Younger workforce can motivate agency leaders to embrace new technologies

Understanding how innovative IT can reduce costs is best selling point

The latest in technology is creeping into federal agencies, and a younger workforce will be holding the door open for it.

Some federal agency leaders are in denial about the usefulness and longevity of technology that connects their organizations to the public. Moreover, they are reluctant to release their data because they feel like they're losing control, said Ronnie Levine, chief information officer at the Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management. “They aren’t ready to let loose,” Levine said today at the FOSE 2010 conference, an 1105 Government Information Group event. And “if we compromise anything, our reputation is at stake.”

Some senior agency leaders are intent on simply meeting their heavy load of compliance demands, such as Federal Information Security Management Act regulations, Levine said. Many are steeped in a culture of command-and-control operations.

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Meanwhile, the government is changing, especially as it begins to gather insight from its own employees. And this is the younger workforce’s opportunity, according to Levine. They can help the government’s leadership evolve.

Levin recommended figuring out whether the agency leadership already embraces innovative technologies, is starting to toy with them, or simply denies they are worthwhile because they are only fads. Without understanding senior leaders' thinking about innovative technology, “it becomes extremely frustrating, and you’ll be swimming upstream,” she said.

Next, show how the technology can help the agency become more efficient or how it can save money, which is the best selling point. Levine said she has “found that adoption depends on the return [on investment].”

Levin said technological innovations, such as social media, a greater presence on the Internet and the drive to open to the public the government’s gates to its information, is here stay.

“The public is demanding that we do things a different way,” Levin said. And the Obama administration is driving agencies to that same end.

However, doing all of that work may not yield too much if a young employee stays in that organization for only a short time, she said.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.


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