This blog was posted on Inside INdiana Business’s website here.

From the urban center of Indianapolis to the new mown hay in Henry County, Indiana is diverse in both geography and demographics. Developing a network of services and support that meets the needs of all citizens where they are at can feel a bit like putting the pieces of a complex puzzle together while blindfolded.

As with any puzzle, it is critical to look at the big picture first before breaking it out into a series of manageable tasks. Making state agencies and organizations more approachable means identifying those most in need, connecting them to services in the manner that works best for their lifestyle, and collaborating with those who can ultimately connect them as seamlessly as possible to those vital resources.

As public-sector leaders grapple with how to best serve residents of their state and build trust and engagement with their citizens, it’s critical to focus on collaboration and creating connections between different levels of government and community partners. Once key players in a project have been identified, then the team can focus on the information flow and mapping out a process that will help them go from as-is to needs-to-be in order to deliver services to the right people, by the right providers at the right time.

Once solid lines of communication have been established, the work begins of building the framework and putting enhanced processes into place. Not only will you be identifying and communicating internally who will be accountable for specific tasks, but ascertaining and creating benchmarks on how to update and streamline the way information is stored, accessed and eventually made available to the right stakeholders for analysis. When it comes to today’s project and program management, the heavy lifting often begins with moving manual processes to more automated processes through technology updates and connecting databases.

Once the streamlining takes place internally, nothing is more important to the success of a project than the rollout phase and external communications to ensure the citizens and service providers who will be utilizing the systems understand the new systems that have been put into place and the ways in which they can help provide better support.

Sometimes the bump in the road becomes the silver lining. As all of us have experienced the seismic shifts brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s important to acknowledge you may have to shift strategies mid-project and think outside the box to keep moving forward. When components or a project are at risk, keep the mission and end goal in mind and be ready to adapt. What works for one county or city might not work for others, but a solid framework will enable you to shift and transition accordingly to create a streamlined process.

As I’ve learned through my work, we have many committed and driven individuals throughout our state who care about their fellow citizens and are working to help find solutions and enhance our network of services to solve the puzzle of creating better access to government and social services one piece at a time.