Jan 20, 2023
A report given to Windsor City Council this week which said “financial constraint” and “limited corporate leadership” has stifled innovation of the city’s information technology systems is yet another example of how large organizations leave “IT departments starved of resources,” according to a local software consultant.
The report was presented to council Monday by StrategyCorp Inc. The group did so after the city received provincial funding of $127,000 to help pay for “an independent third-party reviewer” that would look into the city’s digital modernization strategy.
Following a five-month analysis period between August and December 2022, the report said “digital systems and IT functions have faced fiscal constraints, resulting in outdated enterprise systems and a minimized role of IT as a change leader in the organization.”
The report lists a number of issues with the city’s lack of investment in its information systems technology, such as:
- Staff using their personal devices for work purposes due to existing city systems being “antiquated” (which comes with “cybersecurity” concerns)
- Information being duplicated between departments
- Individual departments modernizing at their own pace (causing inconsistencies across the organization)
- Many HR forms and city-wide processes being inefficient as they are “highly manual” and “paper-based”
For Doug Sartori, principal consultant at software company Parallel 42 and political commentator for Rose City Politics, these issues end up costing residents more in the long run to fix.
“According to the report, the city has trouble making payments…and there are a lot of manual processes involved in making payments. If you had been investing all the way along and maintaining your infrastructure, you wouldn’t have that problem,” he said.
He added, “All that time spent doing manual work in order to process payments is time that could be spent on other business — something that perhaps brings a little bit more to residents.”
IT systems falling by the wayside in large organizations is not an uncommon practice, according to Sartori. He said, particularly in leadership positions, there tends to be a “lack of deep understanding” which results in technical systems being left neglected.
“It’s really important to understand that technology infrastructure of the City of Windsor is public infrastructure. It’s no different than our sewers and our roads,” Sartori said. “It may be a little bit less visible to a typical Windsor resident but that infrastructure is what we rely on for the city to deliver the services that residents count on every single day.
He added, “The picture [the report] paints is a pretty classic picture of how IT dysfunction happens in large organizations. There are a few components that you tend to see again and again — IT departments starved of resources, which it sounds like is what happened to Windsor’s through the ‘hold the line’ era, as well as a lack of commitment from leadership in all things digital.”
To help modernize the City of Windsor’s digital infrastructure and improve “overall digital efficiency and accessibility,” StrategyCorp Inc. has made 31 recommendations which include:
- Expanding the use of digital payment systems
- Acquiring a new transit fare system that allows people to make payments electronically
- Exploring the digitization of information between 3-1-1 and city service departments
- Refreshing the city’s “public-facing” website to be more modern and user-friendly
- Developing a “clear standard operating procedure” for digital interactions with residents
CTV News Windsor requested an interview with Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens but was told by his chief of staff Friday he was tied up with other commitments and would issue a statement instead.
“It is important to remember that fiscal constraints at city hall in over the past decade was precipitated by the worst recession since the great depression that saw our largest employer seek bankruptcy protection and regional unemployment surpass 15 per cent” the mayor’s statement reads.
“It would have been unfair to local residents to ask them for major tax increases when our community was struggling through that economic downturn.”
Dilkens, who has long campaigned on promises to keep tax increases as close to zero as possible, goes on to say city council’s budgets have included tax increases above, at or below the rate of inflation “over the past several years.”
“This represented a departure from a series of zero-increase budgets and a recognition that, in the longer term, modest increases in property taxes will be required to ensure appropriate levels of investment in our city,” the mayor said. “There will always be more work to do, as the report regarding IT infrastructure articulated. Now that our community has a solid foundation of opportunity and prosperity associated with the new EV battery plant construction, we can turn our attention to modernizing internal operating systems that will further enhance customer service and public service delivery.”
Ahead of budget deliberations in April, administration for the City of Windsor is calling for a 2023 property tax increase of 5.23 per cent.
In a previous conversation with AM800 News, Dilkens said the number is well below the rate of inflation — but is also the largest tax hike he’s seen in the 16 years he’s been on council.
StrategyCorp’s full report on Windsor’s digital modernization strategy can be viewed on page 62 of city council’s Jan. 16 meeting agenda.
This article first appeared on CTV Windsor