Sep 26 2007

Uncommon Collaboration

Uncommon Collaboration

Uncommon Collaboration

Collaboration — particularly in large organizations — is sometimes a hard sell. Loss of control over the project is often the first concern posed, followed by issues over who is in charge, what organization picks up what costs, which team members should participate, and whatnot. However, when done right, the results are often worth sorting out the initial challenges.

By pooling resources, some state and local governments are finding that they’re accomplishing their information technology goals with less expense and more quickly than in the past. Such is the case for Nlets, an international justice and public safety information sharing network launched more than 40 years ago to allow various law enforcement agencies to share data over a secure network. In “Cooperating Through a Consortium” on Page 18, StateTech outlines some best practices for getting the most out of shared resources, such as starting off with a well-defined goal, getting a firm commitment of resources — time, personnel and budget — and most important, appointing a project champion to ensure that the project stays on track.

For more evidence of organizations working together, turn to “Pointing the Way” on Page 27. There, you’ll learn how the war on drugs is being aided in part by a messaging hub called the National Virtual Pointer System (NVPS). Separate information-sharing networks have built XML interfaces to plug into NVPS, which allows law enforcement to exchange leads on investigations and avoid case conflicts. With this system in place, law enforcement can truly collaborate and share information about cases and suspected criminal activity.

Telecom Transformation

And when it came time to replace an antiquated telecom infrastructure, Michigan’s Department of Human Services took a collaborative approach to deploying a state-of-the-art Voice over IP (VoIP) network. The short-term goal was to standardize voice systems and reduce costs, while over the long haul, the agency hopes to add videophones and to better support an increasingly mobile and location-independent workforce.

In StateTech’s cover story, “From Crisis to Convergence,” we delve into the importance of collaborating with end users to ensure a successful rollout of the new IP-based phone system. Michigan’s new network will provide a foundation for converged applications, but while most of that gets handled on the back end, the project team understood that end-user support would make or break the project. After creating a short list of three functionally equivalent VoIP options, the IT team turned to end users to select the system that was easiest for them to use. During deployment, IT maintained a feedback loop and slowed their rollout from five months to nine months to give end users time to get comfortable with the new approach to voice communication. The project was successful in part because users were involved at every stage to share input on their needs for the converged system. For more, turn to Page 41.

Sure, collaboration and its best friend — communication — might slow the process, but they also help pool resources, knowledge and feedback, and often ensure that a greater number of participants are vested in a project’s success.

Lee Copeland, Editor in Chief