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Accela CEO Gary Kovacs spotlights three strategies for mayors and local leaders to answer resident demands and improve services at the same time.

Accela CEO Gary Kovacs

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published by Government Technology magazine and Route Fifty.

Technology is changing government, new industries are changing government, resident expectations are changing government. These pressures are a given in 2019 as officials work tirelessly to keep residents happy and services running.

Yet with these shifts, Accela CEO Gary Kovacs sees a game changing opportunity for governments to achieve what previous leaders could just dream about: a complete and lasting digital transformation. In an open letter to mayors and local leaders, the former Mozilla and AVG Technologies CEO offered key recommendations for governments to transform digital services in 2019 using the latest procurement strategies and modern technologies.

“Mayors and local leaders have a chance to radically rethink how governments can serve residents…” Kovacs said, in the letter. “In this evolution, there is an unprecedented opportunity to realize new outcomes that elevate our communities, and this will come by taming transformation through technology, focusing technology on delivering outcomes, and leveraging a strong ecosystem of private sector partners.”

1. Grow with Technology

In his first recommendation, Kovacs urged leaders to seek government software that isn’t just “new,” but delivers features that are fundamental components of modern services. These features include solutions that can be deployed quickly out of the box, tools that adapt to usage demand through the cloud, and platforms that provide a clear picture of department data for decision making.

“The right technology lets smart governments offer scalable, yet cost effective, services for residents,” Kovacs said. “It helps governments to see their operations clearly and make policy decisions based on data. The world of order-anything-online services, 24/7 mobile apps, Software-as-a-Service, customer analytics and instant response is now table stakes in the private sector and will become the norm in the public sector much faster than expected.”

Technological change, and its impact on the world’s services and customer expectations, has resulted in what Kovac’s describes as a critical “inflection point” for government, one that has the potential to empower state and local leaders if they allow it. The advantages come through services that produce turnaround times on tasks like permitting and licensing, department administrative tasks that are automated, and through SaaS solutions that are more affordable, have recurring costs that are predictable and redirect the risks of maintenance and upkeep back to IT vendors.

“When applied correctly, these technologies empower governments to take an evolutionary leap forward,” Kovacs said. “They can reshape service models, unlock cost savings and open uncharted territories for new services.”

2. Get Tech That Drives Results

When it comes to IT procurement, it’s easy to get lost in the details of product specs as opposed product outcomes. Here Kovacs suggests leaders take a page from agile software development, a strategy that “begins with the end in mind” by outlining the essential outcomes a locality is seeking and then finds the right technologies that hit those goals.

Innovative government organizations like the federal government’s 18F and the U.S. Digital Service have proven how the right goals — service outcomes that are measurable and tangible — drive the right selection of technology. The two groups have used this type of strategy to successfully fix the Obama era national health insurance exchange,, and they continue to drive digital transformation for agencies like the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the Department of Commerce and many more.

“With so many solutions and technologies, governments can benefit when they “begin with the end in mind” Kovacs said. “When purchasing IT, there is a new opportunity to focus procurement decisions that demand solid results for communities — as opposed to buying based on product specs alone.”

As the home of the Silicon Valley, California is making huge strides in results driven tech development. Kovacs pointed to the innovative work of Gov. Gavin Newsom, who immediately after taking office, issued an Executive Order to rethink the traditional procurement process that relies heavily on prescriptive solution requirements. Instead, in his order Newsom created a new Office of Digital Innovation, that will guide the state’s departments to buy and develop technology suited to department objectives and resident needs.

“Anchored in a “sprints-based approach,” the strategy incentivizes the private sector to deliver targeted solutions through an iterative, agile, outcome-oriented process,” Kovacs said. “California aims to save crucial time, resources and tax dollars while creating and implementing much-needed solutions for a better tomorrow.”

3. Harness Partner Resources

In his last recommendation for digital transformation, Kovacs invited the public sector to leverage the private sector’s resources and expertise. With its large and ongoing investments in research and development, cybersecurity, datacenters and other high-impact IT services, Kovacs said there are significant gains as both sectors work together on common goals.

Too many times we think we have to go it alone, but there are great companies that want to be your partner, and we strive to be one of these partners,” Kovacs said. “Agencies and departments don’t have to be the provider of every service. With new business models and technologies like the cloud, governments can be service brokers — managing services instead of supplying them.”

This idea of government becoming service brokers is backed by research from the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO). In a survey of state CIOs the organization discovered that the role of future IT departments and CIOs will be geared toward service curation instead of acting as direct service providers. This trend is fueled by the rapid advance in technology, a pace will likely increase, and make it necessary for governments to form stronger strategic service partnerships with IT vendors.

“Governments have earned the right to be seen as partners, co-creating solutions, and delivering services alongside the private sector,” Kovacs said. “With the cloud, cities have an incredible capacity to deploy a wide variety of solutions. This alleviates both the risk and burdens of maintenance, while enhancing service delivery.”

To read the full open letter to state and local leaders, click here.

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