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FCW : March 15, 2013
March 15, 2013 FCW.COM 13 Commentary | ALAN BALUTIS ALAN BALUTIS is senior director and distinguished fellow at Cisco Systems' Internet Business Solutions Group. In a column published in FCW last fall, I asked: Where are the big, bold ideas to remake the federal bureau- cracy? I wrote: "Where are the think- ers who will banish our 1950s-era federal processes and structures and remake Washington, D.C.? And why do our career and political leaders... seem so painfully and embarrass- ingly short of new ideas?" That struck a nerve --- 40-plus of them, in fact. Most of the com- ments I received came from career public servants. They noted four key barriers to improving federal management and the government s performance: • A lack of focus on management by political appointees. • Failed efforts at upgrading the gov- ernment s IT infrastructure. As one wag put it: "In the federal govern- ment, we de ne the trailing edge of technology." • An overly cumbersome procure- ment process. • An equally burdensome federal hir- ing --- and ring --- process. They also pointed to some prom- ising factors that could force us toward a 21st-century government: • An emerging workforce of digital natives who bring with them expec- tations of collaboration, instanta- neous communications and innova- tive technologies. • A desire to reverse the trend toward contracting out more tasks to the private sector while enhanc- ing the government s ability to oversee and manage contract dol- lars and activities. • Powerful new strategic informa- tion and communication tech- nologies that promise to change government. • Global trends and innovative approaches that are transforming the government s delivery of services to the public. • Revolutionary new business models for the government and elevated customer expectations. • Heightened expectations that government must deliver on its policy promises. In his recent State of the Union address, President Barack Obama called for a smarter government. Here are some initial steps suggested by our readers: 1. Create a different culture by taking advantage of the need for new hires. The next four years will bring an increase in fed- eral employee retirements, which offers a unique opportunity for the government to recruit individuals with the desired set of new skills and behaviors. 2. Give all employees new col- laborative technologies. Millen- nials will be the majority of the gov- ernment s new hires. These young people have grown up using comput- ers and collaborative technologies, so the challenge for agencies will be to use those tools --- social network- ing, wikis, blogs and virtual worlds --- to make the government more connected and less hierarchical. 3. Develop new relationships between the government and its contract workforce. A major challenge for the new administration will be to forge a true partnership between employees and contractors. 4. Enhance collaboration between the federal govern- ment and state and local govern- ments, as well as the nonpro t and private sectors. The federal government alone cannot effec- tively respond to all the challenges now facing the nation, which are as varied as sustaining the environ- ment and combating terrorism. The administration must improve its col- laboration with other organizations to meet those challenges. 5. Become more citizen-centric. Americans want the government to work effectively, seamlessly and openly. A transformed government would focus as much on respon- sible execution and operational excellence as on the initiation of new policies and programs. So what do you say? Send me your ideas (firstname.lastname@example.org), and I will do my best to synthesize and integrate them. ■ The challenge for agencies will be using collaborative tools to make the government more connected and less hierarchical. Removing barriers to government performance In his State of the Union address, Obama called for a smarter government. Our readers have some ideas about how to get there.
March 30, 2013