Government needs digital transformation to reverse sliding satisfaction

Agencies must embrace a digital, cloud-based transformation to reverse declining public satisfaction with government service, save money and build for the future, according to a new report.

Shutterstock image: government access keyboard.

Federal agencies are in need of digital transformation in order to reverse declining service satisfaction rates, save money and build for the future, according to a new report from big data and analytics firm Govini.

Such a transformation "does not necessarily mean replacing existing assets with digital ones," the report states. Instead, "agency operations need to be oriented around digital principles that align traditional assets with new methods of delivering public service that increase customer satisfaction."

The first steps to ushering in a digital transformation are embracing cloud technology and rethinking its capabilities, and the report’s authors suggest that agencies look to the private sector as a model.

Cloud momentum has been building for years, but "a lot of folks in government are seeing cloud as a way to have cheaper data centers," Govini Director of Analytics Matt Hummer told FCW. "That mindset needs to change.... What we're advocating for, and what the private sector is bearing out, is cloud is making it easier to deliver" custom applications and services to the public.

The Govini report also calls for the expansion of mobile technology, which Hummer believes is "a hugely untapped market."

Right now agencies view "the value of a mobile device [as] limited to mobile texts and email," he said. "They haven't tapped into ways to untap the capabilities of smartphones."

Custom mobile apps that allow greater engagement with the American public will lead to better service and more accurate data, Hummer said. Giving people greater input and "data-driven decision-making can not only help internal processes, but give the American public a better understanding" of how agencies deliver services.

However, there are obstacles to an immediate digital transformation, such as the legacy systems on which much of the government relies and the funding needed to replace them.

"People who work for the agencies are...constrained by the tech and operating models from achieving their missions," Hummer said. "And whenever you upgrade or transition systems, you need to run two parallel systems, and that's going to be pretty expensive."

He noted that the proposed IT Modernization Fund "could potentially support a lot of this transformation."

The report also recognizes that the expanded digital presence that comes with an ever-growing number of devices increases the need for security solutions.

Risks will always exist, but the government can turn to effective practices that have been proven in the private sector, Hummer said, adding, "I think the American public is completely ready and willing to take that risk because of the upside" of a more digital government.

Hummer said the Obama administration has generally been good about embracing technology -- for instance, by making it easier to buy technology through the Value-Added Resellers channel and by focusing on new applications and virtualized software.

Hummer said the next administration should build on and speed up progress in those areas.

"I would say aggressively adopt cloud and build out this digital operating model and make it the mindset," he said. "It's not just the CIO's job to do this. It's everyone in the agencies' job to integrate technology."

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