The Federal Government has a responsibility to provide relevant, accurate, and up-to-date information to its citizens, especially during a crisis. Government agencies must also find ways to enhance the continuity of operations (COOP) during a crisis.
One event that requires such intervention is COVID-19. The pandemic has forced governments to employ digital technologies to control the disaster, solve the underlying socioeconomic consequences, and invent better disaster response policies.
According to the Modernizing Government Technology (MGT) Act, digital transformation is not a matter of choice for the government. Federal agencies need to launch digital transformation strategies and accelerate IT modernization.
However, many federal agencies are still in the early stages of their digital transformation journeys. Apart from the MGT Act, citizens’ demands for services and interactions via digital interfaces have inspired the government to invest further in technology.
We’ve seen first hand how Covid-19 has accelerated Digital Transformation for our partners in the federal government.
This post discusses the impact of Covid-19 on Federal Government digital transformation and provides tips on how agencies can hasten IT modernization efforts.
The public yearns for the latest information about COVID-19 due to the infectious nature of the disease, and they want communication from reliable sources. The government is the bonafide custodian of all information concerning the pandemic.
However, communication methods such as printed publications take time to reach communities, and copies could come contaminated. The best bet for governments to confront the pandemic and provide essential updates to citizens is digital channels.
Social distancing measures like lockdowns and curfews also have limited human movement, but citizens still need government services. Additionally, more and more citizens search for information online due to widespread internet connectivity and affordable devices. These conditions are compelling the government to provide public announcements and services electronically.
Data shows a significant increase in the use of national portals, social media, apps, and more in recent times. According to the United Nations, 86 percent of the organization’s member states had posted some information about COVID-19 on online platforms by April 8, 2020. That was twice the number of countries that had done so by March 25.
The need for social distancing due to COVID-19 has resulted in the government encouraging teleworking in its departments. In a letter addressed to federal departments and agencies, the United States Office of Personnel Management (OPM) urges department heads to review their emergency and COOP plans. The OPM notes that teleworking will not only enhance efficiency but also protect government workers’ health and safety.
Going forward, every agency must incorporate telework in its COOP plans to ensure employees can work remotely in times of crisis. To make this possible, the government instructs all its departments to prepare written telework agreements for eligible staff members. Further, agencies are to sign ad hoc agreements with any employees without telework contracts.
The directive also advises agency heads to ease the conditions for qualifying teleworkers to accommodate additional employees. If implemented, more categories of workers could become eligible for teleworking. According to OPM, activities that could fit in the teleworking environment include setting up conference calls, preparing and reading reports, and analyzing documents.
After determining who is telework eligible, respective agencies will need to train the employees thoroughly to ensure they are fit for working remotely. They will also have to supply the required IT systems and networks for teleworking should COVID-19 necessitate the closure of federal offices.
An example of the affected agencies is the Department of Defense (DoD). The government requires DoD leaders to test their networks and upgrade them to cope with increased traffic due to a surge in teleworkers.
The government will have to reassess its supply chain. We have already seen the DoD demanding its vendors to comply with the cybersecurity maturity model certification (CMMC). The government is likely to be stricter with information security when transacting with contractors.
If COVID-19 persists, expect the Department of Commerce to apply stiffer export and import restrictions on IT products and services. Experts predict that the federal government will give priority to US-based manufacturers when sourcing its supplies.
Digital transformation is an exhaustive reinvention of how an organization uses technology to boost its performance and deliver more value. It revolves around the use of more efficient computer technologies to improve processes for better outcomes.
Failure to update ICT infrastructure makes systems obsolete, vulnerable, and expensive to operate. A significant portion of the federal government’s IT budget goes to operations and maintaining the existing systems. Moreover, aging systems have interoperability issues with the latest IT, preventing the adoption of advanced and more cost-effective software.
A well-planned IT modernization program can significantly reduce the cost of tech operations and optimize processes in government agencies. It can also allow for the implementation of new IT tools and best practices to enhance results.
The government can achieve the benefits of digital transformation and IT modernization in different ways. It takes the collaboration of top agency leaders such as CTOs, CIOs, and CFOs in decision-making. Through discussion, the leadership can decide which systems to discontinue, advance, or replace.
Employ a citizen-centric digital transformation strategy. Most American citizens are computer literate, and they want quick access to information on their devices. For this reason, your agency should optimize systems for the best user experience.
You can use the following ideas to develop an infallible digital transformation plan and accelerate your IT modernization efforts.
The success of a digital transformation journey depends on processes, useful technologies, and qualified professionals. Agencies must cultivate a digital culture by providing technological infrastructure and encouraging workers to utilize it.
Such an environment will compel employees to embrace new technology whenever introduced and serve the citizens better. C-level IT officers should continually update tech and offer training opportunities for their staff.
Agency leaders must ensure that the IT modernization process does not lead to loss of functionality of the existing system. They should know the IT portfolios comprising interconnected resources and related data.
A thorough analysis of data, infrastructure, processes, and costs related to a given portfolio can help predict how modifying it affects other systems. Thus, leadership can make better decisions regarding architectural, functional, and cost implications of IT modernization.
A vital step in modernizing IT is storing aging infrastructure and data in the cloud. Cloud storage provides agility and an easy way to scale, allowing for the rapid implementation of new technologies and IT tools.
State agencies should consider the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program approved cloud platforms. Those can help legacy program managers to define the necessary steps for remodeling their systems.
Cloud migration eliminates unwarranted expenses that come with traditional systems. It allows for the rechanneling of funds meant for operations and system maintenance to consumption-based buying of what the agency needs.
With rapid developments in machine learning and AI, the application of automation is boundless. Process robotics can revolutionize how the federal government serves the citizens.
The technology uses bots to perform repetitive tasks in a virtual environment using the existing hardware. Consequently, the government can economically achieve full-time system performance.
Additionally, automation technology can help to update mainframes in government agencies. You can convert older programming languages like COBOL to newer versions through automation.
Quick upgrading of systems reduces the resources required for IT modernization and decreases the associated risk. The government can also attract highly-qualified IT experts and attain superior levels of cybersecurity.
Without data, you cannot realize a meaningful digital transformation process. Internet of Things (IoT) has enabled organizations to obtain data beyond their physical boundaries. Set up robust connectivity infrastructure to allow your agency to access all data tied to its operations and mission.
Invest in data manipulation technologies to leverage the data you collect. With data analysis and analytics tools, you can deduce useful intelligence to optimize processes in your agency.
Government agencies can enlist the services of specialized private firms to help them realize a speedy and successful digital transformation. Involving the private sector frees up government employee hours, enabling them to provide more critical services in the agency.
A professional partner should provide an IT modernization plan that resonates with your mission. Ask the company to develop a strong business case to enable you to forecast the potential operational and cost benefits of their strategy.
The partner should help you to use digital enablers like automation, IoT, cloud computing, and social media to accelerate your digital journey.
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