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FCW : June 15, 2016
26 June 15, 2016 FCW.COM decided to zero out our request for a digi- tal services team,” one participant said. “They did a ‘wink, wink, nudge, nudge, we’ll plus up some of the other areas,’ but the idea that we have a central team to do things” never happened. Another said his agency had reorga- nized IT to create a centralized digital services team, but “I’m not sure there’s any additional budget given to any of it,” which limits the team members’ ability to truly act as “transformation agents within our agency.” The group had a similarly skeptical view of the $3.1 billion IT Moderniza- tion Fund that Obama pro- posed in his fiscal 2017 bud- get. Such a revolving fund would be tremendously helpful, participants said, but it does not warrant serious consideration when Con- gress seems so unlikely to consider it. And even if alternative funding models could be devised, one speaker said, “we still need to be able to make that initial investment. Who goes first? How do you decide?” Locking in digital Absent new funding streams, the group agreed that digital services teams will need to earn reallocations by proving their value to agency leaders and mis- sion owners. The trick is finding a way to demonstrate when the customer is truly satisfied. “I know in our agency not enough people are seeing the results of the work we’re doing,” one participant said, wish- ing aloud for a “meaningful” dashboard that could appear on every agency lead- er’s phone each morning. “And when I say ‘meaningful,’ I mean relevant to what they work on, their program -- not the overall program, but theirs.” Others are taking their own direct communications approaches. Noting the number of dashboards and reports that never get opened, one executive said her agency had begun sharing voice-of- the-customer snippets “on the elevator monitors in our office.” Another agency posts them in bathroom stalls. Such sharing is a start, one participant said, but customer metrics must also be factored into the performance evalua- tions of agency leaders. That’s the only way to ensure “it permeates the rest of the organization,” he said, “so that we are thinking across our organizational boundaries around the customer.” Metrics and communication are only part of the package needed to secure digital services’ future, however. Partici- pants acknowledged that they feel pres- sured to institutionalize those practices before Obama leaves office. “I’ve been in it for five years,” one executive said. “I’m pretty damn proud of what I’ve built. I don’t want the next team to dismantle it.” “No matter who gets elected in November, the next president is not going to support this work as much as President Obama does,” another said. “We can’t rely on that level of air cover going forward. We have to actually change the underlying structures and policies.” Training contracting officers is particularly important, he added. “We’ve got to build a team that has been taught to fish by the time we’re ready to go,” another participant agreed. “We’re just not quite there yet.” And although policy changes can be slow in coming — multiple participants said they’d been trying without success to update certain web policies for more than a decade — there was at least cau- tious optimism that larger forces would keep digital services on the front burner in 2017 and beyond. “The public’s expectations have dra- matically shifted,” one participant said, and the government will have no choice but to try to meet them. Another executive agreed and put forth the goal of enabling people to order a green card, passport or similar government document as easily as they can order a pizza for delivery. “All of us around the table would high-five and drink until we were on the floor if we could get our agency to do that,” he added. Yet such a system would simply meet expec- tations for many Ameri- cans, he added. “Well, of course I can order a pep- peroni and olive pizza delivered. Why couldn’t Ifilloutaformonmy phone?” The group noted that critical mass is growing inside agencies as well. Although centralized teams might still be rare, one said, the real community of digital services advocates — and the increas- ingly interoperable tools that allow them to share — makes this different from pre- vious attempts. Another cited recognition at the high- est levels that digital services cannot be tackled by IT teams alone and the commitment to working with the other stakeholders. “When we talk about transformation for digital, we’re talking about something that has to be a whole-agency effort,” that executive said. “If the [chief information security officer] isn’t on board, you’re not going to get it done. If the chief acqui- sition officer isn’t on board, you’re not going to get it done. If the [chief human capital officer] isn’t on board, you’re not going to get it done, at least not all the way. This is as much about changing how government’s served as it is about tech now.” n FCW Perspectives 0615fcw_020-026.indd 26 5/25/16 9:50 AM
May 30, 2016
June 30, 2016