The last two years have been one long, downhill-only roller coaster ride for state and local governments. Budget crises that are the result of decreasing revenues at every level have left state legislatures, governors and local government leadership struggling to maintain effective services for their citizens and, in some cases, barely keep the doors of government open. Furloughs, elimination of programs and even IOU’s have been an all too common theme during this difficult period. News articles have stated that being a state governor or legislator is one of the most difficult jobs in public service. It is a wonder anyone would want to run for office under these circumstances.
All of this bad news has led some to declare that the concept of state and local governments being what Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis referred to as the “laboratories of democracy” is slowly fading. The idea that our laws and policies are developed at the lowest levels and move up has been diminished as the Federal government has aggressively worked to stop our economic bleeding.
It is actually more important than ever for the laboratories of democracy to stay active as we work through this recovery. Sure it’s tough being a governor, legislator or local leader right now, but it is during tough times that real leadership comes forward. Governors and legislators are working collaboratively to develop policies and pass the corresponding legislation that will address revenue shortfalls and make service programs more effective. Focusing on fraud in government and on service programs with measurable outcomes are just two examples of areas where state and local governments are having success.
State and local leaders also need to know they are not on their own. They have partners in the private sector with technologies that can help them achieve their vision. They just need to look for vendors that bring the following things to the table:
- Technology that is functional as well as user-friendly or “flashy” – Find a vendor that brings the right balance of functionality and user friendliness. Over the last few years, the development of slick user interfaces has overshadowed what a technology can actually provide in terms of true business value. Functionality is as important, actually more important, than a flashy user interface.
- Not just technology alone but IP as well – In additional to highly functional technology a vendor should also bring in IP that is focused specifically on the problem being addressed. This IP can come in many forms such as individuals with domain expertise or specialization in advanced software techniques and their application to state and local government problems.
- Proven track record of working effectively with state and local government – A partner vendor should be able to demonstrate that they are passionate about helping address the issues and needs of state and local government. They should have a number of success stories or references, especially from the last two years that demonstrate their ability to provide tangible business value.
The importance of state and local governments to help us through to a full recovery cannot be understated. The leadership and vision at this level is key and critical to getting us through, and the private sector is definitely ready to help. So keep those laboratories open!