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by Brian Chidester
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How Federal Agencies Can Overcome Hurdles to Digital Transformation

Government IT leaders who have been successful are focusing on data management, investing in staff and developing technology visions.


The federal government’s path to digital transformation is an iterative one, with many steps along the way, including modernizing and improving customer service delivery.


Federal IT leaders uniformly agree that the government needs to do more to digitize government services and use technology to improve how government functions and services are delivered to citizens. Yet, agencies face many barriers to doing so, including cybersecurity challenges, resistance to change among staff and a depleted IT workforce.


IT leaders say that the journey to digital transformation includes investing in staff and developing and articulating a clear vision for modernization.





The State of Digital Transformation in Government


In a recent survey of 300 federal, state and local government IT and program managers to understand their perspectives on digital transformation, 60 percent of respondents say they have felt a “significant” shift in digital transformation in the past two years.


Meanwhile, only 37 percent characterize their organizations’ approach to digital transformation as advanced, meaning they are “aggressively expanding digital services and digitizing internal processes.” A majority (56 percent) describe their digital transformation as intermediate, saying they are “making progress digitizing incrementally where possible.”

Despite that, 88 percent say they face roadblocks to transformation. The key barriers include security or data privacy concerns (33 percent), lack of available budget (30 percent), resistance to change from end users (28 percent), and lack of a skilled IT workforce to implement transformation (27 percent).


Respondents say they need workforce training and education (51 percent) to advance digital transformation, along with committed, multiyear funding (39 percent) and shared best practices across all levels of government (39 percent).


Leading organizations are more likely to focus on improving data management to streamline workflows and reduce redundancies, according to 54 percent of IT leaders surveyed, and 50 percent say they are expanding their use of cloud service providers certified under the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program and its state-level equivalents.


How Federal IT Leaders Are Pursuing Digital Transformation


Federal IT leaders have recently offered their own viewpoints for how agencies can best achieve digital transformation. One clear area to work on, they say, is investing in talent.


Agencies need to invest in their staff to rapidly innovate their digital capabilities and give them the opportunity to train and try to give them a safe place to experiment, to explore different technologies.


That work allows IT leaders to create a sense of ownership for transformation among workers and increases their ability to take risks in a safe environment. Staff should be involved in transformation efforts and need to evolve along with the technology itself.


Other IT leaders say that to be successful in digital transformation, leaders need to articulate a clear technology vision of how modernization helps enhance the agency’s ability to deliver on its mission.


One thing is certainly clear, digital transformation is about more than just technology. It is about the people it impacts. Getting them to buy in early in the process is key for success no matter what the project looks to accomplish.

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