AUSTIN, TEXAS — Electronic government is here to stay. But the question, presenters said during the first day of the Texas Digital Government Summit in Austin, is what comes next and how the public sector can do a better job of bringing in federated state agencies and residents alike.
The state contracted Deloitte earlier this year to develop its Texas.gov online platform, and a new personal digital assistant, “My Government My Way,” is on the way. But that’s not all the new services in the works, state CIO Todd Kimbriel told many of the roughly 300 attendees.
The state has awarded several contracts in shared services in recent years, one of which is its enterprise multi-sourcing services integrator (MSI). The Texas Department of Information Resources was the second organization in the world to deploy that model in 2012 after Rolls-Royce, Kimbriel told Government Technology in an interview. But it was only offered as part of the consolidated data center program offered to state agencies.
What’s new is that by Sept. 1, Texas.gov will be “plugged in under this enterprise MSI.” TEX-AN, the state’s telecommunications network, will join by 2021, Kimbriel, one of GT's Top 25 Doers, Dreamers & Drivers of 2018, said.
“We found the efficiencies and the synergies to be really, really strong in that model. So, this change is that we’re actually extending it across all of our shared services programs. Most of our agency customers use several programs — they have to, by state law. For those organizations, it’s sort of a single pane of glass for consuming all our services,” he said.
E-government is very successful in Texas, the CIO said as he opened the event, and the state has migrated most of its commerce transactions online.
“But the challenge for all of us is how do we actually move the needle forward from here? I think going forward, everybody should be challenging yourselves. What are you doing to move your organizational deal forward in a digital environment and digitize your offices and your business processes? It really is the place that we all have to be focusing on going forward,” Kimbriel said.
The arrival this fall of the My Government, My Way initiative, Kimbriel said in his remarks, will enable a citizen portal through Texas.gov that will ultimately let residents set up a “personalized online service experience with the state of Texas.” It will be an early step toward ultimately facilitating a so-called single “golden record” or global unique ID for each citizen across participating agencies, though it will likely not be framed as a digital assistant yet.
DIR’s No. 1 priority, he said, will be “cybersecurity and protecting citizen data first and foremost,” and so the process will be opt-in for residents — not mandatory and not yet available via smartphone — but allowing those who do to create a personal profile with the state and leverage it.
“It’s not really going to be the fully-enabled AI-enhanced digital assistant that we envision in the long run. In the long run, we’re seeing a digital assistant that is pro-active and anticipates what does a citizen need when they need it and engages,” Kimbriel said.
He emphasized that these types of changes don’t happen overnight and require “a deliberate process within your culture to make that decision.”
Improving agency process was the topic of a morning breakout session, “Leading Modern Development Teams,” led by William A. “Butch” Grote Jr., CIO at the state Department of Agriculture and Raj Polikepati, director of development at Texas NIC.
Agencies may never be 100 percent agile, Grote said, but even adopting a hybrid waterfall-agile approach to development can not only streamline process — it can help attract the next generation of workforce: the millennial.
“This is the only way I think you’re going to find that you’re going to have success recruiting the new millennials. If you ban social media or if you fail to be very persuasive at telling them why they can’t tele-work, you tell them you’re a waterfall shop, they’re not going to work for you, I guarantee it,” Grote said.
“Failing is part of the job. That is the (mindset) we need to change as well. We have been averse to failure all the way along. It’s okay to fail, but fail quick and learn something from it and move on,” said Polikepati, who highlighted a new developmental process identified by Gartner that he said could revolutionize the industry.
Called high productivity application Platform as a Service (hpaPaaS), it's low on coding savvy — a key — and was already a $3 billion business in 2017, the NIC development director said, adding that Gartner predicts by 2022 more than 70 percent of apps will be based on these platforms.
“We are empowering them to build their own applications without knowing the code. Anybody who has some basic understanding of business analysis can go ahead and build their own applications. It’s only going to pick up steam over the next few years and when it happens developers … will start to find some free time,” Polikepati said.