When agencies make poor technology choices — selecting inexpensive options that limit future growth — then they waste time and money and miss opportunities.
David Egts, Red Hat’s Chief Technologist for the North American Public Sector, compared it to painting San Francisco’s famously orange Golden Gate Bridge. “The story goes that as soon as you start painting it, you go back to the other end of the bridge and start painting again,” he said. But if you choose cheap paint, then maybe you only can paint half the bridge before needing to start over.
In the context of government IT, poorly considered modernization is like low-quality paint. But a high-quality approach (such as open source software) prepares agencies for new opportunities and technology that hasn’t been invented.
It allows agencies to go beyond what they’re working on now. “It’s like, hey, maybe we got that bridge painted, but instead of needing to repaint the bridge again, let’s go find another bridge to paint,” Egts said.
People like to measure their success and prove value to their supervisors. They often focus on their inputs (e.g., how many hours they worked) and sometimes on their outcomes (e.g., how many tasks they completed). But for Egts, those metrics miss the point.
“What I really would focus on,” he said, “are the outcomes. What impact are you making on citizens?” Understanding those details can make an agency more efficient and help it respond to the president’s 2021 customer experience executive order.
It used to be difficult to convince agencies of their need for consumer-focused reforms, Egts said. But now, organizations look at service delivery through the lens of the customer, not the agency.
That often amounts to common sense. For instance, say that you go online to get a state fishing license. Since people who fish often have boating licenses as well, the state website could ask people if they want to apply for a boating license while there, without going to another site.
It’s similar to online shopping: Before you buy something, sites often ask if you want a related product also.
“What will happen is you’ll have more money going into state agencies,” Egts said, “and agencies will have more funds to serve citizens better.”
Egts said that mandates and cybersecurity concerns are prompting agencies to use commercially supported IT solutions, including open source technology, as the basis for their government modernization.
“Organizations want to have a stable foundation, one that can run any cloud, that they can build on and then focus their innovation on top of that,” Egts said. “That really frees [agencies] up to concentrate on their mission and on improved service delivery, instead of trying to focus on everything.
Forward-thinking modernization can help agencies deliver better, more efficient customer services, and open source technology offers the technical foundation for that innovation.
This article is an excerpt from GovLoop’s virtual summit e-book, “Forget About Transformation & Get Stuff Done.”