technical jobs in the public sector have a harder time competing with private sector jobs.
Lack of training resources. It is necessary to invest in professional development for technology staff- to attend conferences, seminars, and to obtain certifications- but local governments are often unable or unwilling to do so.
Career development indifference. Position titles in local government are often nebulous, such as “Technician II”, which may be a deterrence to technology workers who care about the transferability and perception of their job title.
Lack of realistic strategic planning. Local government technology managers are often viewed as a support function are not often involved in program development and planning, though they are tasked with supporting those very programs and plans.
Aging infrastructure. Aging equipment impacts the ability of a local government to hire new staff, is expensive to repair, and is vulnerable to the implications of vendors discontinuing support for software and hardware components.
Cybersecurity challenges. Even though there are mandated state and federal compliance regulations, many local governments do not have a designated senior staff member in charge of cyber security due to perceptions of their department being too small to warrant it, or due to the associated costs. The expense to recover from a cyberattack could be far greater.
Failures in scope and scale. The expense of operating and maintaining technology, coupled with the expense of staff with the expertise to manage it, may be unsustainable.
Outsourcing IT may be a smart solution for small and medium-sized local governments faced with staffing challenges and aging equipment and can also position local governments to be more resilient in the face of unexpected events and disasters.
1 Shark, 2021, American City and County, “10 Reasons why Local Governments Should Outsource all IT: Post Pandemic View”