Re-Imagining Government Modernization
Guest blogger: Tim Stitely, IBM Vice President for Federal Healthcare
As the Former Chief Information Officer for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and a civil servant for over 20 years from the level of clerk typist through the Senior Executive Service, I have seen many "Modernization" initiatives to optimize and otherwise change Government. Sometimes this is process-oriented or people-driven, and usually lands a lot on technology. The initiatives have come under many names, including Reinventing Government and the President’s Management Agenda.
Each time they all claimed success and in many ways and in a microcosm prospectus, they probably have . . . kind of like three different #1 "Best Shows" at 8 p.m. . . . how can that be?
Rather, most career Federal folks look at Modernization Initiatives like doctor’s appointments. I haven't found anyone overly excited about these, but they do it because they know it is good for them.
In my experience with Modernization efforts for larger complex agencies, there are two big questions, "where do we start?" and "how do we enact the change while keeping the trains running at 100 miles an hour delivering services or entitlements to our constituents?" Once those two are answered, they are usually are followed by “what marks success?”
Modernization work can gain good traction and excitement about change as these are often improvements and chances to re-do archaic processes or systems. But things often get bogged down by naysayers who resist change - the reality that it's not easy to find a good starting point, or the belief that changes won’t stick or funding won’t be found or last.
I am approaching the multiple decade challenge from a different perspective. Knowing the trains are moving at 100 mph and it's hard to change a wheel at that speed without derailing, I have embraced an approach coined by my colleague, Greg Greben: the “3P + S” methodology. What's 3P + S you might ask? It's “Point-of-View,” “Proof of Concept,” “Pilot” and “Scalability.”
• Point of View (POV): Find a single use case to add or enhance value
• Proof of Concept (POC): in a 6 to 8 week sprint, bring the POV to life
• Pilot: Move the POC from Concept closer to production by allowing users to interact with it, and iterate/ideate
• Scalability: after the value has been proven and ROI demonstrated, promote this change to production to realize its full potential
This approach isn't a way to rip-and-replace huge old systems, but rather a way to add augmentation through API technologies and integration to get real results in short periods of time. This reduces the burden on employees and begins to decouple the complexities of these archaic systems without disrupting the "trains" of services or entitlements.
While it's still early in operationalizing this new methodology, there are proven successes with 3P + S Initiatives related to one area or focus or system. Government will then get to a tipping point to where true Modernization can be achieved.
Best of all, this approach provides low risk, low cost, and high value, which promotes a “fail early” and “succeed faster” mantra.
Two of my colleagues, Mike Conger and Michael Preis, have separately blogged on IT Modernization, encouraging a “continuous improvement” model inspired by commercial IT modernization practices, and how they could be applied to government. Their blog offers specific areas for potential action.
Your thoughts and comments are welcomed and encouraged to continue this dialogue – especially those from anyone who has experienced similar outcomes!