You Can be a Change Agent in Gov’s Digital Transformation

Everyone who works in government knows the stereotype. Typically, we have a perception that government is large monolithic agencies, filled with stifling bureaucracy that kills innovation and efficiency. However, this is not the reality across government today.

Agencies are increasingly investing in and leveraging digital technologies to transform digital processes. These technologies are driving fundamental change in government’s business model, allowing public sector employees to securely collaborate and work together as a team to bring about more efficiency.

One public servant who knows a thing or two about driving collaboration and efficiency in government is the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Chief Information Officer, David Bray. When Bray arrived at the FCC in late 2013, he was coming on as the tenth CIO in the past eight years. However, in less than two years, Bray spearheaded an effort that saw the FCC move 100 percent to the cloud and commercial service providers.

Bray recently spoke at GovLoop’s “The Power of Collaboration in Government” event about how he achieved this dramatic change and what other public servants can do to drive innovation in their own agencies.

In the coming months and years, agencies must embrace digital transformation because the pace of change in IT is accelerating dramatically. “The next seven years are going to see more changes than the last twenty years combined so we have to transform how we are operating because any technology that is older than five years is already out of date and makes you extremely vulnerable to inefficiency and security breaches,” Bray explained.

He illustrated this with an example of how rapidly the amount of IP addresses in the world is growing. Bray explained that with the current version of the Internet Protocol (IP), all the IP addresses can fit into a regular sized beach ball. However, we are embracing the internet of everything so rapidly that IPv6, the next iteration of IPv4, will see all of the IP addresses fitting into a sphere the size of the sun.

While the technology is rapidly advancing, catalyzing human change isn’t as easy. “Change agents in government must be able to step outside expectations and manage from outside the status quo,” Bray said. “Agencies need to have a strategy on how to change and move the team forward or it may not be accepted by everyone in the agency and the public.”

At the FCC, the average employee had been at the agency between fifteen to twenty years when Bray came on as the CIO. Any change agent strategy must be designed to consider the workforce that has been at the agency for years and plan to bring them along. For example, once an agency moves to the cloud, there is no longer a need for employees whose job was to patch servers. Bray emphasized that any good leader will have a strategy that brings people like this on board.

Bray closed his session by posing a question to the government employees in the room. “What if we set a goal to have three quarters of civilian federal IT hosted in either a public cloud or commercial cloud provider by 2019?” he said. While this is a massive digital transformation effort, he emphasized that it is not impossible.

“If we can get a man to the moon in less than seven years, we can get federal IT off of on premise technology. I know it sounds like an audacious idea but public sector employees have set out to do much harder things and achieved them,” Bray concluded.

This blog post is a recap of GovLoop’s recent event in partnership with Cisco, The Power of Collaboration in Government. For more recaps, click here.

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