Cooking up change: A recipe for federal digital transformation
Back to Blog

Cooking up change: A recipe for federal digital transformation

April 27, 2023 | Updated on May 3, 2023
Amanda Starling Gould, Andrew Hughey

Federal agencies are increasingly adopting innovative methods, like agile, that prioritize iteration and user experience to transform digital service delivery and better serve the American public. To meet this moment, the Partnership for Public Service hosted a four-part series of workshops titled “Agile Government and Digital Transformation” with Slalom and Fearless.  

This blog draws from our opening workshop session with Department of Energy Chief Information Officer Ann Dunkin, who shared strategies for federal leaders starting a digital transformation project. 

First: Identify the challenge 

Just as a chef needs to decide what to cook before crafting a recipe, chief technology officers need to decide and define the problem(s) they plan to tackle before designing a digital transformation program. Doing so will help direct efforts and organize the process.  

Whether the goal is to reduce the amount of time it takes for a process to complete, provide a more effective digital service to constituents or switch to a more cost-effective service, clarity around the target for intervention will help guide solutions and ensure they are focused and effective. 

  • Methods to identify priority services needing technological upgrades include customer feedback, data analysis and reviewing industry benchmarks. 

Second: Identify success metrics 

Once the targets are defined, identifying key performance indicators to measure progress is critical. Just as a recipe includes specific ingredients and measurements, it is essential to use specific and measurable criteria to define success. Deciding which metrics to prioritize, outlining a process for measurement, measuring a baseline, and setting targets and timelines are all important. Establishing quantifiable goals and tracking metrics for measuring progress can help determine if digital transformation efforts are paying off. 

  • Metrics for measuring progress could include cost reduction targets, improved customer satisfaction scores or reduced processing time.   

Third: Identify barriers to getting started 

Because no process is without its challenges, it is crucial to identify barriers to implementation before getting started. Trying to solve multiple problems right away could be a barrier in and of itself. Agile ways of working promote iterative change: First, focus on the barrier immediately blocking the next phase in a digital transformation, and then tackle additional barriers as they come. Taking care of one challenge at a time can move a project forward and help avoid “analysis paralysis” that often stops progress. 

  • Barriers to implementation could include poorly-defined goals, an underfunded budget, a lack of internal expertise or clear data, or resistance to change within an agency.  

Recipe tip 

Culture change and technology adoption usually require—and deserve—deliberate focus to ensure organizations are implementing and institutionalizing innovation. Digital transformation teams should remain agile and responsive, prioritizing individuals and interactions over processes and tools.  

The first parts of a successful recipe for digital transformation are defining the target for intervention, establishing success metrics and identifying barriers. These actions can set the foundation for transformation that delivers real value to an agency and the public. 

For more, please read the other blogs in this series:

This post was authored by Andrew Hughey, delivery director at Slalom Federal, and Amanda Starling Gould.

Leave a Reply