Patches to faltering, outdated legacy systems are often known as “Band-Aid fixes.” That makes the legacy systems’ wounds long-lasting ones that continue to fester.
Those wounds are part of what’s holding back government from large-scale innovation, by capping employees’ freedom and occupying their time. To heal, sooner or later, agencies need to rip off the Band-Aid.
“In a financially conscious world, I have not seen a business case yet that allows you to gracefully sunset a legacy system,” said Cameron Chehreh, Chief Technology Officer and Vice President of Pre-Sale Engineering for Dell’s federal division.
With political leaders praising and modern employers embracing hybrid environments and accessible digital services, agencies are trying to pin down just what will get them there. Innovativeness is the name of the game.
In an online training GovLoop hosted Wednesday during its virtual summit, Chehreh and fellow panelist George Strother, U.S. Agriculture Department (USDA) Storage Management Branch Chief, offered some steps to help agencies become more innovative.
The first step, both said, is to enable people.
“Training and mindset is probably the most important piece,” Strother said.
Strother said USDA has put out books for employees to read, sometimes in place of agency-issued training modules.
That’s part of making people want to engage, which is vital because innovation demands an inclusive environment, Chehreh said.
“You have to create a culture where it’s inclusive,” Chehreh said, defining that culture as the openness for everyone to share ideas and have them heard.
To that end, Strother recommended collaboration apps as the primary form of communication in hybrid organizations.
Collaboration apps are one example of how agencies can stoke innovation, as the apps lead to greater trust, ideation and productivity. Another example is automation – though only when done right.
Strother said that automation shouldn’t take away the parts of peoples’ jobs that they enjoy. That’s something worth emphasizing at agencies, he said. Automation should instead be applied to repetitive and monotonous minutiae that impedes employees from completing larger-scale, more rewarding work.
To truly deliver innovation, technology must be made for the people, with the mission as the focus, Chehreh said. If agencies can point employees to a tangible example of how technology has helped them deliver on the mission, the tech will be more likely to catch on.
“You design from the foxhole, back – not from Washington, D.C., forward,” Chehreh said. “And the reason you do that is you deal with the harder use cases up front.”
Chehreh and Strother ended the webinar by posing a challenge to the audience:
Challenge the old way of thinking, they said, and don’t be afraid to fail.
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