Management

Are feds missing the boat on modernization?

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When feds get new IT gear, they use it to solve old problems in old ways, according to a recent survey.

Only 3 percent of respondents to the Federal Leaders Digital Insight Survey said they were completely reimagining business processes with new technology, while 46 percent said they were using digital technology mainly to automate old paper-based processes.

According to the experts, if feds want to maximize technology's utility, they need to rethink the basics.

"You don't get the enormous bang for your buck if you don't break the processes you've got and just do something completely different," said Jeff Neal, ICF vice president and former chief human capital officer at the Department of Homeland Security, in a Feb. 4 discussion of the results.

The survey of 10,000 feds by the National Academy of Public Administration and ICF found that government employees are doing more with new technology. Almost three-fourths of respondents said their agency's productivity had been boosted by technology, and 87 percent said they wanted more access to new technology. However, only 6 percent said they were using technology to enhance the customer experience.Lisa Schlosser, deputy administrator of e-government and IT at the Office of Management and Budget, called for feds to embrace "not an automation mentality, [but] a digital mentality" and revolutionize their thinking.

She praised the Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act as a primary driver of transformational conversations.

The worry identified by most survey respondents (62 percent) was a lack of funding.

"'A lot of new money' is not a phrase we hear much in government, except in, 'You're not going to get a lot of new money,'" Neal said.

But constrained budgets don't have to curtail transformations.

"I think I've been most innovative when I didn't have any money," said Bev Godwin, a senior adviser at the State Department.

She urged agencies to create their own budget opportunities by realizing the money-saving potential of a digital shift and pointed to the 85 free digital tools on the General Services Administration's Terms of Service list as a great place to start.

About the Author

Zach Noble is a former FCW staff writer.

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