GOVERNMENT TECHNOLOGY/Planning technology one seat at a time
Most local governments have at least a rudimentary system for ensuring that employees have the equipment they need to do their jobs, but they can save time and money by establishing a formal system to manage equipment inventory. One such system, called seat management, involves distributing and tracking everything used at employees’ workstations — from office supplies and software to access cards for doors and passwords for computer security.
A good seat management program can help contain costs. For example, by keeping track of the computer hardware and software used at every employee workstation, the IT department can purchase software in bulk instead of in individual packages.
Seat management can help IT staff ensure that all software on the local government’s network is consistent, which allows employees to exchange files easily and efficiently. It also aids staff in discovering unauthorized software use.
By establishing formal seat management operations, local governments can better forecast and track their costs for activities related to hiring and relocating employees. Cities and counties can budget seat management expenses by calculating the cost per seat (which includes the cost for all equipment plus the staff time to install it) and multiplying that by the number of employees that are expected to join or move within the organization in a year.
Cities and counties can assign seat management tasks to in-house staff, or they can contract with vendors to conduct seat management operations for them. Local governments choosing to handle seat management internally must determine whether one department will supervise all of the seat management activities, whether each department will take care of its own needs or whether a combination of the two options will produce the best results.
To decide whether in-house staff or a third party should handle seat management tasks, local governments should consider their available staff, their available funds and the amount of effort they spend and can spend managing workstation needs. They also need to determine how many functions they want to include in their seat management operations. For example, some cities and counties might want to centralize phone distribution and purchases for computer hardware and software. Others might want to centralize tasks such as scheduling training sessions; setting up payroll information; ordering office supplies, faxes and copiers; and establishing wireless network access.
Denver has implemented “One Call/One Number,” a seat management program in which the IT department fields all requests for personnel workstation needs. Under that program, each department calls the IT department when it needs new computer hardware or software, a phone, a pager, a connection to network printers, Internet access, or e-mail and computer security software.
Receiving a request for equipment and/or service, the IT department assigns the work to the IT specialist in the department where the request was made. The call is centralized, but the change is handled by the cooperating department. Each department receives reports from the IT department showing time and money spent on each problem and change.
By centralizing requests for new computer equipment and assigning local technicians to complete the work, the city and county manage IT demands much more efficiently than they did when each department handled them separately. Eventually, Denver will expand its seat management operation to allow agencies to make one phone call to set up everything, including payroll and training, for a new or relocated employee.
The author is the former chief information officer for the city and county of Denver.