How agencies can take a page out of industry's open playbooks

To truly innovate, government must holistically consider a combination of people, processes and technology.

Shutterstock image (by Your Design): Human head creating a new idea.

When Department of Defense CIO Terry Halvorsen spoke at a late-2016 AFCEA NOVA event, he honed in on a single word: “faster.”

“How do we move faster?” he asked. “How do we partner faster? How do we collaborate faster?”

The answer lies not only in the technology that agencies procure, but in the processes and people they use to manage said technology. That includes the establishment of more open cultures and DevOps practices combined with broader use of open source software.

The enterprise influence

This shift toward “open” has been gradually taking place over the past few years and, for some organizations, can represent a marked departure from the normal ways of doing business. It’s no longer enough for governments to focus solely on technology, supplying grants and venture capital to commercial firms in the hopes that they will develop products that address agency needs. While initiatives such as DIUx and similar State Department and Department of Homeland Security programs are admirable first steps, it’s also important to factor in the people, process, and cultural innovations that are coming out of the startups that these agencies are using -- and the agencies themselves.

In addition to influencing companies to make products that solve agency challenges, government agencies should be influenced by the way these companies produce those products. They should take a page out of their corporate cousins’ open playbooks and adjust their IT structures to incorporate the following three components:

1. An open organizational culture

As my company’s CEO once wrote, “whether your business is to provide wholesome food or to write software that runs nuclear submarines, if you can create a compelling reason for people to participate, they will.”

Participation is spurred by engagement -- everyone on the team being willingly involved in the process of creation. That engagement is driven by everyone having a voice in the development cycle. If every employee believes that their work and ideas will be used to drive the agency forward, they’ll be more inclined to innovate and inspire each other across the organization. That openness and passion, also illustrated in the Open Decision Framework, is at the heart of digital transformation.

2. A DevOps-based operation

Ask someone which version of Facebook or Gmail they’re running you're likely to get puzzled silence as a response. There’s a good reason for that; it’s very likely they’re using the latest, most stable version. That’s a direct result of Facebook’s and Google’s development teams operating in a DevOps fashion, which enables them to develop and deploy applications faster and more reliably, at less cost.

DevOps is a component of an open culture because it closely ties together development and operations teams. They collaborate with each other on application development and use automation to deliver software and facilitate changes, which speeds up the process. By working together, each team has a better understanding of one another’s needs. This close relationship enables agencies to innovate and develop more quickly while pressure-testing applications on production deployments, enabling them to be more resilient and antifragile.

3. An infrastructure built on open source

Still, technology -- specifically open source software -- often plays a critical role. In fact, it should be an underlying linchpin that supports the people and processes an agency has in place.

For years, agencies have looked to open source software as a foundational element of application development, as it has many benefits. Open source can be easy to procure and integrate. As such, it helps agencies to fail faster in order to succeed sooner, which can lower the cost of failure. It can also minimize the need for Competitive Research and Development Agreements, which can be costly to set up and maintain. And open source fosters the concept that the best ideas win in the open.

Indeed, some of the best ideas are coming out of the open source community, which is comprised of companies large and small. Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, Google and others have joined with smaller organizations and individual developers to keep pushing open source forward. Many of the businesses that government agencies have targeted for technology solutions are preeminent contributors to open source software and open hardware and datacenter designs.

A holistic focus

Today, the federal government is relatively small compared to the global consumer marketplace. Consider that Apple could make an iPhone specific to government and sell tens or hundreds of thousands of units. But why would the company do that when it can sell 1 billion of the devices in the general marketplace? Plus, moving technology to private networks for classified use might not be feasible, as the non-recurring engineering costs for industry can simply be too hard to justify.

Therefore, government agencies are well advised to look beyond just technology if they are to achieve true digital transformation. They must holistically consider a combination of people, processes, and technology. That’s a winning trifecta that will help agencies move faster and more efficiently.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.