How Digitization Can Transform Government

Governments want to be able to give their employees a variety of choices when it comes to helping them work better as a team. Collaboration tools in the cloud are the way forward, but implementing these solutions is not always seamless. Agencies have to pick the right delivery method.

In GovLoop’s recent event, The Power of Collaboration in Government, attendees heard from Archana Vemulapalli, District Chief Technology Officer of Washington D.C., and Andy Campbell, Sales and Business Development Subject Matter Expert for FedRAMP. The government leader and industry expert shared how government can make cloud technology work for government through the right tools and collaborative processes.

Government often runs into problems when trying to be the most innovative. Instead of helping employees use technologies the right way, agency leaders tend to get carried away with leaving a legacy.

This is because, too often, government tries to make change with technology only for the sake of change or seeming innovative. But Vemulapalli emphasized the importance of staying away from this. “We need to stop trying to build a legacy,” she said. “Everyone in every administration wants to deliver their signature. That’s the single most inefficient thing in government. Don’t try to build a legacy, focus on impact and build something useful.”

According to Vemulapalli, government can make more of a positive impact by changing their approach to technology. “It’s more than about setting up the equipment and being done,” she said. “There are all sorts of pieces that should play a part.”

Changing approaches to technological innovation also means establishing robust relationships with the private sector. In terms of working with government, Campbell said it’s the private sector’s job to help “Drive confidence for government to move applications to the cloud and tech space while driving efficiency.”

Campbell added, “People need the capabilities. We try to provide capabilities to help governments achieve their missions.”

As a mission for the district of Columbia, Vemulapalli’s team decided to focus on changing mindsets surrounding technology. “Every department and agency in the city is trying to improve services and be more efficient,” Vemulapalli said.  “We all always want to do better than in the previous administration."

Like the vast majority of local government entities, D.C.  also wanted to be a “smart city” by making smarter decisions that are technology-driven.

One way the District is working on being “smarter” is through the smart LED lighting project. The project is a joint effort with the District Department of Transportation and the Office of the Chief Technology Officer (OCTO) to convert the District’s streetlights to more reliable and sustainable light emitting diode (LED) technology. Additionally, the project aims to deploy smart city technology, such as free broadband Wi-Fi and remote monitoring of the lights as well as transfer the system maintenance to a new private sector partner.

In order to ensure success for the project, Vemulapalli and her team focused on collaboration tactics and made sure they had everyone they needed at the discussion table, both from government and the private sector.

“We needed to consider what other services we could achieve and what efficiencies we’d have by getting the technology team to work right alongside us,” Vemulapalli said.

By having the D.C. team working closely with the vendors and service providers, the District was able to implement the LED lighting project in less than 6 months.

Vemulapalli attributes the District’s success and cost savings to extensive coordination and planning. “On the technology side, we were just using tools and services the right way,” she said. “It’s also important to define your business problems and goals and then let the technology people do their thing.”

One issue that government often runs into when trying to adopt new technology is lack of training for employees and other users, which produces inefficiencies.

“During any transition, you need to give people options so users can have self-confidence,” Campbell said. “Let the users choose what tools and services they’re comfortable with.”

The District has 33,000 employees with a variety of experience surrounding technology. To bridge that digital divide in experience, Vemulapalli stressed the importance of guiding your team through the transition process to new technologies. That’s where service providers can really help in terms of training staff on how to use new digital products.

“If you make your staff all use a certain tool the same way, it’s not going to work,” Vemulapalli said. “But having a helpline in place and helping people learn the tools and processes makes the transition much smoother.”

Ultimately, driving smarter cities, or smarter government overall, takes more than just finding the right tools. It takes serious collaboration between public and private sectors to make sure staffs are properly equipped to use the digital tools. The only way to drive success in transforming government into a more digital entity is through strong collaboration.

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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