Over the past few months, federal agencies have needed to respond to rapidly changing circumstances with unprecedented agility. COVID-19 has drastically transformed the way agency personnel work and interact with constituents. We’re using virtual collaboration tools for instant messaging and video conferencing instead of gathering around a meeting room table.
Agencies accustomed to working with constituents in person have been challenged to provide support in our new virtual reality.
For some federal organizations, the move to virtual working environments required swift changes to policies and rapid introduction of new systems, processes and workflows. Particularly within the regulatory agency communities CGI Federal supports, this has meant rapidly adapting policies and providing the means for regulated entities to request exceptions to the usual ways of doing business.
Transformation projects often begin with long, drawn-out alternatives analyses and lengthy debates about technology choices. However, especially in a time of urgency, it is often better to optimize the technology already available.
In the era of COVID-19, the regulated entities need ways to request exceptions online, and the regulatory agencies need workflows to support reviews and approvals. The new, required capabilities include the ability to communicate rapidly with regulated entities and integration with existing IT investments. Most critically, agencies had to be able to implement those capabilities quickly.
Across CGI, our teams have rolled up their sleeves to enable our clients to make these changes quickly. We have created new digital capabilities for our clients in a matter of days, leveraging agile, DevOps and agency investments in low-code/no-code and cloud-native solutions.
As the nation looks to turn the corner from Responding to the immediate crisis to Rebounding from it and Reinventing ways of doing things, federal agencies can benefit from lessons learned during the Respond phase. Based upon my observations of our regulatory agency teams, I’ve identified three key Respond focus areas that should carry through to the Rebound and Reinvent phases to follow:
- Look to existing investments. Transformation projects often begin with long, drawn-out alternatives analyses and lengthy debates about technology choices. However, especially in a time of urgency, it is often better to optimize the technology already available. During the rapid response to the pandemic, agencies tried and tested existing technology investments, providing a baseline for making decisions. Moving forward, rapid prototyping, rather than lengthy analysis, can help drive decisions when circumstances demand accelerated technology adoption timetables.
- Apply low-code/no-code technologies for greater agility. Clients who have invested in low-code/no-code and cloud-native capabilities have been able to move rapidly, with capabilities built and released into production in a matter of hours or days, instead of weeks or months. Where agencies do not yet have enterprise-wide investments in these types of technologies, we recommend looking now at enterprise needs. This avoids individual offices or lines of business making investments that do not mesh with a larger strategy. It avoids IT sprawl and expensive licensing models. With security frameworks already in place at the platform level, these solutions help speed creation and deployment of new capabilities in a manner that is consistent with agency security guidelines.
- Create communities to share services and capabilities. When IT teams create new workflows, processes and services, they need to get the word to other organizations within the enterprise that might be able to reuse those services. As the urgency of the rapid response fades, it becomes important to determine where these new capabilities can be reused as accelerators. At the same time, agency IT leaders should provide guidance to the enterprise on use of low-code solutions developments so that others know where to go to find the services and how to use them.
As we all look forward to the “new normal,” we must build upon the success of our creativity and agility – not just in times of crisis but as fundamental to our support of the mission. Low-code and reuse can improve return on investment and time to market for agency services. Agencies and the supporting contractor community must continue to focus on results-oriented action to drive value to taxpayers, regulated industries and our nation.
For another perspective on making these rapid transitions, read my colleague Bernard De Lisi's blog, “Six steps toward rapidly expanding VPN capacity" and Joseph Cuminale's "Helping from home: How our service desk went remote and kept client satisfaction high."