The fine folks at GovTech have covered the change advocates in the Obama Administration’s IT function. It is a telling story, but one that I have heard before. Only this time the environment has changed, and radically so. There remain the advocates, the detractors, the followers and the trapped. But the world around the issues have been fundamentally altered.
Can the change happen this time? Yes.
Change requires motivation and ability
The motivation surrounds us. This time it goes well beyond the rhetoric of waste elimination. Often this rhetoric was coupled with a far off threat of public sector job losses. In state’s with strong unions or civil services this was often empty and worked against the motivation of staff to change. But events in Wisconsin, Ohio and other states have shown an inability to defend the civil service protections that sheltered this motivation. And the Federal Government is not immune either as politicians have threatened federal employee jobs including an initial silence when the FAA civil servants were put out of work. This lack of protection certainly helps to motivate the embrace of change inside government.
On top of that, motivation is obviously increased due to the large scale warfare happening with regard to our Federal Budget and spending issues surrounding it. When a threat to the debt ceiling is made real, we have a very real reason to take change very seriously. It is not simply a headcount at risk here or there, or the delay in a project, it is now a real risk to the entire global economy.
So, motivation is very well present like never before.
The second must have for change to happen is ability. It is important in the public sector context that this not be theoretical. It can’t be the promise of ability. It needs to be proven. It needs to be doable. It needs to be tested. The challenge has always been in the past that the new solutions simply weren’t proven. SOA was an idea. Radical Shared Services were something new. Agile development was as well. But this time around, the proof surrounds us. Cloud computing isn’t a weird promise coming out of San Francisco. It has been adopted globally. It has been proven to work. It has driven down costs empirically. Similarly, Government as a Platform has been proven in Governments throughout the world. As has Open Government (proven out in lesser developed as well as developed countries including UK, US and Australia). Alternatives to the desktop abound as consumers adopt a far more social, mobile and open stance ont he ways in which they operate. The possibilities of real alternatives to existing and expensive legacy systems has never been more promising (and proven).
So Push, Now, on Social, Mobile and Open
The agenda can be simplified well. Social, Mobile and Open.
Social computing is a way to increase engagement and decrease costs of government ICT systems. Opening up our 100′s of Billions of dollars worth of call centers to cloud technology integrated directly with social media streams will help to manage our programs better, with less resources and toward better outcomes.
Embracing mobile technology will free our civil service to maximize citizen facing time, make flexible their work schedules and increase our labor pool through radical versions of tele work and job sharing through the leverage of mobile technology. And Near field communication could radically decrease wait times and expenditures on physical structures, decreasing, radically, the costs of providing needed services.
And committing to open platforms and standards puts the power into our CIO’s hands again. We should ensure that vendors compete upon providing incredible customer service and stop competing in patent court or by forcing software licenses and proprietary standards down our government’s throats.
Cloud, Politics and Economics
The tested availability of the cloud, the economic troubles of the country and the divisive political environment have created the perfect storm for change to happen. The technology is there and has been proven to work. The politics requires a solution that can be placed above politically charged issues (technology is politically agnostic). And the dangers of the world economy make it obvious that we MUST act now.
So, our time is now, to act. Lets get to it.
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