Recently, the General Accountability Office (GAO) released a sobering view of federal agency budgets and the financial effect of legacy systems on IT expenditures. About 75 percent of funds now go towards keeping dated hardware and software solutions running. The effect? A seven-year trend of declining expenditures on new solutions, about a $7 billion reduction.
For federal agencies, this is a devastating trend. Behind the numbers, you might be using older software solutions that can’t run under the newest (and most secure) operating systems, require outdated hardware and can’t be enhanced because they were written in programming languages that are no longer taught. The GAO report referenced several agencies using systems that are at least 50 years old. And, in at least one case, still looking at 8-inch floppy drives to run a key system.
If you are a CIO, applications manager or analyst, you are probably watching this budget effect with extreme alarm. Not only do you face a lack of funding for security, your users are less efficient. On top of that, you are unable to afford the latest solutions that could lead a transformation of your agency. Your agency may also be facing the retirement of some of your most capable and experienced staff and with the recent hiring freeze, leaving you very understaffed.
Countries around the world are speaking about a digital transformation of government. There are many facets to this transformation, but it includes using solutions that allow agencies to implement digital and online processes. At its core, this transformation requires agencies to abandon paper while demanding new platforms that can meet their customers’ needs online with 24/7 convenience and design that works on mobile devices.
Normally, you would address the staff concerns, security needs, new customer efforts and replacement cycles by purchasing better solutions. But, as the GAO analysis shows, your agency may have a very limited budget to move forward and replace aging systems. This means that your purchases must be flexible and able to simultaneously solve many problems to maximize impact and ensure you can use the investment successfully in the future.
What should you look for?
- Case management tools – These solutions include platform tools that allow rapid application development to avoid the time and cost of custom code. They allow modular deployment and can support many program and mission objectives. Case management is the right approach to equip staff and provide better service to your customers. With a platform of configuration tools that doesn’t require custom code, you not only have the tools to solve solution needs, you’ve invested in a philosophy that is financially sustainable and agile.
- Enterprise content management (ECM) – Government often means paper. And most government transactions begin, progress and end with paper. Securing paper while providing collaboration options and ending the cost and time associated with paper filing and archiving saves budget and improves efficiency. Being paperless means finally being able to move to mobile access and online services. ECM and enterprise information management offers that potential by eliminating paper-created silos with a single, secure, central repository.
- Capture – The paperless potential is more than just eliminating file cabinets. It includes capturing paper, automatically pulling out the information it contains without manual data entry and providing tools to move to electronic forms. Pursuing capture tools can reclaim staff time and support other efforts like online services and paper reduction.
- Business process automation – If you face a hiring freeze and a retirement surge, automation seems like a good answer. The right platform connects ECM tools, case management tools and workflow to allow you to relieve workload pressures (faster government) and enforce business rules (better government) – supporting less experienced staff while ensuring compliance with programmatic and statutory requirements. Additionally, the combination of case management, automation and going paperless provides increased visibility for business unit managers who are responsible for process improvement and identifying bottlenecks. Automation is an essential functionality for future federal investment and the goal of providing online services.
- Enterprise File Sync and Share – Many federal government processes require consultation and collaboration with other agencies or external organizations. This means emails back and forth as well as the sharing of documents and content like reports, photos videos, etc. Even within agencies, securing critical content and tools for collaboration is essential. Documents and document review is an essential activity of government and an integrated and secure way to share them is a welcome tool that speeds up extra-agency tasks while providing an audit trail of that activity.
The five functions above are critical to drive a digital transformation in an agile and modular approach that is affordable. These tools avoid the type of investments that have led to the disturbing budget numbers collected by the GAO. The capabilities above hit at core challenges and pains faced by the government and address the demands of customers. Frankly, they help meet the expectations of a labor force whose smartphones may have more features than the critical systems they use for their jobs. As you drive your own agency’s digital transformation, consider these keys to a way forward.