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For many government agencies, the challenges of COVID-19 have cast a harsh spotlight on their abilities to adapt quickly and deliver digital, socially-distanced services during times of less-than-normal working conditions. The pandemic is not only driving a reimagining of government services and what it means to be a government employee, it is also providing a glimpse of the future many of us thought was much farther off.

While government agencies have been adjusting to the soaring expectations of today’s always-on, connected consumers for several years, the past few months have shown how quickly citizen expectations can change for government agencies, and the impact digital technologies can have on an agency’s ability to meet increasing demands.

accela govern the future academy


Agility and responsiveness through govtech

Success for government agencies now includes the ability to adapt quickly to maintain operations and services in uncertain times. These unusual circumstances have also prompted agencies to revisit the idea of digital transformation. Like many tech trends, the term digital transformation has become an overused buzzword. But the process of rethinking how to organize people, technology processes to improve performance and efficiency is more important than ever. The current crisis calls for a radical rethinking of how government agencies adapt to become more efficient and robust during uncertain times. In fact many are now favoring active phrases like digital execution.

Digital transformations are difficult even under ideal circumstances. During times of uncertainty government agencies also may be dealing with a shortage of tech-savvy leaders, and resource disconnects between departments, and aging technology platforms. Now, the pressure is on to deliver more agile, streamlined services, often with fewer resources.

How government leaders can move forward in uncertain times

How can government leaders successfully deal with growing digital demands? Here are four things today’s leaders should keep in mind.

Shared strategy rules

Technology is a key driver, but obviously only part of the puzzle for agencies looking to improve current services and deliver innovative new citizens services in the future. More than ever, it’s essential for governments to define precisely what digital transformation means, and the desired goals and outcomes for the organization as a whole, as opposed to individual departments. Today’s most advanced governments have created digital platforms and strategies that connect various government business and citizen entities for greater collaboration and communications.

Those silos gotta go

It’s easy to say that today’s government agencies need to stop operating in silos and relying on legacy systems and toolsets that don’t talk to each other. Forward-thinking agencies understand the need for automating manual processes, delivering a full range of services online and providing self-serve options for citizens. The next generation of government services will incorporate emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT) and 5G to make service delivery more efficient. These emerging technologies rely on high-volumes of accurate and complete data to provide their benefits.

Data sharing and analytics are key

For many government agencies, dealing with the increasing volumes of data they collect is an ongoing challenge. The current crisis has underscored the need for agencies to organize and analyze data quickly. Today, the challenges for government leaders, IT teams and analysts is how to find value and insights in large datasets, and how quickly those insights can be put into action to elevate citizen services. Legacy databases and disparate systems are simply not agile enough to meet the growing needs of most government organizations. Adopting a modern government platform is necessary to share data and resources between departments and quickly stand up services as conditions change. The current chaotic environment, followed by a likely economic downturn, is what many are calling the new normal.

Transformation, technology and trust

In the real world, the pressure of delivering citizen services and balancing budgets means there is never an ideal time to modernize. The timing of digital transformation must be balanced with the increasing costs of supporting aging legacy systems and manual processes. Service degradation, including sluggish response times and availability outages can take their toll on the quality of citizen experiences. Of course, timing will depend on an agency’s unique circumstances, but it’s important to also consider the costs of inaction. Security risks can be very costly, both in terms of lost revenue and a lack of citizen trust and adoption of digital channels.

Making the new normal a better normal

The need to build digital channels between government agencies, private businesses and citizens have never been greater. In addition, many government employees have gone virtual, and agencies now must learn how to support and empower growing remote workforces — as well as hybrid staffers who split their time between government offices and field work.

The ability of government agencies to quickly modify existing processes and stand up new services to meet urgent citizen needs has never been greater. A sound digital transformation strategy can support government agencies in creating a more flexible and productive workplace. When these new digital platforms can truly enable governments to deliver improved citizen services faster, with existing resources, we can truly look forward to a new normal that’s a better normal for all.

Get a glimpse of the future of citizen services

In drafting their ‘better normal’, U.S. states are framing plans that work for them, and local municipalities progress along those plans to help communities get back to the business of growth and efficient service delivery. To encourage this dialogue and provide a platform for state leaders and their local municipalities to connect on the topic of digital transformation in delivering the next generation of digital government services, Accela is launching our Govern the Future Academy next week, kicking off with content relevant to the state of Texas and California and reimagining what that future looks like.

I invite you to join us for this virtual panel event, hosted by Dustin Haisler, Chief Innovation Officer of e.Republic, and featuring insights from thought leaders at Accela, Esri, Microsoft and KPMG, for an open dialog on digital transformation in government services, including the challenges and improvement opportunities ahead. Panelists will include: Tom Nieto, Chief Operating Officer, Accela; Stuart McKee, Chief Technology Officer of State and Local Government, Microsoft; Dan Henderson, Head of Local Government Team, Northern California and Northern Nevada, Esri; and Peter Zalkind, Principal, Advisory, Health & Government Solutions, U.S., KPMG.

In this session, our panel will share their viewpoints on:

  • The pivots they made in response to the pandemic
  • Maintaining citizen and partner communications
  • Understanding problems and identifying trends with GIS
  • How government infrastructures fared under pressure
  • Examples of real-life challenges and lessons learned during COVID-19
  • Making the new normal a better normal for government workforce, local businesses and citizens.

If you are interested in the latest thinking on reimagining government services and citizen experiences in the states of Texas and California, be sure to register for our upcoming Govern the Future Academy on June 22, 2020. The future of government has arrived.

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