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The Future of Government Innovation: Being Digital by Design

Today, public sector organizations at all levels are facing shrinking budgets, with some of the most severe cuts taking place in information technology and support services.

But at the same time, these organizations are expected to deliver services and conduct business at the speed of technology, as citizens of all ages – from boomers to millennials – have become accustomed to the immediacy and interactivity of private sector giants such as Google and Amazon.

So what’s the solution? The general consensus seems to revolve around the concept of taking government ‘digital’ to reduce costs and optimize efficiencies. But going digital goes far beyond the concept of just e-government; it involves fundamentally changing the way we conduct business so that we are both citizen-centric and adaptable to changing conditions.

To help understand the impact of the digital revolution on government, GovLoop attended PegaWorld, a three-day annual conference hosted in June in Washington, D.C., by Pega Systems. This year, the theme revolved around ‘the power to change,’ with digitization at the center of the conversation. This discussion began with a keynote presentation from Pega Chief Executive Officer Alan Trefler.

Pegasystems CEO Alan Trefler during his opening keynote to PegaWorld 2014

Digital By Design

“We fundamentally believe, that to be digital, it is not just about something you can just bolt on,” began Trefler. “You have to be digital by design.”

According to Trefler, this means thinking through exactly what you want to achieve as you go digital, so that everything you do, whether it is employing mobile technologies or moving things to the cloud, revolve around the type of abilities you’ll need to succeed.

Trefler offered three fundamental abilities – or ‘powers’ – that will separate those who are successfully harnessing the power of digital versus those who are not:

The Power to Engage

For any agency that serves a constituency or customer – even if it’s internal customers like field agents or mission-facing operating units – the ability to engage is crucial. This means being able to interact with customers through any channel they choose – either through telephone, in-person, or mobile device – and to be able to actively participate in the discussion while serving these customers.

[To learn more about the future of digital government, make sure to reserve a copy of our latest guide, The Future of Digital Public Service, today!]

The Power to Simplify

This one is tough for public sector agencies, many of which are pulled in countless directions by changing organizational structures, complex regulations and even the specter of politics so that even the simplest of tasks can be complicated. However, organizations need to be able to go end-to-end and look at how they are set up from the first point of interaction with the constituent to completion.

This means everything from the process of filing taxes with the state government to the application and disbursement of a hunting license. When building processes, every step should begin and end with the final objective, which will allow agencies to strip away everything that doesn’t contribute.

The Power to Change

Despite popular misconceptions about the public sector, operations are rarely static in public agencies. Regulations change, budgets change – even customers change. The ability to nimbly change and adapt to these shifts, including positive opportunities that arise, will be the difference-maker between those agencies that flourish in any circumstance they face and those that struggle with even the slightest change.

The Role of ‘Digital’ in All of This

After setting the stage for the successful digital enterprise, Trefler brought the audience back to two fundamentals that motivate these goals: the customers we serve and the work that we do. The idea behind the digital enterprise is one that brings the customer and the work together underneath the umbrella of digital innovation.

Trefler believes that the future is about software, and that successful organizations will need to be, in some way, ‘software companies.’

Now, if this raises alarm bells in the minds of public sector employees, know that you are not alone.

“Most companies today have some level of despair or profound frustration with their software,” said Trefler. “But that doesn’t mean you have to do it the way that it was done 50 years ago. There are new ways of thinking and new ways of approaching this [problem].”

In other words, going digital isn’t about developing countless new apps or sticking all of your programs and systems into the cloud. Without first laying the groundwork for creating a common landscape for dealing with customers and the way you do business, you won’t be able to fully harness those powers mentioned earlier. In this way, successful agencies won’t simply be using software – they will also think like software.

The underlying goal is to build what Trefler called a ‘unified architecture’ that brings the different parts of the organization together, end-to-end. It is an architecture that bridges the customer and the work together so that the people government serves and the work that government does operate on the same plane. It will also bring business units and IT together so that they are speaking a common language.

This type of innovation can’t happen by accident. It has to be engineered, just like software. Only then can agencies use the new technologies at hand to better engage, simplify and change.

To see how these concepts manifest in the real world, click here to read about a case study at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS).

Additional Resources

  • GovLoop Guide: The Future of Digital Public Service - Reserve a copy of our newest guide and learn about the power of digital transformation.
  • PegaWorld 2014 - View recordings of keynote addresses and other resources.

Pega is the best platform for modernizing government case-centric applications. We enable government agencies to uniquely address one of their most critical challenges, - the need to respond predictably and timely to continuous change. With Pega, agencies improve their ability to respond to change by 5X by automating the documentation, automating the programming, and automating the work. Government organizations around the globe are powering transformation at every level using Pega.

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