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Enabling Massive Innovation: Seize the Opportunity to Modernize

Government is the ultimate service provider, but the pandemic exposed where legacy tech falls short in serving citizens. IT leaders should build support to go beyond simple upgrades and truly transform.

"Time to modernize" written in blue ink on a sticky note.
Getting a permit, a driver’s license, or a birth certificate are important services that only government can provide. Whether these services are accessed in person, digitally, or a combination of the two, technology supports the delivery of every service. The pandemic has proven that legacy methods of delivering services are insufficient, and that technology must be continually re-evaluated and modernized to meet the public’s current and future needs and expectations. Considering these realities, government must think beyond modernization to massive innovations. Government has traditionally struggled with restricted dollars available to innovate and limited skill sets to facilitate innovation. But the money is coming in now, and in some cases, it’s coming too fast. Prioritization and planning are on the fast track while governments ramp up to make much-needed changes. Will governments be ready for the onslaught of funds? Are partners ready to jump in and help solve problems? Are we prepared to broaden our approach from upgrading what we are doing today to moving to new and different approaches powered by technology?

Federal funds have been coming into governments of all sizes, including the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES), the American Rescue Plan (ARP), Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (CSFRF/CLFRF or Fiscal Recovery Funds), and the soon-to-arrive $3.5 trillion infrastructure bill. How will these funds be prioritized? How will you compete with physical infrastructure and expanding citizen services? With technology as the underlying component of every government initiative, how do you ensure that you are part of funding discussions, not just an afterthought? Most importantly, how do you lead the conversation with elected and appointed officials as technology drives the services that citizens will be demanding five and 10 years from now? Here’s our take on how to prepare to best utilize these new funding sources. The word “ready” shapes our guidance:

R: Reimagine

Government IT leaders must reimagine their entire technology portfolio and what it means to their core mission of providing, serving and helping people. Break down the old paradigms of what technologies are needed and focus on innovative approaches to service delivery. Reimagine your partnerships with peers and partners to get the knowledge you need to go where you haven’t gone before.

A: Assess

There is no way to assess what you need if you don’t know what you have or how mature you are in a certain discipline like cybersecurity. Assess your current status and determine what gaps need to be filled. The pandemic exposed the weaknesses of legacy technologies, so now is the time to get a clear understanding of what should be modernized. Look beyond filling the gaps to how services could and should be delivered.

E: Engage

Engage with your governmental business units to imagine what digital services can look like in the future. Engage with elected and appointed officials to build credibility and trust and a shared vision of what is possible. Peers and partners are more important than they ever have been. Engage with as many voices and minds as you can to build an innovation mindset.

D: Deliver

The world of technology continues to shift, but what stays constant is the need for quick, demonstratable wins to build momentum. Think creatively about those large, difficult modernization projects. Can you start with quick, smaller wins to demonstrate the art of the possible, build momentum and bolster the ability to move technology projects up the priority list? Wins build support, which in turn builds trust and momentum.

Y: Yay

As you move forward, it is not just about technology accomplishments but also the journey it took to get to those accomplishments. You and your team have been moving mountains for almost two years in the toughest of environments. Celebrate with your team and ensure that your top leadership celebrates as well. Acknowledge every success as the next step toward government that works. It is always a struggle to reward government teams, but you can put on the party hats and blow the horns.

There will be tons of guidance on how to use the federal funds and the intricacies of the funding will be difficult to get your arms around. We at the Center for Digital Government are working hard to ensure you get the right information at the right time. We will provide more information as it becomes available so you are all ready. We are here to help.