What Do White House Reforms Mean for Federal IT?

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) ended President Trump’s hiring freeze on April 12 and issued a new memo titled “Comprehensive Plan for Reforming the Federal Government and Reducing the Federal Civilian Workforce.” The reform plan could have big implications across the government workforce, but particularly for IT managers and professionals. That’s why we looked at the three key issues for the IT workforce outlined in the memo.

Use Technology to Improve Processes

This summer, agencies — in conjunction with OMB — will be required to create reform plans that outline how they will improve, consolidate, or eliminate business processes. To develop these plans, OMB has asked agencies to consider where workflows or positions can be automated by new technologies. OMB believes that by using new technologies, agencies can increase cost savings and improve efficiency across the organization.

During this transformation, IT leaders will likely need to consider purchasing new IT systems, realigning existing resources, or retraining staff members. They should also keep in mind that infusing agency processes with new technology should improve organizational effectiveness and service delivery for constituents. The challenge for agencies is they must make these considerations in the face of steep, proposed cuts laid out in the president’s fiscal 2018 budget.

OMB also directs agencies to “keep positions current” by exploring which positions should be redesigned or eliminated to adapt to changing technology needs. The memo mentions database administration, invoice processing, and financial management as potential processes that can be automated or contracted to the private sector. So IT leaders should directly assess how to best automate these processes and how frontline IT employees may be impacted.

Enhance Cross-Agency Collaboration

The memo also directs agency leaders to examine ways that they can break down silos within agencies and work with outside organizations.

“Examples of crosscutting reforms may include areas where market or technology changes allow a service to be delivered more efficiently, such as by a shared service provider, or where multiple federal agencies interact in fragmented or duplicative ways with state, local, and tribal governments or other stakeholders,” according to the memo.

Collaborating more closely with other agencies, state governments, or the private sector could be game-changing for the federal IT workforce. Also, the Obama administration previously endorsed the model in its Cross Agency Priority Goals. Using shared services for mission-support functions, such as IT infrastructure or acquisition services can improve agency efficiency, reduce costs, and free up resources to more directly serve citizens.

OMB suggests that agency leaders, including those in IT offices, “consider government-wide contracts for common goods and services to save money, avoid wasteful and redundant contracting actions, and free up acquisition staff to accelerate procurements for high-priority mission work.”

Cross agency solutions may facilitate quicker acquisition of new innovations, such as cloud-based technologies, and they may reduce implementation costs. Increasing cross agency collaboration will provide opportunities for agency and IT leaders to recognize duplicative processes and eliminate fragmentation across government.

Increase the Use of Data for Evaluation

At multiple points in the memo, OMB suggests that data will play an increasing role in ensuring high employee performance and evaluating the costs and benefits of certain programs. The Obama administration also emphasized the use of data, but for IT administrators, this might mean they will need to update the frameworks, systems, and personnel in place to collect, analyze and interpret data analytics.

IT leaders can assist agency leaders with incorporating statistics, performance measures and program evaluation techniques during the strategic meetings this summer and with the creation of the reform plans. OMB officials have asked agencies to use these metrics to prove the worth and efficiency of programs. Also, OMB specifically requested that, “agencies maintain data on Performance Improvement Plans, including the number of employees placed on them and the number who successfully improve performance.”

This will help managers make informed personnel decisions. Once the reform plans are finalized and implemented, agency and IT leaders will also need to help develop and refine metrics and systems that properly track progress.

Although the change in administration has brought a lot of uncertainty to the federal workforce, there’s no doubt that IT leaders will play a key role in helping agencies align with new reforms. IT leaders will be greatly impacted by the reform process, but will also be in a great position to modernize agencies, manage the transition, and transform day-to-day operations.

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