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Boosting Your Agency’s Innovation in 3 Steps

Oftentimes, agencies need creativity to accomplish their missions and serve the public well. Whether it is shrinking budgets or leadership shakeups, every agency has many puzzles to figure out.

But innovation is not a switch that agencies can flick on or off. To become more innovative, agencies need to rewire their people, processes and technology for more flexibility. Consequently, innovative agencies can meet the public’s needs with more agility and ease.

According to Chezian Sivagnanam, Chief Enterprise Architect at the National Science Foundation (NSF), and Dave Egts, Chief Technologist at Red Hat, an open source software provider, any agency can exercise more innovation. By transforming their operations, agencies from the federal level down can become as groundbreaking as private sector companies.

On Tuesday, Sivagnanam and Egts spoke during GovLoop’s latest virtual summit. The duo shared three steps agencies can make to increase their innovation:

1. Smash Through Silos

For better or worse, people often gather with like-minded individuals. Government employees are no exception, so countering this impulse can spark innovation at agencies. For the best results, Sivagnanam recommended agencies improve communication and collaboration agencywide.

“The secret sauce is putting the right ingredients together,” he said. “You put the business and IT teams together, and there will be some innovation happening there.”

2. Embrace Enthusiasm

Sivagnanam also suggested agencies harness positivity about new things. For instance, a technology’s early converts can convince agency leaders to invest further in the new tool. Often, the people who love a technology are the best suited to describing its benefits.

“They are really the change champions,” he said of early adopters. “Some of these products are really amazing, and the momentum goes through the roof.”

According to Sivagnanam, early adopters pushed NSF to use more artificial intelligence (AI). NSF focuses on stimulating science research initiatives nationwide; subsequently, AI’s near-human thinking abilities are valuable for grouping the agency’s proposals by topic.

3. Adopt Automation

Automation involves machines performing manual processes with little to no human input. According to Egts, automation can free government employees from many of their most repetitive and time-consuming tasks.

“Automation is a great way to free critical talent from the toil and drudgery,” he said. “It transforms culture across the organization.”

Agencies can automate such common but unexciting duties as entering data into spreadsheets or updating software. This frees employees up to pursue more complex responsibilities, such as designing fresh programs. Even better, automation can make workers more productive and satisfied while aiding them.

The Bottom Line

Ultimately, innovation matters because it can assist agencies with meeting their customers’ needs. According to Sivagnanam, NSF always tries to innovate with constituents in mind.

“At the end of the day, we sell for the customer,” he said. “Customers have been the center stage in all these transformations.”

Check out other recaps from today’s virtual summit here, and make sure to register for other upcoming GovLoop online trainings.

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