7 tips to optimize your local government IT team

Government agencies are being tasked with modernization at a more rapid pace than we’ve seen in the past. Ready or not, these intense goals are pushing government IT teams to deliver upgraded digital experiences, quickly.

It’s important that government tech teams carefully assess their workload capacity and project management to make sure they’re aligned with the goals of their agency and protect staff from burnout.

Optimize the impact of your IT team

It’s not unusual for government agencies to be understaffed these days (so if that’s you, you’re not alone). But lean teams can find aggressive goals more challenging. Few government transformation efforts, in fact, are completed on time — only 22% delivered their objectives fully and on time, according to a recent study completed by McKinsey.

If you’re hoping to deliver on your tech goals more efficiently, here are some helpful best practices you can put into place:

1. Strive for transparent, empathetic leadership

Most government agencies focus on maintaining transparency (and building trust) with their residents, but that’s just as crucial internally. Access to performance data and project challenges empowers your team so they can improve performance and work to mitigate hurdles proactively.

Helping the team fully understand project dynamics is only part of the puzzle for IT leaders.   Empathy goes a long way when managing people — especially when you’re dealing with big, complicated tech overhauls. Digital transformation is challenging, even for the best teams. Leaders: Try to approach your team with kindness and understanding. Listen to your team’s challenges and offer suggestions and guidance.

2. Make sure every team member understands their priorities

While your team has one transformation goal, each individual member will have different roles and priorities. It’s imperative to communicate those expectations early and regularly — and update them as the project progresses.

To have the best chance of completing your goals thoroughly and on time, every person on your team needs to know their individual milestones, their teammates’ objectives, and how their work helps reach your agency’s goals.

3. Explain the “why” behind initiatives

Often, agency champions and the contract signers are disconnected from the IT team that implements projects. But it’s incredibly important that your IT team understands the “why” behind any new project.

If they don’t understand the reason for work-related changes (like disrupted, shifted, or new plans), they won’t be as efficient as they could be. Leadership should level with their team, offer their perspective, and explain the motivations for the changes.

4. Communicate often — and with purpose

Open communication isn’t just daily stand-ups and regular one-on-ones, although both can be useful. Along with meetings, use digital tools wisely. You might want to encourage your team to chat on Slack or help your team use JIRA (we know, nobody’s favorite) more effectively. It’s also helpful to:

Make sure meetings provide value

  • Have an agenda
  • Invite only as many people as necessary
  • Send a follow-up after the meeting to summarize the next steps

Listen and guide during check-ins

  • One-on-one meetings should be a safe space
  • Ask your team what’s going well and what isn’t
  • Be prepared to offer support

Especially with remote and hybrid workers, over-communication is better than not communicating enough.

5. Set clear expectations (and provide a roadmap)

Building on priorities and purposeful communication, your IT team should be well aware of what’s expected of them individually and as a part of the larger team. Additionally, ensure expectations are documented — with a timeline if it makes sense. Each team member should know what they need to deliver and when. During stand-up meetings, briefly discuss progress and roadblocks.

6. Carefully monitor and manage risks

Delays, budget constraints, and bottlenecks are going to happen, so your team should have a contingency plan. Plan (as much as possible) for hiccups such as disconnected tools, leadership changing direction, or a sick teammate.

7. Give team members autonomy and encourage work-life balance

Finally: Breathe. You hired folks based on their expertise. Give them the autonomy to do their jobs. Micromanaging can cause a lot of stress — not to mention, regular interruptions disrupt focus, decreasing productivity and work quality. And on the other hand, ample rest and time off to help with family or relax reduces burnout and increases creativity.

Streamline to scale

It tends to be organizational (not technical) problems that prove to be disruptive, delaying transformation projects. Once you’ve tackled underlying issues such as unclear communication, you’ll have an easier time scaling up your team and developing and testing code — making high-velocity modernization goals attainable for your government agency.

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