Automation, Data Top Gov’s 2020 Tech Wishlist

Data and automation were at the top of the 2020 priorities list for government and industry officials who spoke during GovLoop’s recent online training, “Gov’s Technology Wishlist,” on Tuesday.

Especially when it comes to automation, some government employees may shift in their seats a little when they think about how the technology may negatively impact their jobs. It’s tempting to see automation solely as a technology that takes jobs away, not adds to them.

But this is what Michael Rigas, Deputy Director of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), insisted otherwise.

“Agencies that successfully leveraged [automation] tools see that yes, their [employees’] jobs did change, but they changed for the better,” Rigas said.

Rigas identified the FBI and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) as examples of agencies that successfully carried automation initiatives. The rollouts achieved two important things: improving mission execution and boosting employee morale. For instance, automation was used to produce quicker, more accurate fingerprint analyses for law enforcement and investigating bodies that eliminated backlogs and increased employee capacity at the FBI. The IRS achieved something similar by using robotic process automation (RPA) in online tax filing, freeing up employees’ workloads for them to tackle the more complex and rewarding responsibilities of their jobs.

“Automation is going to be a big trend from 2020 and beyond,” said Brandon Shopp, Vice President of Product Strategy at SolarWinds.

That’s why OPM is partnering with the General Services Administration (GSA) to stand up an RPA upskilling academy to train federal employees, especially those impacted by the technology. It’s evident that automation impacts the workforce significantly, and at the heart of automation is data.

“Data is so central to everything in government,” said Isaac Constans, staff writer at GovLoop, in reviewing the year’s top government innovations.

Data is central because — as with all tools that are used — it helps execute and accomplish agency mission. The VAULT platform, for example, is the Air Force’s data toolset that was picked up and expanded for the Defense Department (DoD) as well. It stands for visible, accessible, understandable, linked and trusted data. “That’s our goal,” said Col. Charles Destefani, Deputy Chief Data Officer (CDO) at the Air Force.

There are several semantic meanings behind the platform name that offers a general understanding of why and how data matters to government. First and foremost is security — “vault” thereby suggesting a secure box.

“When putting government data in the cloud, people need reassurance,” Col. Destefani said. “The branding is to imply that security is in the name.”

Second is progress — “vault” then implying to leap or spring. “We want this to be a giant leap forward for the Air Force making information accessible and usable, unlike the past,” Col. Destefani said.

And third is investment — the word here suggesting a bank vault. Just like putting money into the bank and getting it back with interest, data used as an asset can be pooled for the benefit of the enterprise and then given back with benefits, or tools that would not have been created singlehandedly.

“You don’t always have to get the next big tech, but start from the building blocks and then see where you can go,” Constans said.

This online training was sponsored by:

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