Working with Users to Design Long-Term Solutions that Scale

A large challenge in IT is how to architect the best solution for employees. How do you select the right technology that meets all the business requirements? And furthermore, how do you scale these solutions as the organization grows?

We sat down with Brandon Williams, Director of Google Operations for the State of Colorado, to learn more about how he rethinks business processes to design long-term IT solutions in government.

To hear about his experience and thought process, watch the video above.

Finding the Best Solution Isn’t All About the Technology

“One of the easiest things to do in government is to take a bad practice and make it a cloud-based bad practice. Often, solutions are created that meet every single business requirement. But they end up being bloated and complex,” said Williams.

“One of the nasty little truths about our team and the work that we do is: It deals less with technology and more with understanding [what] the challenges are for the departments and really rethinking business processes.”

A Real-Life Use Case: “They’ve Always Been Told No”

Denise Stepto, Director of Communications and Media Relations for the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, recounted a story where a data breach impacted their demography office. It shut down the server that they were working on, rendering them stuck.

“They work with the National Census Bureau and they’re looking at trends across the United States. It’s a very big deal,” she said.

She said she called Williams and said, “Hey Brandon, listen, I’m kind of stuck with something.’ So he walks in. Half the room is going, “We can’t do that. We’re going to have to fill out process paperwork.”

At the end of the meeting, Brandon says, “You know what, actually, we have a fix. And while we’ve been sitting here, we’ve been able to get the permission. We’ve got this solution and we can get you going on that probably by tomorrow afternoon. We’ll upload this into the cloud.”  

“I didn’t understand what that meant,” said Stepto. “I said, ‘Oh my God, I don’t know if that’s a good idea!’”

“But then he explained: They put the information out onto the cloud, gave them access to a server,” says Stepto.

Sure enough, the solution worked beautifully.

“[They] set them up and within 24-48 hours, they were back in business,” said Stepto. “They’re sorting data now that they have never been able to sortever. Because they’ve always been told no.”

Williams elaborated on the solution his team implemented and what it entailed: “We helped the demography office get set up on Google Cloud Platformspecifically they are using Compute Engine for a Production Server (always on) and a Development Server (on only when needed to test). There are also some Google Storage (via APIs) for some automated data pipelines.”

Crafting Big-Picture, Long-Term Solutions

“One of the other components about the way Brandon thinks and the way he leads the projects is that he asks me, ‘What’s your strategy on this?’” said Stepto. She says he anticipates what her business and technological needs will be in a year, and subsequently crafts solutions that will help both in the short- and long-term. 

“He’s trying to figure out [not only how] to fix this slice, but where am I going to need to be down the road. That’s a huge value because I don’t always know where I need to be down the road,” said Stepto.

“That’s really what we’re driving at changing. It’s about transforming the business [and] forcing people to look at their business process flows in a different way,” said Williams. “[It’s about] using the leverage and opportunities of the new technology, to be able to change those practices to make them more efficient, cloud-based, and more secure. To deliver services, both to our partners as well as constituents.”

To learn about other innovators in our Modern Workplace Innovators series, click here

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