Digital transformation is well underway across the federal government and commercial industries—and the journey reveals complexities, new challenges and opportunities. The change management puzzle before organizations is how to modernize and transform without disrupting operations, while maintaining the support of employees and leaders.

Indeed, the top challenge to achieving digital goals is culture change and change management, according to CGI’s 2018 Client Global Insights report, based on interviews with more than 200 federal and central government executives.

The impetus for change comes from both within the government and from beyond. The customers that federal agencies serve—which include other federal, state and local government agencies and commercial businesses, as well as individuals—all expect a digital experience just as sophisticated as they get from their banks or online retailers. Increasingly, they expect access any time via any device, and self-service capabilities to speed their interactions.

Both the current and prior administrations have pressed agencies to pursue digital transformation. The recently issued President’s Management Agenda (PMA)—along with various laws and executive branch directives—has given a boost to digital transformation with two key drivers: one aimed at ensuring data, accountability and transparency and the other aimed at leveraging data to improve the customer experience.

Digital transformation has the potential to re-engineer internal processes, lower costs and enrich the experience of federal agency constituents. True digital transformation is not just modernization—it requires analyzing what the agency needs to accomplish and devising the most effective ways to do that. This often means completely changing processes—eliminating those that no longer serve a purpose and implementing new ones to take full advantage of new technologies.

In conjunction with process analysis, agencies also need to adapt data management processes and products to facilitate efficient workflows, leverage available mission support technologies and arm federal employees with data and digital tools. For example, an agency with employees who collect field data might replace clipboards and pens with network-connected tablet PCs. Or, employees who perform repetitive rules-based work might be reassigned to duties requiring more creativity or decision-making while a software-based robot takes over the repetitive tasks.

What’s in the way

Despite the importance of digital transformation, the path is rarely smooth. Some common barriers include:

Leadership buy-in: Agency leaders must drive digital transformation to both ensure mission delivery for the public, and improve the customer experience. This will require managing competing priorities for spending and allocating personnel. Digital transformation is often high on the priority list, but without the leadership from the top, efforts are likely to fail.

Data: New applications and software require access to data, integration with existing systems and databases or, alternatively, migrating the data into a new environment. All of this is time-consuming, potentially expensive and prone to error, which can give organizations pause. Especially when the data involved is sensitive or mission-critical, any action that potentially puts it at risk is cause for hesitation.

Workforce culture: Digital transformation requires culture change and people are normally content to continue doing things as they are already accustomed. A strong, active change management program can help an agency workforce accept the new ways of carrying out its work.

Let data be the driver

The PMA gives agencies a firm push toward digital transformation in its Cross-Agency Priority (CAP) Goals. The first four CAP Goals are interlocked in a way, providing a significant driver for change. The PMA places data front and center as the necessary enabler of a better government, stating that data initiatives “must provide the tools to deliver visibly better results to the public, while improving accountability to taxpayers for sound fiscal stewardship and mission results.”

CAP Goal 2—Leveraging Data as a Strategic Asset—is the linchpin. Tied into an ongoing effort to develop a Federal Data Strategy, the goal addresses data governance, access and use, emphasizing the use of data in decision-making. Goals 1 and 3, which address IT Modernization and Workforce respectively, further highlight the role of data in meeting the administration’s expectations for agency transformation.

CAP Goal 4, in turn, mandates improving the customer experience, with a drive to improve the usability and reliability of the federal government’s digital services. Taken together, these four goals heighten the urgency of data-driven digital transformation.

Ready for more?

To find out what CGI offers to help federal agencies harness their data, download our brochure, "Data Solutions for Federal Digital Transformation."

About this author

Picture of Vera Ashworth

Vera Ashworth

Vice President

Vera Ashworth has more than 20 years of program and delivery expertise in the federal government and private sector. She has led strategic planning, policy analysis, IT program implementation, project management, systems development and implementation, business process re-engineering, budget formulation and execution, and training development ...

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