Roadmap for Renewing Our Federal Government

Innovation and Technology Modernization

Bright Spots
Agencies are turning to new technologies and fostering innovations to respond to COVID-19.

[email protected], a newly designed website built to foster internal collaboration and problem-solving, issued a challenge on April 1, 2020 to identify ideas for how NASA could best contribute to COVID-19 response efforts. The workforce submitted more than 250 ideas in two weeks, provided more than 500 comments and cast more than 4,500 votes, demonstrating the NASA community’s widespread interest in collaboration and contributing ideas.

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The Department of Health and Human Services was able to launch telehealth.hhs.gov – a website that provides resources on telemedicine to patients and healthcare professionals – in a matter of weeks. The department formed cross-agency partnerships, received digital expertise from Presidential Innovation Fellows and used readily available tools such as the U.S. Web Design System.

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The Department of Veterans Affairs created a Coronavirus chatbot in just three weeks to address the rapid surge in call volume from veterans with questions about health care and benefits and provide better customer service.

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Problem
Our country needs an effective, innovative government that can meet the demands of our fast-paced, interconnected, technology-driven world, but government struggles to keep pace. Federal agencies offer few incentives for employees to try new ideas, are saddled with outdated technology and lag behind the private sector in hiring qualified technologists for critical leadership and staff positions. The government also rates poorly compared to the private sector when it comes to providing high-quality services to the public.
Just over four in 10 federal civil servants feel creativity and innovation are rewarded in the workplace.
The government spends 80% of its annual $90 billion information technology budget on operating and maintaining existing IT investments, including legacy systems – many of which are decades old – not on new investments in leading-edge technologies.
There are 19 times more mission-critical IT employees over the age of 50 than under 30 (52.3% versus 2.8%).
The federal government ranked last among 10 major economic sectors in customer satisfaction, falling short on the timeliness and ease of its processes, professionalism, courtesy, and website quality, according to the 2019 American Customer Satisfaction Index.
Solution
Excellence in government starts with leaders who create an environment that fosters and rewards innovation, encourages experimentation with new approaches to solve problems and deliver services, and enables rapid scaling and adoption of what works. Agencies need the resources to update their technology and make greater use of data to drive decision-making. In addition, government must recruit qualified technology experts for leadership and staff positions and ensure that technologists are part of the decision-making and policy implementation processes. Finally, federal agencies need vision, resources and incentives to upgrade the customer experience of all people who interact with the government.
Early Actions for the Next Administration

Establish a government-wide initiative to boost innovation. Launch a cross-agency innovation task force to prioritize innovation through leadership support and culture change. Identify and eliminate barriers, and scale successful innovation pilot programs. Identify opportunities for embedding innovation in cross-agency and agency-wide initiatives, such as strategic planning efforts.
Recognize and institutionalize successful COVID-19 innovations. Identify the top successful innovations adopted during the pandemic in workforce management, procurement, collaboration and customer experience to institutionalize as part of standard agency operations and practices, where possible.
Modernize outdated technology. Prioritize acceleration of technology transformation across government by charging the CIO Council with establishing government-wide and agency-level priorities for technology modernization. Identify the top 10 systems in government that are in need of an upgrade and identify creative funding mechanisms to achieve modernization goals, including multi-year budgets for major technology modernizations.
Clarify leadership roles and priorities. Clarify innovation and technology modernization roles and responsibilities of key management officials within agencies and for “center-of-government” organizations such as the Office of Management and Budget and the General Services Administration, so that there is a coordinated approach at both the agency- and government-wide levels.
Prioritize technical, data and cyber talent recruitment and development. Select and promote leaders with knowledge of modern technology and data science. Identify technical, data and cyber talent needs for each agency, and attract and hire technologists by scaling and building new talent pipeline programs. Upgrade the technical skills and competencies of the existing workforce and ensure leaders (career and political) understand the opportunities technology offers for better service delivery and have the change management skills to support technology modernization.
Expand digital service delivery. Identify specific ways that existing technology and new processes could help government better reach customers and provide a more seamless and satisfying customer experience. Direct each agency to identify at least one high-volume service or process that they will enhance through these methods by the end of 2021.
Set an ambitious, government-wide goal to improve customer trust. Hold leaders accountable for modeling customer centered leadership. Create a team in the White House to manage customer experience efforts with a government-wide perspective. Establish short- and long-term goals for agencies to improve customer trust in government services. Support agencies in understanding the key drivers of customer trust and executing improvements.
Resources
Cracking the Code: Harnessing the Exponential Power of Technology
In “Cracking the Code: Harnessing the exponential power of technology,” the Partnership for Public Service and Booz Allen Hamilton assess the use of three emerging technologies — artifi...
Risk and Reward: A Framework for Federal Innovation
From curing diseases to helping launch the internet, the federal government has a history of innovation that has improved the lives of Americans and advanced societal interests. Despite this legacy...
Seize the Data: Using Evidence to Transform How Federal Agencies Do Business
The report’s findings and recommendations can help your agency think through how to incorporate data when making decisions.
Mobilizing Tech Talent
In a new report, “Mobilizing Tech Talent,” the Partnership for Public Service and two former leaders of the United States Digital Service share lessons learned from recruiting and hiri...
Tech Talent for 21st Century Government
In this report the Partnership for Public Service and the Tech Talent Project identify top technology and innovation leadership positions in government, the competencies these leaders and their tea...
More Than Meets AI
In this white paper the Partnership for Public Service and the IBM Center for The Business of Government explore the impact AI is likely to have on federal work and the federal workforce.
13 key ways for federal agencies to innovate
Federal employees with experience in innovation offer strategies to advance innovative ideas in government.
Five lessons learned from federal innovators
The Partnership and Slalom Consulting hosted the Federal Innovation Summit to highlight lessons learned from successful federal innovations, bust myths about key barriers, and identify opportunitie...
Government for the People: Serving the Public in a New World
In collaboration with Accenture Federal Services, we publish an annual “Government for the People” report—a comprehensive collection of data and insights on how customers experience some of t...