In one of its first acts, the 117th Congress passed the FedRAMP Authorization Act. This bill codifies the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP) and, in the process, speeds up the time it takes for cloud solutions to be implemented in the Federal government. Currently, cloud solutions must frequently gain separate authority to operate statuses for each agency where they are used. This bill looks to have the General Services Administration (GSA) automate processes to promote reciprocity for security validations from one agency to another.
This bill was passed at a critical time for cloud adoption within government as agencies continue to accelerate their digital plans to meet the needs of a remote workforce. While the way has been cleared for "emergency" use of cloud to keep the business of government running, laws and policy like this Act ensure that there is long term support for the move to cloud services.
Citizen Experience is a focus of government agencies from federal to state and local. Governments are working to give citizens the same service experience they get as consumers in the commercial market. A huge piece of this is understanding who the citizen is and creating a "journey" tailored to their needs. This starts with the rather technical and security-minded practice of identity management.
Traditionally, identity management has been viewed as a way to enable access to systems for a workforce. It is the practice that assures that the proper people have access to the technology and systems they need. If we look at it in the context of citizen service, identity management is more than giving people access to their accounts. It is about giving people and systems that serve citizens insight to how they can better serve each citizen. In fact, a well-thought out identity management strategy can proactively offer applicable programs related to public health and social services.
Identity management is playing a role as part of robotic process automation (RPA) solutions designed to speed up benefits to citizens. In an effort to improve the turnaround time for loan distribution during national crises, RPA can enable a compilation of an applicant's record from multiple systems, channels, and service providers for collection and entry into systems for underwriters to analyze. Identity management is key to achieving 10 to 100 times faster processing, ensuring that the person applying for the aid is who they say they are.
DevOps, a combination of the words development and operations, is designed to smooth the frequently problematic handoff between an organization's developers and its operations staff. It is an operational philosophy that has technology developers and the operational team who will use the technology working together closely through the entire development of a technology solution. The goal of this approach is quick releases of solutions that have an immediate impact on how people do their jobs.
On the surface this sounds like a perfect fit for government, an "industry" in need of fast digital transformation to meet citizen needs. The DevOps promise of making application development quicker and cheaper is incredibly attractive to the government. However, the third part of the promise, collaboration, proves to be the most problematic as culture and process stand in the way.
From a culture perspective, organizations need to break down silos and create brand new teams focused on an application's output, rather than on tactical roles. To achieve this goal, individuals need to be empowered with autonomy and be enabled with strong communication skills to ensure everyone understands their roles and buys into the overall project objective. As U.S. Special Operations Command CIO Lisa Costa described it, "creating a DevOps culture is akin to practicing tactical shooting. You remove all extraneous movement, and that's how you get efficiency." She said her team focused on stripping away processes that had accumulated over the years but were not serving the objective of getting solutions out to the field quickly. Continue reading
Human Resources (HR) in government has always been complex. From very specific hiring criteria to security clearances to battling the stereotypes of government work, it's never been a task for the faint of heart. Then came a global pandemic. HR departments had to quickly pivot to serve a remote workforce and find ways to continue filling positions critical to the government response to COVID-19.
To meet the needs of a remote workforce, HR needed a clear understanding of every job function within the organization to help guide employees on how to adapt their processes to complete that work remotely. It also meant ensuring that employees had the technology they needed to complete their work at home. As new laptops and software were issued, HR and IT had to work together to distribute and track the flow of new technology. As if serving existing employees was not enough, agencies also had to continue recruiting and hiring.
It has not all been easy or smooth, but a Monster.com survey found that 100% of agencies reported they implemented new remote hiring processes. This included virtual onboarding, virtual interviews, electronic signatures, and virtual oath of office.
Beyond the immediate needs of transforming office workers into remote workers, government HR professionals have several other overarching challenges to contend with. Continue reading
We've written about the government's ongoing efforts to improve their ratings when it comes to "customer" experience. Across government, agencies have made citizen experience (CX) a focus of their digital strategy. They are working to implement new technologies and processes to make it easier for citizens to get the information they need about government services. The progress agencies were able (or not able) to make came into focus in the way they were able to respond to the COVID-19 crisis. The measure of CX success can be looked at in two ways:
- How quickly were agencies able to transition to providing their normal level of service while working remotely?
- How responsive were agencies to increased pandemic-related citizen interaction?
While there were many speed bumps in getting government functions up and running from a distributed telework model, many agencies found that investments they had been making in telework specifically and digital government, in general, paid huge dividends in their COVID response. For example, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission had completed a full refresh of laptops meaning that all employees had up-to-date hardware and software to start their work from home adventure. Other agencies who had worked to incorporate technology, even as basic as e-signatures, found themselves able to move quicker than agencies still working with manual processes.
But, all the preparation in the world could not prepare for the scope and speed of the pandemic crisis. A study from the Information Technology Innovation Foundation looked at the performance of state unemployment websites and found that 26 state websites failed. The National Association of State CIOs found that about three-quarters of states have launched chatbots to help their agencies answer unemployment insurance or COVID-related questions and take the pressure off both websites and call centers. The Texas Workforce Commission was able to employ a chatbot named Larry to help with volumes that reached 98,000 online unemployment applications in one day. Larry has been able to answer 4.8 million questions for 1.2 million people. Continue reading