As we emerge from the isolation of the pandemic and begin interacting in person again, it will be in a world that looks and feels a lot different. While we crave human interaction, that does not mean we want to go back to standing in lines at office buildings to complete certain tasks. Over the past year, people have gotten used to doing things virtually. Government agencies have made incredible progress moving traditionally manual, paper-intensive, in-person processes online, and there's no reason that should stop now that in-person is an option.
Additionally, the ability to get information online will continue to be an expectation of citizens. During the pandemic, local, state, and federal agencies quickly got data out to citizens regarding COVID cases, restrictions, and later vaccinations to help inform and shape behavior. In fact, Ohio had a jump on many states. They had launched Ohio Checkbook well before the pandemic to provide anyone a look at real-time state budgeting, financial and transactional data. Using that as a starting point, they quickly launched their COVID portal. Post-pandemic, all government agencies need to look at how the COVID data systems can be used to get other critical information and communication to the public about transportation, human services, workforce and more.
Shared Services in government is nothingnew. The idea began in the 1980s with the consolidation of payroll and some other administrative functions. In the '90s the focus was on creating entities that could provide common business functions across government and, in that effort, become a cost center.
The 2000s saw the rise of the term 'Line of Business' that looked at common business functions across government to identify opportunities to transform, streamline and share. The Obama Administration looked specifically to IT as a shared service, releasing the Federal IT Shared Services Strategy that provided federal agency chief information officers and key stakeholders guidance. This guidance focused on the implementation of shared IT services as a key principle of their efforts to eliminate waste and duplication, with the intention to reinvest in innovative mission systems.
In one of its first acts, the 117th Congress passed theFedRAMP 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 →