Electronic Signatures and Us: What's in a "Written" Name?

Last week, President Obama signed the extension of the Patriot Act into law.  The President did so while in Europe, based on an instruction that in order to prevent the legislation from expiring, an autopen should be used to place the President's signature on the bill.

Improvements Ahead: Highlights from OMB’s Briefing on IT Reform

Federal CIO Vivek Kundra announced the Administration’s 25-point plan for IT reform last December.  Since that time, and much attention has focused on reviewing the plan’s elements (including in this blog), and OMB has led an active implementation agenda to achieve the milestones laid out by the plan.  Last week’s White House meeting with IT leaders added an important new component t

A quick start for the next administration

Blog Co-Author:  Alan Howze, Fellow

When the transition is completed and the next President sworn in on January 20, 2017, the new administration will get to work. But what actions should be prioritized? How can the wheels of government be leveraged most effectively?  How can the new team avoid re-inventing the wheel?

Good Cybersecurity Requires Action From Many Players

Cybersecurity continues to be a major focus for Congress and the Administration, and a major investment area for government and industry (see prior blog summary).  Efforts to strengthen security are often based on a traditional cause and effect model – agencies do x, hoping for a result of y.

Who Are We Online, and How Do Others Know That? The National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace

A majority of the country, and virtually the entire Federal Government, now uses the Internet to do business, learn about programs, shop, talk to friends, and engage in a host of other activities.  Some 2 billion people around the world engage in online commerce that will soon exceed $10 trillion; individuals place their information and trust in the many large and small businesses that provide services over the web.  In order to operate online, both the sender and the recipient have to trust what each other is doing. 

Introducing the Center’s New Shared Services Fellow: Jesse Samberg

The Federal government’s recent establishment of the Unified Shared Services Management (USSM) office at the General Services Administration has propelled cross-agency efforts led by the Office of Management and Budget, by providing additional support to shared services efforts managed by the Department of the Treasury for financial management, and the Office of Personnel Management for human resources. State and local governments are also moving forward to take advantage of the benefits that shared services bring in terms of costs savings and improved performance.

Implementing Shared Services in Government – Lessons from the UK

I recently attended a breakfast hosted by the Shared Services Leadership Coalition. The theme was “The Future of Federal Shared Services.” Former US Congressman Tom Davis spoke about his work preparing for presidential transitions. It was surprising to learn that the government is planning the transition this early in the election cycle. But the bigger surprise was in the set of priorities that came out of early planning. According to Mr. Davis, these priorities have included national security, domestic policy, economic policy, and White House staffing; interestingly, the planning also included using shared services as a way to implement these priorities.  Would shared services indeed be a key to implementation?

Digital Economy, Analog Government

Following Mr. Davis, Carolyn Williamson, Director of Corporate Services with Hampshire County UK, also spoke at the event.  Ms. Williamson has built a successful shared services environment across the Hampshire County government (shared services was defined as re-designing back office processes across an organization, and using technology like digital services to improve operations and reduce costs). She achieved cost and headcount reductions, but encountered significant challenges along the way. The first was protecting front line services.  She also warned against underestimating organizational change.  People in the organization recognized that their operations needed to change.  But they didn’t want to have someone else impose a process on them.  My colleague, shared services expert Jesse Samberg, called shared services “the sweet spot between central control and distributed operations. Shared Services consolidated, but most importantly, redesigned back office functions and processes onto a consolidated technology platform.” Another challenge, especially in government, was digital services quality.  She emphasized that new digital services had to be as effective and easy to use as commercial web sites. Fortunately, both cost effectiveness and customer service could be delivered through the same shared services transformation. In a recent study on shared services in government, Forrester surveyed 663 global government decision-makers.  The study concluded that “Improving customer experience tops government priorities, but cost reduction remains most critical.” Again, improved services and reduced costs.

Cost Efficiency, Resiliency and Capacity

Ms. Williamson said that her program started with a business case.  She said that the program delivered on its target of 20% cost take-out, on time and on budget.  But she acknowledged that it can be difficult to discuss headcount reductions. It’s a sensitive topic on this side of the Atlantic as well.  Several years ago there was worry about a Federal Government “Silver Tsunami” of retiring baby boomers.  That wave has so far been a ripple, but those workers will retire at some point. So net employee attrition is a given for US federal agencies in the near term.  Shared services can help prevent critical gaps in mission capability.

Data Ownership, Automation, and Analytics

How did Hampshire County government employees maintain service levels with fewer people?  Ms. Williamson said analytics were key to driving process automation.  She pointed out that manual processes cause most mistakes in her environment.  Those mistakes drive higher cost due to labor for rework to fix problems.  She also provided members of the Hampshire County community access to their data.  This allowed constituents to keep their data accurate and current. Self-service is clearly the direction private sector service organizations have been going for more than a decade.

Mission Focused Digital Services

Ms. Williamson said that she focused on several key design priorities.  The first was delivering self-service to empower constituents to take control of their data.  The second was simplicity to focus on achieving a clear outcome for a specific activity.  The third was making digital services as intuitive and easy to use as possible.  She emphasized that she still follows these priorities today.  Mobility was also critical.  Ms. Williamson said that only 25% of the government employees in her scope were desk bound, with the rest working out in the community.   Digital education was critical, as many organizations lacked digital skills.  They may have been working in an analog environment at the start of the transformation, but training and technical assistance moved them to a digital focus.  Ms. Williamson’s team did roadshows around digital services to support change management.  Many users wanted classroom training, which was expensive and time consuming.  Ms. Williamson said that users didn’t need them.  She found that well designed digital services were intuitive enough without classroom training sessions.

Shared Services is a Priority

US Federal CIO Tony Scott advocated a $3.1B budget allocation for IT modernization in next year’s Federal budget.  The intent was to develop digital services that drive operational cost reductions.  The government could use savings from these reductions to fund future IT Modernization investments.  He recently said “If you’re successful in getting [IT Modernization] funding it’ll be because you’re coming up with a proposal that takes more advantage of shared services…”.  The opportunity is clear.  Shared services belong on the next president’s agenda.


Read Matt's previous blog, "Government Transformation to Improve Program Outcomes."


Executive Director
IBM Center for The Business of Government
600 14th Street, NW
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Dan Chenok is Executive Director of the IBM Center for The Business of Government. He oversees all of the Center's activities in connecting research to practice to benefit government, and has written and spoken extensively around government technology, cybersecurity, privacy, regulation, budget, acquisition, and Presidential transitions. Mr. Chenok previously led consulting services for Public Sector Technology Strategy, working with IBM government, healthcare, and education clients.

Mr. Chenok serves in numerous industry leadership positions. He is a CIO SAGE with the Partnership for Public Service, Fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration, Chair of the Cybersecurity Subcommittee of the DHS Data Privacy and Integrity Advisory Committee, Member of the Auburn University Center for Cyber and Homeland Security Board of Directors, Member of the American University IT Executive Council, and Co-Chair of the Senior Executives Association Community of Change for Governance Innovation; previously, he served as Chair of the Industry Advisory Council (IAC) for the government-led American Council for Technology (ACT), Chair of the Federal Information Security and Privacy Advisory Board, and two-time Cybersecurity commission member with the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Mr. Chenok also generally advises public sector leaders on a wide range of management issues. Finally, Mr. Chenok serves as an Adjunct Associate Professor with the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas in Austin, teaching at the school's Washington, DC Center. 

Before joining IBM, Mr. Chenok was a Senior Vice President for Civilian Operations with Pragmatics, and prior to that was a Vice President for Business Solutions and Offerings with SRA International.

As a career Government executive, Mr. Chenok served as Branch Chief for Information Policy and Technology with the Office of Management and Budget, where he led a staff with oversight of federal information and IT policy, including electronic government, computer security, privacy and IT budgeting. Prior to that, he served as Assistant Branch Chief and Desk Officer for Education, Labor, HHS, and related agencies in OMB's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. Mr. Chenok began his government service as an analyst with the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment, and left government service at the end of 2003.

In 2008, Mr. Chenok served on President Barack Obama’s transition team as the Government lead for the Technology, Innovation, and Government Reform group, and as a member of the OMB Agency Review Team.

Mr. Chenok has won numerous honors and awards, including a 2010 Federal 100 winner for his work on the presidential transition, the 2016 Eagle Award for Industry Executive of the Year, and the 2002 Federal CIO Council Azimuth Award for Government Executive of the Year.

Mr. Chenok earned a BA from Columbia University and a Master of Public Policy degree from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.

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