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By Andrew Conn, COO National Government Services

A recent Government Executive survey found nearly six in 10 respondents said the pandemic had a “major” or “extreme” impact on Government agencies’ operations. The need for successful IT modernization efforts is more critical than ever–but for IT to have maximum effect, Federal agencies must ensure a fertile foundation both organizationally and culturally.

Federal agencies can streamline their mission by becoming more user-friendly, agile and implementing a human-centric design (HCD) model that considers the human perspective in all steps of the problem-solving process. Federal agencies who operate this way will likely also partner or require their contractors to adopt a similar mindset. Accomplishing a thriving HCD culture is not without its own set of challenges. Still, organizations that are agile and capable of evolving as customers’ needs change can reap valuable benefits with short and long-term rewards.

Benefits of HCD

Agencies, and the contractors that they work with, who take the time to execute an effective HCD and agile culture can ensure the organization addresses strategic and operational priorities. These priorities typically include modernizing legacy systems and data, reducing costs for IT maintenance, enhancing employee morale, and improving overall citizen engagement and ultimate satisfaction.

Modernize Legacy

For those embarking on their own agile transformation, it is important to build and maintain a framework that modernizes these legacy technologies, increases velocity of change, simplifies processes, and reduces the burden on users. This is especially important for Federal agencies with health missions, who might look to leverage resources like a Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) to coordinate agile teams while ensuring IT collaboration, communication and transparency within the business.

HCD will be instrumental in ensuring this collaboration, but will also help agencies foster empathy and connection, while understanding the needs of its users during the customer experience journey–especially regarding user experience design and input. Depending on the resources you implement, you could develop a self-service framework that reduces workload and achieves operating cost savings.

Best Practices

One technique agencies can consider when implementing this new mindset is enforcing best practices like generating, sharing and implementing real-time customer insight to create a positive, customer-centric experience. This will help the agency understand the customer journey and evaluate everything they do through the user’s eyes.

Understand the User

To achieve a similar outcome, organizations can use similar techniques or various forms of ethnographic and primary research to examine different user personas and fully grasp what is essential to the specific user. This data is a valuable resource for agencies to transform ideas into concrete actions. Not only will it help identify leading indicators of success, but it will also provide guidance to help determine whether agencies need to pivot or persist with their current efforts.

HCD and agility will also help the organization reduce costs and reinforce IT professionals’ ability to prepare for tomorrow’s data analytics and management risks and challenges by building confidence in their skillset to uncover problems before they emerge.

Paradigm Shift in How Agencies Work Moving Forward

A shift to HCD and agile culture requires a significant repositioning in how agencies and their contractors operate, but it will motivate employees to re-think and re-engineer processes throughout the organization–something essential to consider in 2021’s largely virtual landscape. It is not necessarily technology that will impact this landscape; it is the people and the culture that will drive significant change.

People and Culture

It will be instrumental for agencies to look toward education– helping stakeholders understand the key issues and potential risks surrounding their IT modernization efforts. While getting senior-level buy-in can be challenging due to cost and limited resources, there are agency-wide benefits in having organizational agility amid the agency’s digital transformation. Agencies will need to set strategic goals to drive a modernization roadmap. This roadmap will ensure employees are prepared for the efficiency and cybersecurity costs involved in meeting current and expected mission requirements.

Emerging Technology

Federal agencies should also take advantage of emerging technologies to complement this new organizational culture. Robotic Process Automation (RPA), AI, data science, blockchain and low-code systems are a few resources to consider when assisting in this transformation. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), for example, recently released a seven-page strategy to guide AI use in medical settings, consistent with the Government’s move toward new technologies. To be a pragmatic innovation leader within the Healthcare space, Federal agencies must also ensure they are proceeding with caution–using these technologies to ensure they meet all compliance, technology, and security guidelines.

Digital Mindset

A general guideline for how to successfully encourage Government agencies to make the switch and enable an HCD structure, is for industry to reinforce the need for a digital mindset. Moving forward, industry should help agencies invest in a digital-first, human-centered approach; build a digital doorway to bridge agencies and their stakeholders and empower those to manage their own health; and use the power of data to develop predictive models for tomorrow’s cyber risks and challenges.

In the past year, we learned the key to moving forward is contingent on the environment Government leaders create. Federal IT modernization successes rely heavily on being user-friendly and streamlining the agency mission. However, executive leadership must not forget about the human aspect of the equation: maximize the amount of work you do by optimizing to meet the end-users’ needs and remaining flexible in today’s fast-paced landscape.

About Andrew Conn

Andrew Conn is Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of National Government Services, a trusted partner to Federal health agencies for more than 50 years. Conn leads the company’s operational excellence in information technology and administrative services for Federal health agencies to establish and deliver flexible, innovative solutions to keep our nation’s health care systems and technology online, secure and available.

With more than 29 years of health care experience, Andrew possesses deep Federal health program and technical expertise, which has been integral during National Government Services’ digital transformation to modernize Federal health using emerging technology to consolidate systems, reduce costs, and improve customer satisfaction. Using DevSecOps, Agile, and Human-Centered Design practices, his leadership enables the organization to deliver the latest technology solutions for its Federal agency customers. National Government Services is dedicated to transformation strategies that optimize business operations without sacrificing security.



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