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FCW : June 15, 2014
innovation among decision-makers. When management and staff share a common language and understanding of the innovation process, the prob- ability of creating maximum value improves greatly. Based on my experience working with the public sector, I believe there are ve disciplines of innovation that will enable agencies to take maximum advantage of programs like 18F. Each discipline acts as a force multiplier. In other words, a low score in one area greatly diminishes the chances for success, while high marks across all disciplines enhance the opportuni- ties for success. 1. Focus on customer needs Innovation can be applied to almost every aspect of an agency s mission, but that doesn t mean it should be or that it is ef cient to even try. Agencies seeking to build a foundation for endur- ing innovation must zero in on initia- tives that will have the most signi cant impact for their stakeholders --- wheth- er they are other agencies, companies or taxpayers --- and avoid wasting time on low-priority, low-impact projects. Agencies can take their cue from the Institute of Design at Stanford University. The institute has created an environment in which entrepreneurs can interact with users and custom- ers as early in a product s life cycle as possible. That approach rests on the belief that ideas are cheap and success is about execution. As HealthCare.gov demonstrated, there is much to be gained by acquir- ing feedback from customers and being able to pivot based on that input. That type of transparency is critical to ensur- ing that innovation efforts are directed to areas that matter. 2. Seek to create value For every innovation initiative, it is important to apply the NABC (needs, approach, bene ts and competition) framework to quickly de ne, create and communicate the highest value. That approach involves identifying important customer/citizen needs, defining the most compelling and unique approach to address those needs, analyzing the quanti able ben- e ts per costs of that approach, and quantifying why the chosen approach is better than the competition and alternatives. The resulting value proposition should be polished through multiple iterations with peers and stakeholders. 3. Cultivate innovation champions A program without a champion to drive it is akin to a ship without a captain. As good as an idea might be and as power- ful an impact as it might have, it will likely drift sideways without someone to grab the helm and power forward. Champions are critical to accelerating innovation within an agency as pro- grams run into a range of technology, bureaucratic and budgetary obstacles that require someone with the passion and muscle to overcome them. And that person is not necessarily a pro- gram or project manager. Cultivating innovation champions requires that agencies attract and retain talented leaders with manage- ment experience and a track record for advancing forward-thinking agendas. 4. Build teams to support those champions Although an innovation champion can push programs forward, a set of individuals with complementary and relevant skills is required to execute and shape what starts as an idea into a tangible deliverable. Team success requires an ambitious yet achievable program plan and a business model and processes that are clearly de ned. Agency leaders must assemble the best team they can, which takes per- sistence and a refusal to settle for substandard options. 5. Realign the organization to match innovation goals Not all agency cultures are built for innovation. Most are not. To create a sustainable base for innovation, agencies might need to realign the organization to match new process- es, staf ng structures and program requirements. Otherwise, groups might compete with or cannibalize one another for talent and resources, ultimately undermining broader inno- vation efforts. In addition, agencies should remain open to a frank assessment of areas in which outsourcing could enhance innovation, even for those that are vital to day-to-day operations. For example, agencies might resist out- sourcing customer service for fear of relinquishing their contact with cus- tomers and citizens. But poor cus- tomer service can be devastating for companies and agencies. Such experi- ences result in an estimated $83 bil- lion loss for U.S. enterprises each year because of customer defections and abandoned purchases. Some companies have proven adept at customer service because that is their core focus, and outsourcing that function could strengthen customer and citizen interactions for agencies that are not performing the function as well as they should. Agencies can always produce rea- sons for why innovation is not a pri- ority, ranging from an insistence that no change is needed and a fear of the unknown to the costs associated with new technology and the argument that past efforts failed. However, the launch of 18F and future like-minded programs will better enable agencies to dramatically change the way they approach challenges and projects. ■ Jerry Harrison is vice president and general manager of government business development at SRI International. 32 June 15, 2014 FCW.COM DrillDown
June 30, 2014
July 15, 2014