How Federal Agencies Can Overcome Barriers to Digital Transformation

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The state of digital transformation in government

MeriTalk, in partnership with DocuSign, recently surveyed 300 federal, state, and local IT and program managers to understand their perspectives on digital transformation.

While 60% of respondents say they have felt a “significant” shift in digital transformation over the past two years, only 37% rate their organization’s approach to digital transformation as advanced, meaning they “aggressively expand digital services and digitize internal processes”. A majority (56%) describe their digital transformation as intermediate, saying they are “making progress by digitizing incrementally when possible.”

Despite this, 88% say they face barriers to transformation. Top barriers include data security or privacy concerns (33%), lack of available budget (30%), resistance to change from end users (28%), and lack of skilled IT workforce to implement the transformation (27%).

Respondents say they need workforce training and education (51%) to drive digital transformation forward, as well as committed multi-year funding (39%) and shared best practices at all levels government (39%).

According to 54% of IT managers surveyed, leading organizations are more likely to focus on improving data management to streamline workflows and reduce redundancy, and 50% say they are expanding their use of IT vendors. cloud services certified under the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program and its state equivalents.

TO EXPLORE: What are the top federal IT trends to watch in 2022?

How federal IT leaders are pursuing digital transformation

Federal IT officials recently offered their own insights on how best for agencies to achieve digital transformation. One clear area to work on, they say, is investing in talent.

At ATARC’s Virtual Digital Transformation Summit in January, Gulam Shakir, CTO and Acting Director of Enterprise Data Management at the National Archives and Records Administration, endorsed the idea.

Shakir said agencies need to invest in their people to rapidly innovate their digital capabilities, MeriTalk reports. “Give them the opportunity to train and try to give them a safe place to experiment, to explore different technologies.”

This work enables IT leaders to “create a sense of ownership” for transformation among workers and increases their ability to take risks in a safe environment. “And then when the opportunity comes, when there’s a need, you have a task, you have a workforce ready to take on the challenge immediately so they can help you on the innovation journey. “, he added.

Chezian Sivagnanam, chief enterprise architect at the National Science Foundation, said staff should be involved in transformation efforts and must evolve with the technology itself. “As we navigate your digital transformation, don’t forget your employees, your staff, your workforce. You know, find a way to support them,” Sivagnanam said. “Whatever you’ve innovated, if your staff or your customers don’t adapt, all innovation is a waste of effort, so be sure to invest in them.

Other IT leaders say that to succeed in digital transformation, leaders must articulate a clear technology vision of how modernization helps improve the agency’s ability to fulfill its mission.

Jill Marlowe, head of digital transformation at NASA, speaking at the ATARC event, said vision “is the topic that should precede any event or any real discussion about digital transformation, because if you don’t know not what change you’re trying to bring about, then your digital strategy will likely be more of a digitization than a true digital transformation strategy,” MeriTalk reports.

Marlowe noted that NASA’s digital transformation initiative began about a year ago with meetings with senior agency leaders “to get their ideas on how NASA needed to change, which was preventing them from sleeping at night in terms of where we had to pivot”.

These efforts have helped NASA define its digital transformation goals, MeriTalk notes, which include improving complex decision-making, making it easier for partners to work with NASA, and evolving the workforce experience. work.

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