Informatics Roles and Responsibilities in Public Sector Organizations
The roles and responsibilities of each of these groups are briefly described below.
The first article in Â this series of papers on best practices in informatics in the public sector, Â published in the previous issue of Optimum Online, dealt with the informatics Â planning model. In this issue’s paper, we deal with the problems created Â by the lack of a clear definition of informatics roles and responsibilities Â in the organizational structure, and we describe the key roles and responsibilities Â that must be put in place to effectively support informatics in the public Â sector. The model Â informatics organizational structure is graphically illustrated in Diagram 1. In Â this organizational structure all informatics support functions are divided into Â four sets of responsibilities: help desk, application support, office system Â support, and server support. Each of these support functions is staffed with a Â manager and employees. All four informatics support managers report to an Â engagement manager who in turn reports to the highest management level in the Â branch. Detailed descriptions of these informatics support functions are Â outlined later in this article.
Diagram 1 – Model Public Â Sector Informatics Structure
A number of informatics roles and Â responsibilities must be carried out to effectively support the objectives and Â personal productivity activities of a typical public sector branch. The key Â committee and participants in the model informatics organization, along with Â their roles and responsibilities, are described below.
Informatics Advisory Committee (IAC)
The IAC includes appropriate Â representation from all stake holders and ensures that branch informatics Â requirements and concerns are well represented. The primary purposes of this Â committee include:
- making recommendations Â on strategic issues and situations where there are competing priorities Â for informatics resources;
- reviewing, revising Â and recommending approval of the long range informatics plan to management;
- reviewing, revising Â and recommending approval of the annual informatics budgets to management;
- reviewing the progress Â of approved informatics services and projects based upon a quarterly status Â reports and providing recommendations to management where corrective action Â is required; and
- ensuring management Â and clients are kept well informed of any informatics activities and decisions Â rendered by the IAC.
Informatics Â Engagement Manager (EM)
The EM has the following responsibilities:
- providing informatics Â advice and support to senior management;
- developing and Â maintaining the long term and operational informatics plans/strategies;
- developing and Â maintaining a performance measurement function for all informatics support Â functions;
- maintaining, monitoring Â and reporting on informatics budget and recommending adjustments;
- developing Â career/training plans for all informatics staff;
- negotiating and Â implementing service level agreements and project agreements with clients;
- ensuring informatics Â roles/responsibilities and reporting relationships are clear and understood;
- ensuring all projects are Â consistent with relevant organizational informatics Â policies/standards/architectures and sound project management practices; and
- managing the informatics Â organization within a public sector branch, which includes, as a minimum:
- Server Support Â Specialist,
- Office System Â Specialist (OSS),
- Line of Business Â Specialists (LBS) for Production Applications, and
- Help Desk (HD).
Server Support Specialists (SSS)
The SSS has the following responsibilities:
- managing the technology life cycle: solution Â design; identification/evaluation of technologies; acquisition, delivery, Â installation, configuration / setup; and tools upgrades/repairs;
- maintaining an inventory of all hardware, Â software and peripherals;
- providing technology support through servicing Â and/or using maintenance service contracts to deal with problems concerning Â servers, operating systems, workstations, or peripherals;
- providing a preventative maintenance program Â for hardware/software using automated and manual tools / procedures; Â and
- providing Internet/Intranet support through Â the provision of technical support for Web sites and ensures conformance Â to corporate standards on development tools, presentation format, copyrights Â and security.
Office System Specialists (OSS)
The OSS has the following responsibilities:
- acquiring suite-oriented software products Â such as word processing, spreadsheets and graphics;
- fixing all suite office system software Â problems;
- providing remote support;
- maintaining a multilevel disposal program Â for informatics holdings; and
- maintaining license agreements for suite Â desktop software.
Line of Business Specialists (LBS) for Production Â Applications
The LBS has the following responsibilities:
- participating in the development/maintenance Â of legacy applications;
- providing database support through developing, Â maintaining, and enhancing databases for production applications;
- providing archival/backup/restore for Â production applications data;
- providing support for commercial-off-the-shelf Â software including managing maintenance contracts, managing out sourcing, Â configuration management, change management and maintaining standards;
- Providing informatics security for PCs, Â workstations, networks, and operating systems; and
- maintaining a risk management process, Â including emergency preparedness plans/procedures.
Help Desk (HD)
The HD desk is a distinct organization-wide Â function reporting directly to the engagement manager and is the single Â point of contact (SPOC) for clients reporting a problem or requesting Â information. The HD receives all calls from clients requesting assistance Â and resolves their problems, where possible. Where problems cannot be Â easily corrected, the HD collects information regarding the problem (problem Â categories may include server related problems, OA related problems or Â line of business related problems); determines level of severity; and Â records it in an automated tracking system. The client request is then Â escalated to proper level of support. The HD notifies clients when problems Â are resolved, reassigned, escalated, or simply provides regular status Â updates on scheduled maintenance or shutdowns.
All of the informatics support Â roles and responsibilities inherent in this informatics structure can Â be carried out wholly within the branch, by the departmental informatics Â organization, or it can be completely outsourced. Each option will be Â briefly discussed:
Complete Branch Support Option: This option provides customized, integrated and complete support for Â production applications, office system tools, and servers, as well as Â a Help Desk, by branch staff who are highly familiar with the unique Â business environment and its requirements. It is the preferred informatics Â support option for those providing direct, front-line service to the Â Canadian public.
Complete Departmental Informatics Support Â Option:This option provides complete informatics support for production Â applications, office system tools, and servers, as well as a Help Desk, Â by a centralized departmental informatics organization. In order to Â be most effective, staff should be relatively stable with effective Â transitioning for new support staff, especially related to production Â applications. This informatics support option is most suitable where Â informatics support requirements are less stringent and time sensitive. Â It is a popular and effective support option for public sector branches Â providing services to internal departmental clients.
Out sourcing Option: This Â option provides informatics support as contracted to an external private Â sector service provider. All informatics support services and projects are Â documented in a contract specifying roles/responsibilities, duration, service Â standards, performance measures, hours of support, problem management process, Â severity levels, escalation procedures, costs etc. This is an expensive and Â often difficult to manage option. It should only be used if the Â other options prove unworkable.
In any of these Â implementation options, all the informatics support roles and responsibilities Â must be effectively planned, implemented and monitored under the control of Â the engagement manager reporting to the highest level in the branch. As well, Â cooperation and support from the departmental informatics organization is Â required to ensure conformance to corporate policies, standards and Â architectures. All support requirements for programs and services should be Â described in a service level and/or project agreement(s) or a contract. The Â service level and/or project agreement(s) must be assessed according to Â service standards and project performance measures.
In order to ensure that Â support services are provided effectively, organizations considering Â implementing this informatics structure need to pilot it. Piloting will allow Â development of many of the support processes, provide evidence of the Â effectiveness of support and allow the support functions to be tailored to the Â unique requirements of the organization at the branch level. At the completion Â of the pilot phase, a formal evaluation is conducted. A positive evaluation of Â the pilot will result in a decision to extend the informatics structure across Â the branch.
The effective use of such an Â informatics organizational structure provides the following benefits:
- It permits Â the establishment of lines of authority that enable management to Â exercise a necessary degree of control over the informatics organization. Â Specifically, it eliminates duplication of effort in developing applications Â or other informatics solutions that are needed across the branch by Â all core business lines. The cost savings realized by combining or Â eliminating overlapping informatics projects can be applied to other Â pressing organizational needs.
- It facilitates Â the coordination and synergy among informatics activities in the branch Â in order to develop and implement cross-functional informatics solutions.
- It facilitates Â improved communication across lines of authority, thereby reducing Â the risk of conflicts and inefficiencies.
- It improves Â the ability to plan and organize informatics work.
- It improves Â motivation and morale among informatics staff by providing them with Â an active and important voice in decisions that have a direct impact Â on their ability to successfully complete their assigned tasks and Â giving them the freedom to shape their career growth horizons.
- It facilitates Â the development of a highly innovative organizational culture, which Â values and effectively supports organization informatics strategies, Â plans and activities.