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Even More Insight into How GSA Stays Ahead of the IT Modernization Curve

The General Services Administration (GSA) is seven standard deviations ahead of the federal average for use of cloud according to David Shive, GSA Chief Information Officer (CIO). “My budget over the last five years has shrunk by 17.8 percent occurring annually,” he said. “The employee satisfaction for use of technology has gone up 20 percent in that same time. So we’re spending dramatically less money and obtaining better outcomes.”

GovLoop sat down recently to talk more with Shive, about how the agency has streamlined the IT environment, reduced duplication, simplified technology, and fostered an environment of technology reuse and collaborative sharing.

This is part two of a two-part interview with Shive. Click here to read part one.

The responses have been lightly edited for brevity and clarity.

GOVLOOP: What challenges did you face with regards to IT modernization? How did you overcome or tackle those challenges?

SHIVE: When we started our modernization efforts, we quickly learned we needed to reassess the way we had traditionally procured and delivered IT services. We had to consider how to procure cloud technologies, software-as-a-service solutions, DevSecOps, and other leading-edge technologies to support our goals for improved service delivery. These technologies required lower upfront costs, could be scaled to meet changing customer needs and were easily accessible. We implemented agile and flexible procurement vehicles to buy and take advantage of these new transformative technologies.

We also needed to develop human capital strategies to ensure the IT workforce had the skills and capabilities to support tomorrow’s technology and organizational requirements. GSA developed long-term strategies to recruit, train, and develop a cadre of IT professionals with highly specialized skills in acquisition, security, and program management, and emerging technologies to meet our growing needs.

In addition, our customers’ demand and expectations for high-tech services quickly changing during our modernization journey. We could not spend months on investment decisions and take years before delivering products and services. We adopted agile and DevSecOps principles to define business needs and roll-out system functionality in an agile and iterative way.

As security threats became more elaborate and our customers relied more heavily on emerging technologies to support their mission, it was critical that our cybersecurity tools and controls also evolved to proactively identify and mitigate IT vulnerabilities. GSA invested in cyber tools and processes to secure our IT environment.

GOVLOOP: What advice do you have for other agencies in similar situations?

SHIVE: Each agency has different requirements, but to make smarter, longer-term investments, organizations must understand the total cost of modernization and have transparency and visibility into current IT spending. There is a need for an agile governance process, where the agency focuses on smaller implementations and constructs proofs-of-concept and prototypes before scaling to the final implementation. Organizations have to be willing to take risks and realize sometimes they will fail. By investing small amounts of funding first and understanding the current operational costs, they can determine whether it is beneficial to expand the implementation into a larger investment strategy.

Agencies also need to obtain senior level buy-in for IT modernization plans. A key component of effective IT modernization is open communication with customers. Regular customer meetings with cost data that is benchmarked are critical, along with a narrative on how the services they received have helped them as a catalyst to drive business improvements.

GOVLOOP: What are some tips for change management that you can offer to other agencies?

SHIVE: IT modernization initiatives transform the way employees and the public interacts with technology to receive services from the federal government. Enterprise solutions touch every employee across the organization, and to be successful, agencies need to develop effective change management strategies to promote the adoption of new technology solutions. Change management cannot be an afterthought for technology projects. Change management, customer experience, and usability experts need to be brought into the discussion planning phases early – not when an IT initiative is getting ready to be launched.

At GSA, we have a Chief Customer Experience Officer who focuses solely on improving customer experience and fostering a customer-first mentality. They improve the end-to-end experience of GSA customers by aligning operations to customer needs.

We also have a dedicated team of change management experts in GSA IT to support effective communications, end-user training, and stakeholder outreach when launching new products. They are embedded with our technical teams to translate technical language into user-friendly communications and training for employees and our customers.

Usability also plays a key role in our overall change management strategy. We want to build solutions with the end user in mind. There are too many examples in IT where the user experience is not taken into account early enough in the development process. We have incorporated human-centered design principles early in the design phase to allow adequate time to test and fully understand the user experience in the early phases of the project.

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