Trickle Up Techonomics: When Frontline Folks Lead the Leaders

For the past few weeks, GovLoop has been teaming up with former Federal News Radio host and thought leader Chris Dorobek (DorobekInsider) to produce a weekly podcast that is one part “week that was” in the news and one-part interviews with people making the news. We call it “GovLoop Insights” and I always get a couple nuggets of inspiration from it. I’d encourage you to check it out by clicking on the logo to the right.

This week’s podcast featured an interview with Shane Harris of Washingtonian Magazine, who talked about a Palantir technology that enables government – and, in particular, the intelligence community – to mine vast amounts of data to find the proverbial needles in the haystack and cut time to critical answer from weeks to days or even hours.

But that’s not what struck me most. It was the fact that Palantir was able to gain traction with its software not by courting the senior leaders, but by equipping the frontline workers with tools that helped them do their jobs more effectively. Eventually, their success captured the attention of supervisors and senior leaders…but it was the improved productivity of the people performing the day to day tasks that propelled organizations to adopt it agency-wide. I guess you might call it “trickle up technology.”

Listen to the interview for yourself (jump to 15:00 if you want to hear specifically about the trickle-up tech effect):
Data Mining to Stop Terrorism by GovLoop Insights | Subscribe via ITunes

Is this “trickle up tech” happening in your agency or department?
Are front line employees using technology that makes them more effective and, eventually, leads to a decision from the top to distribute the tech tools more broadly?

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Courtney Shelton Hunt

In my experience, a bottom-up approach to technology adoption is too slow. Though the strategies may be different, we need to go bottom-up AND top-down.

Janina Rey Echols Harrison

I think it is an excellent idea if our IT is responsive to customer needs. They have been more so recently.

Years ago I worked for Infonet. I was programming the billing for internet services. Customers told our sales staff what they wanted. Our sales staff sold a product we didn’t have. Needless to say it was a mad dash to do the programming and change our product offerings to meet demand. My job put me in contact with people around the globe. The ‘cloud’ was making the globe a very small place. When they tore down the Berlin Wall, connectivity exploded into the Baltic nations. I talked to people who traveled hundreds of miles with their computers to reach a spot where they could connect to the internet.

Technology has progressed to where we are now because of bottom up customer ‘needs/wants’. Bottom up is only a problem and slow because of government.

Example: We were not allowed to use WiFi on our government computers. My brother passed away and I had to travel so took my laptop. My other brother and I traveled together, and he took his laptop. He was online everywhere we went. My laptop was operating in paperweight mode. I drug it 6,000 miles and could never find a place to plug in. My deceased brother’s home was all WiFi and they didn’t have a land line, they used cell phones. Hotels were all WiFi.

Our front line employees want to use the techonology they use in their personal lives to enhance their work efficiency. My previous boss did a lot to get us onto social media. It provided huge benefit in connecting with citizens. I work for Yosemite National Park and sharing the everyday wonders that occur here, on Twitter and Facebook, is amazing. Our science specialist have little segments called Nature Notes. It is difficult to keep up with technology given the budget constraints. We are very selective about making choices on purchases to get the best, but keep in the budget and have technology that we hope will last a few years.

I get frustrated knowing what I can do at home and I do not have a sophisticated set up because of the remote area I live in. At work I can’t do a lot I would like to do.