Your requests aren't 'IT projects.' They are business projects that use technology.
By Ronda Tentarelli
Without technology, bills would still become laws, but it would take a very long time.
Everything about the legislative process—and making lawmakers’ activities transparent to constituents—depends on technology. The PCs, phones, software applications, networks, websites, email systems, printers, display boards and webcasts are available because information technology professionals have worked closely with vendors, state agencies, legislators and legislative staff to provide the tools everyone needs to accomplish their work.
Providing these tools requires many skills. Network administrators, application developers, business analysts, database administrators, testers, trainers, project managers, support staff, web designers, acquisition specialists and IT security staff may be supporting 100 servers, 100 applications, 600 mailboxes, 700 PCs and tablets and multiple networks at the same time. Some state legislatures accomplish all this with an IT staff as small as four, others with a staff numbering close to 100. Depending on the size of your state’s staff, IT professionals could be filling one or more of those roles. Here are three ways we put our skills to use.
1. We provide what the legislature needs.
Our goal is to provide you with the tools you need to do your job, while saving you time to focus on your priorities. Your requests aren’t “IT projects”—they are business projects that use technology to improve legislative operations and foster citizen involvement in government. Such projects proceed most effectively when you explain what you want to achieve and provide feedback along the way.
We’ll help you find solutions that realize your goals within the constraints of available technology, time and costs.
2. Together we are stewards of legislative data.
The legislature owns the data. Although the vast majority of legislative data is public, keeping it accurate is crucial. Every day, IT staffers perform many tasks to protect the integrity of the data. Safeguarding the network, software and data requires an effort from all of us. Awareness and good stewardship in the legislative community are essential.
3. Enterprise IT is different from consumer IT.
The legislature has rules and procedures; budgets for legislative IT hardware and software are limited; certain services must conform to legislative schedules; vendors’ support cycles require software patches and hardware upgrades; staff numbers are sometimes small; technology changes constantly—all these factors can make IT departments appear inflexible and reluctant to take on new work.
We always want to say yes; however, sometimes we have too much on our plates. Other times, legislative leadership must make policy decisions before IT staff can proceed. We strive to provide cost-effective solutions that are also sustainable.
IT plays an ever-greater role in the way you and your staff serve your constituents. The members of NALIT are happy to be your partners in providing that service.
Ronda Tentarelli is a senior projects coordinator at the Legislative Service Center of the Washington Legislature.
Sidebar: A Bill Becomes Law: Here’s how IT makes it work
1. Representative Otto B. Alaw reads email from Connie Stituent, who says, “There oughta be a law...
2. Otto and William Drafter search databases for relevant statutes and draft a bill.
3. William files approved draft in document management system.
4. In drafting shop, official version is formatted and sent through workflow software for proofing.
5. Sam Staffer in the clerk’s office processes bill for introduction. When he hits the “publish” button, it appears on the legislature’s public website.
6. House Speaker Holden D. Gavel opens the introduction calendar on his console. When the bill is read, he hits “referred.”
7. Bill moves via software on networks and servers to committees and floors of both chambers.
8. If passed, the bill then goes to Governor Ike N. Vito for his signature.
What Is NALIT?
The National Association of Legislative Information Technology is one of NCSL’s 12 national professional development organizations for legislative staff. NALIT members enjoy sharing innovative ideas and creative solutions with each other to help improve the effectiveness and efficiency of legislatures. Members have the opportunity to network with IT colleagues from around the country through training seminars, the Legislative Summit, webinars and a listserv. Participants at NALIT’s professional development seminar in Indianapolis, Sept. 12-15, will receive a briefing and tour of the Indiana State House and have the opportunity to attend a variety of sessions on security, management and support, cloud computing, agile programming, video streaming and more. For more information, go to www.ncsl.org/magazine or email NCSL’s liaison to NALIT at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What Staff Know
This is the second in a series dedicated to the little-known and sometimes misunderstood work performed by the more than 30,000 legislative staff employees in state capitals across the country.