Fireside Chat with Accela’s Gary Kovacs: 2020 Learnings for a Better 2021

Accela CEO Gary Kovacs shares lessons learned from 2020 and his projections for the year ahead.

Q: What are your major lessons learned from 2020?

A: As a leading provider of cloud-based solutions for government for the past 20 years, we’ve seen many business cycles and transformations, but 2020 will undoubtedly be remembered as a year of unprecedented change and uncertainty, requiring extraordinary resiliency and adjustments by all of us. It also gave us and our customers a real opportunity to focus and invest in the areas with the highest impact — and that will undoubtedly create significant value for those with the courage to do so. In the government technology space specifically, we witnessed the incredible power of partnerships, resiliency and technology in a crisis.

When the pandemic took hold and required remote work or sheltering in place, many of our state and local government customers faced challenges they hadn’t encountered previously, and it required all of us to pivot quickly to address the new needs. Our customers who had previously embraced cloud technology were able to adjust quickly and resourcefully to move critical public services online. This helped communities throughout the Bay Area and all around the country to safely reopen businesses, bridge revenue gaps, enable remote work, and more. Public/private partnerships were formed to jointly address new and better ways to tackle some of the same old problems of inefficient paper-heavy processes or the need for in-person meetings and visits, which simply weren’t options.

In a year of chaos, we’ve learned that we can deliver and accomplish great things when we work together. Now, just weeks into 2021, we’re already seeing agencies that adopted an agile cloud platform and partnership mindset leveraging technology in ways we never could have imagined to help their communities in the face of historic budget deficits and the technical challenges of rolling out a new vaccine.

There is a saying I use often at customer and partner events and I’d love to share it here: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” That sentiment was exemplified in the actions taken by city and state leaders this last year and will continue to help guide how we can be better together for the benefit of our customers and their residents.

Q: What changes are you making to better prepare for the year ahead?

A: We’ve taken a very thoughtful approach to reflecting on the past year and considering what we want to do better. In a very real way, 2020 gave us the invitation to ‘pause’ and in that pause, we got the opportunity to take a very healthy look at ourselves and to focus even more on our core strengths.
In 2021, we will be even more intentional about investing in the company to ensure we can better service our customers and deliver great products; supporting our employees as they grapple with work-from-home challenges; cultivating an inclusive company and partnership culture; strategically matching our market-leading platform with use cases that continue to address the pandemic and other governmental priorities, and potentially shedding those that don’t; and making it much easier for agencies to transition to the cloud enabling them to move much more quickly to keep pace with their evolving needs and those of their citizens. These goals are grounded by our mission to be more thoughtful about closely reflecting the customers we serve, and fostering spaces within our organization that make room for everyone. This has been and will continue to be a priority for us moving forward.

Q: What are you projecting for 2021?

A: We’re just beginning to understand COVID’s long-term effects and shifts that this pandemic has had on our company, our customers, and our market, but a few things are clear. The impact of the pandemic will continue into 2021 and put pressure on state and local governments to be very diligent in their choices and to prioritize their focus even more. The anticipated challenges will, however, fuel innovation around the initiatives that have the highest impact to citizens and that is a very positive outcome.

While cloud technology played an outsized role in governments’ ability to pivot quickly and scale online last year, in 2021 we’ll see even more adoption of SaaS tools to build on the success governments had last year in increasing agility, growing or protecting revenue, and working remotely. Secondly, as the technology options grow, governments will choose to standardize on core platforms — something we are already seeing our forward-thinking customers do. I believe we’ll also see IT procurement methods and standards evolving to focus more on community needs over just product specs and encouraging more startups and entrepreneurs to participate in a more dynamic public sector. And finally, I also anticipate a continued trend toward consolidation in the govtech space as well as increased value placed on government technology businesses by investors. We are looking forward to a busy year of partnership, progress, and growth.

About The Author / Accela

Since 1999 Accela has provided market-leading software solutions that empower state and local governments worldwide to build thriving communities, attract and grow businesses, and protect citizens. From planning, building, licensing and permitting, to asset and service request management, finance, environmental health and more, Accela’s SaaS offerings are designed to readily solve government’s biggest challenges with extensive domain expertise built into every solution. Powered by Microsoft Azure, Accela’s open and flexible workflow automation technology helps agencies address specific constituent needs today, while ensuring they are prepared for any emerging or complicated challenges in the future. Accela’s solutions serve more than 80 percent of America’s largest cities. Accela is headquartered in San Ramon, California, with additional offices around the world.

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