Report: Legal eagles can aid cross-government collaboration

One of the surest ways to create a foundation of trust for an intergovernmental project is to bring in the lawyers.

That is one of the findings reported by the National Association of State Chief Information Officers in a new study that examines how to develop cross-agency projects at the state and local level.

Collaboration across agencies "is an endeavor that requires a great deal of trust on all sides," right from the start of a project, the report states. Establishing trust is much easier when all parties involved in a project have a clear understanding of everyone’s roles, the researchers found.

A common solution is to draft a memorandum of understanding that outlines the governance model. Other legal means include legislation, if applicable; a project charter; or an executive order, according to the report.

Once a project is under way, it usually takes a great deal of communication to develop a self-sustaining culture of collaboration that mitigates future political or funding challenges, the researchers found.

Clearly, project leaders must open lines of communication with key stakeholders and participants. But the report also recommends keeping the public informed about projects as they develop and soliciting feedback via Web sites, discussion boards and other venues.

Funding brings its own challenges, especially in projects that involve both state and local agencies. Often, the state, having the deepest pockets, will be the primary financial stakeholder. But that is not always the case, researchers found.

Sometimes the state can serve as one of several partner organizations that contribute funds, though that does not necessarily diminish its role in other areas. "When states are financial partners in a collaborative effort but not necessarily the leading entity, they can help bring credibility and stability to the project," the report states.

In other cases, the state might not provide money at all but instead contribute by enacting legislation or offering tax incentives.

Regardless of their approach, the report concludes, state CIOs must learn to work across government boundaries. Otto Doll, CIO of South Dakota, said it was a necessary part of their jobs.

“State CIOs must often reach beyond traditional organizational boundaries in order to provide innovative services,” said Doll, who led the group that produced the report.

Featured

  • Cybersecurity

    DHS floats 'collective defense' model for cybersecurity

    Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen wants her department to have a more direct role in defending the private sector and critical infrastructure entities from cyberthreats.

  • Defense
    Defense Secretary James Mattis testifies at an April 12 hearing of the House Armed Services Committee.

    Mattis: Cloud deal not tailored for Amazon

    On Capitol Hill, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis sought to quell "rumors" that the Pentagon's planned single-award cloud acquisition was designed with Amazon Web Services in mind.

  • Census
    shutterstock image

    2020 Census to include citizenship question

    The Department of Commerce is breaking with recent practice and restoring a question about respondent citizenship last used in 1950, despite being urged not to by former Census directors and outside experts.

Stay Connected

FCW Update

Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.