Monday, April 18, 2016
Government operations will be transformed through cognitive solutions and cloud platforms. This transformation will improve program outcomes, enhance citizen interaction, enable regulatory compliance, and lower operational costs.

Recently, President Obama spoke at the South by Southwest Conference (SXSW).  “We are at a moment in history where technology, globalization, and our economy is changing so fast,” he said. “Those changes offer us enormous opportunities but also are very disruptive and unsettling. They empower individuals to do things that they could have never dreamed of before, but they also empower folks who are very dangerous to spread dangerous messages.” Then he gave his pitch.  “So the reason I’m here really is to recruit all of you.”  Why is disruptive innovation on the president’s agenda?  And why does the chief executive of the largest employer in the world feel he needs help from the outside?  The President said that part of the reason is that the government “has to take on the hardest problems.”  And that “when government does great things, we take it for granted.”  

New Platforms, New Ideas, New Approaches

Digital transformation has the potential to replace obsolete models for delivering government services.  It’s not just process improvement or an IT upgrade, it means transforming the way government delivers services. We have seen digital transformation disrupt industries and transform businesses.   We expect a similar transformation from our government - services delivered anytime, anywhere, on any device.  This transformation includes cloud enabled capabilities, with strong cyber security, as well as the use of analytics and cognitive capabilities to improve mission delivery.  It also means using new methods, like design thinking and agile, to focus on mission value.

Design Thinking, Agile, and Enterprise Scale

Design thinking starts with the user experience. It provides a framework to deliver great user outcomes at an enterprise scale.  It brings a multidisciplinary team and a spirit of restless reinvention.  The result is a powerful behavioral model and a set of key practices to scale design thinking to even the most complex projects.  Agile combines leadership, collaboration, and delivery practices to implement those user outcomes on digital platforms.  Technology is an enabler, but focus on user outcomes is the key to success.

Cognitive and Big Data Transformation

Today, 80% of the world’s data is unstructured, meaning data contained in documents and images. Until recently, computers could only record and store this data.  Cognitive systems understand, reason, and learn to make sense of it.  Now think about regulatory agencies and their need to use unstructured data to enforce compliance. The potential to find and resolve public safety and legal issues is tremendous.  But agencies need to process massive datasets to discover and prioritize potential regulatory issues.  Cognitive solutions can sift through massive amounts of unstructured industry data and analyze it across multiple dimensions, without bias.  This allows regulators to focus on higher value analysis and investigation.  And as Government datasets continue to grow over the next several years, Cognitive solutions can scale with them.

IT Modernization

President Obama requested $3.1 Billion in next year’s budget for IT Modernization.  The Office of Management and Budget is developing a policy and putting together a plan for that funding. The idea is to invest in aligning government services with the latest technology practices.  This has the potential to improve government services, by focusing on modernizing the underlying technology.  This includes migrating to cloud platforms, integrating cyber security into applications, and breaking down application and data silos.  It is also intended to cut cost.  The hope is that the cost savings generated by this $3.1 Billion investment yields reduced operating costs, which the government can spend on further IT Modernization in subsequent years.  Done right, this could be a self-sustaining investment that yields returns for years to come.

Shared Services at Scale

Government Shared services have the potential to improve outcomes, increase compliance, and reduce cost.  It also allows employees to be redirected to mission-critical tasks.  Yet a recent McKinsey article shows significant underinvestment.  Only 22% of the shared services organizations studied are building capabilities in automation.  Less than 20% are streamlining internal operations through analytics. And only about 10% are using analytics for external use to support the business. Shared services hold the promise of being a key contributor to the government digital transformation.

The Government Transformation Call to Action

We see the promise of a government transformed by digital services.  We see better services, better program outcomes, higher regulatory compliance, and lower costs.  Share your thoughts on how you think the government can best transform.

These ideas continue to build on the Center’s effort to help government address major challenges and opportunities for government over the next several years.

**Image courtesy of supakitmod at