Your best resources are right next door

In the government sector we are all having to face reduced budgets, reduced staffing, reduced resources, while also facing increased workloads, increased demands and an ever changing technology landscape. In the face of this new paradigm how are we going to meet these challenges and maintain our drive to  innovation and efficiencies through these incredible breakthroughs that continue to come, day after day? I have discovered that one of the best resources I have is just down the walk in the next building from me -- my facilities guys.

What an amazing partnership we have developed over the years. These guys are just as committed to maintaining the physical infrastructure of the city as I am to maintaining the technology infrastructure. My facilities manager, Johnie, is continually trying to figure out ways to help my staff do their jobs better. His most recent project has been tuning the A/C in my data center. On his own he comes up with a way to integrate the outside air with the A/C units . . . without having to bring in expensive engineers to redesign the cooling system. He probably just saved my budget several tens of thousands of dollars in power costs by lowering the demand on the heavy A/C units. Up here in the Pacific Northwest we happen to have a lot of cool air, might as well use it, right?

His guys are also the perfect beta test group for our slate computing initiative. I have been very careful not to jump on the iPad bandwagon. I don't have anything against the iPad or Apple, it's just that the iPad was a consumption unit, not a production device, until the iPad 2 was released. Oh, and also until Apple got smart and developed their business support unit, and people started writing apps that were actually focused on the business and not on how well the movie played or how well the game looked on the screen. Well, now that the iPad has started to become a viable production tool, we started to jump into the fray. First we hooked up Johnie with an iPad 2 with 3g, loaded Citrix Receiver, logged him into our Citrix Gateway.  With that, he could get to his desk and he could manage the A/C system for the entire city remotely -- anytime, anywhere. The best story he tells me is that he was out having dinner with his wife and received a call that the heaters weren't working at our library. Instead of canceling dinner and driving to the library to solve the problem, he just walked out to his car, logged into the controls, turned the system on and went back to finish dinner. We have now added a second unit to the facilities crew so his other maintenance guys have the same capabilities.

So I didn't mean to try to sell anybody on the use of iPads in the enterprise - I think there is enough press on that going on right now. We have many projects on the board where we intend to use these devices, whether they be iPads or the new Windows 8 Tablets that are soon coming out. I am just ecstatic that we have had the chance to build a true working partnership with our facilities guys. When we need electrical work done quickly, they are right there. When we needed to remodel our IT offices to make room, they were right there. They have saved us money, helped us become more efficient and are becoming a great beta test group for new ideas.

Take some time to develop your internal partnerships. Invest in your customers, in what they do, in what you can do to help them. As a lifelong tech I have to throw in some TLA's (three letter acronyms). The ROI on the investment is well worth the time and energy. As we have had to reduce our resources, we have been able, through these internal partnerships, to fill some of the holes and maintain the high level of productivity that has been required.

So take a minute and think about the people in your organization who are your unknown partners. From the admin assistants who manage your paperwork every day to the janitor who cleans your office to the payroll people who make sure you get paid on time. Get to know them, see what you can do for them, invest a little and you will be amazed at the result.

Paul Haugan is the chief technology officer of the City of Lynnwood, Washington and a 2011 Premier 100 Honoree.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

7 inconvenient truths about the hybrid work trend
Shop Tech Products at Amazon