Old thoughts hinder agencies, Accenture CEO says

Governments around the world and at all levels, from municipal to national, are trying to become more efficient, but old ways of thinking hold them back, said Steven Rohleder, chief executive of Accenture's Government Group.

Speaking in a keynote address at the FOSE trade show in Washington, D.C., this morning, Rohleder laid out the characteristics of high-performing governments and discussed the obstacles governments face.

"There's no competition in government, and this fact alone has an impact on high performance," said Rohleder, whose company is one of the largest enterprise information technology consultants and integrators. "What incentive is there to try to do better?"

The incentive comes in the form of mandates and accountability, such as the President's Management Agenda. "Governments are under constant pressure to improve the quality and cost effectiveness of their service delivery," he said.

He compared what Accenture officials call "high-performance government" to a cross between a Ferrari and a Toyota Prius -- powerful, but also economical.

"High-performance governments have the citizens behind the wheel," he said.

Rohleder associated other traits with high-performance agencies, including:

* Making improvements before they become imperative. He pointed to New York City's implementation of a special number, 311. Using this number, citizens can contact any part of the city's government. During citywide power failures in 2003, that number got about 150,000 calls, or about 7,500 per hour, he said. That took pressure off of the city's 911 emergency operators while getting citizens answers they needed.

* Focusing on the end result, not the means used to get there. "This is a new conceit for many governments," he said. Officials used to measuring the effectiveness of law enforcement, for example, tend to focus on factors like the number of arrests, or the number of police officers on the street -- the means, rather than the end goal of reduced crime and greater safety.

* Holding themselves accountable. The U.S. Postal Service, for example, has borrowed a technique that bulk mailers use to track the speed of mail delivery to run their own internal tests and locate points within the system where mail processing slows down.

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