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In Back Office Transformation, the Small Things Deliver Big Results for Public Sector

November 2, 2017

When financial managers set out to modernize their back-office IT systems, their first inclination is often to go for the big, transformative change that will remake their entire operation in a single shot.

But just as financial management depends on consistently getting the most minute details right, a back-office transformation is usually about the small things.

There’s certainly a lot of big-picture change going on, with cloud-based architecture replacing legacy systems that may have been in place since the turn of the century. But in public sector organizations, that change is only worth the investment if it supports every government’s most basic objective: to deliver better service to citizens.

Transformation Then and Now

The last round of IT transformation took place around the turn of the century when a wave of early ERP systems had to be upgraded to address the Y2K challenge. Vendors brought in an array of new options and functionality, always with the promise that different, disparate systems would work well together.

It was a great idea. But it wasn’t the way things turned out. Before long, cities and counties lost their appetite for grand, sweeping promises, and began developing their workarounds to deliver the last-mile functionality they needed.

Fast forward to today, and those offline processes, spreadsheets, and data are hamstringing public sector organizations, creating extra work and making it impossible to establish a single source of financial truth. There’s no shortage of data. But the financial management and control systems that are the central nervous system of every government organization are so spread out that they create extra work, reduce visibility, and can inhibit the timely, transparent reporting that stakeholders and elected officials are entitled to expect.

Bringing It All Together

Many cities and state governments are shifting all their financial management to the cloud. Others are opting for hybrid systems that combine cloud-based and on-premise functionality. Either way, the ultimate test of the transformation process is the practical result it delivers.

A city might want to give citizens a more streamlined, consumer-centric experience when they pay their water or sanitation bills. A state might decide to give school districts more buying power by combining and simplifying their procurement. The common denominator is a change in back-office infrastructure that may seem unexciting but enables a more cost-effective, transparent system overall.

Compared to the spread-out legacy systems that too many government agencies have been putting up with for so long, the simple, day-to-day consistency of a transformed financial operation is one of its greatest benefits. Finally, the whole organization is consolidated in a single chart of accounts. Processes are consistent across the enterprise. Managers can get the data they need to track revenue and expenditures against financial plans.

And if a finance or appropriations committee is looking for a specific, crucial piece of information, it’s readily available—on the spot, or in time to report back quickly and efficiently.

If you work for a city or state government that is still being held back by legacy IT systems, the promise of digital transformation may seem unattainable. But by making the right series of decisions, one small change at a time, you can build a modern back-office that gives you the functionality you need and delivers the level of service your citizens and stakeholders expect.

Learn more. Visit the Infor Public Sector website and follow our thought leaders on the Intelligent Government Blog. Designed for Progress. We’re helping propel 21st-century government.

Dr. Kurt Steward, Vice President, Public Sector, Infor
  • Federal Government
  • State and Local Government
  • North America
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