Digital transformation in federal government: 6 key elements for the future

COVID-19 is helping organizations focus attention on what digital transformation should be all about. Here are six key areas the U.S. Technology Transformation Services is focusing on
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Digital transformation 2021

Anyone who has had to deal with standing in endless lines and filling out mountains of paperwork wouldn’t likely think of the government as being on the front lines of technology. Indeed, local, state and federal government agencies are often either still running on analog processes or desperately trying to retrofit technologies to their purposes with limited success. In these unprecedented times of COVID-19 response, what sector could be more ripe for digital transformation?

This is the mission of the Technology Transformation Services (TTS): To improve the lives of the public and public servants by transforming how government uses technology. This means not only focusing on technology solutions, but also on creating momentum and sustainability, fostering a technology-first philosophy across agencies within the federal government. An approach that provides support not only in the day-to-day but during a time of crisis.

[ Read also How to foster team morale during the pandemic. ]

Since joining TTS about 16 months ago, I have made digital transformation our top priority, and over the course of that time, we have honed in on six key elements vital to the digital transformation of any enterprise.

  1. Omnichannel Experience: Not only under normal circumstances but especially in a time where people are staying inside their homes, we know that the citizen experience happens not just digitally but in real life too, so we want to make sure that experience is optimized at every channel, i.e., contact centers that serve as an actual person-to-person direct line to information about the government. Centering the client/citizen experience in our strategies requires an omnichannel approach to ensure we’re engaging with citizens where they are and making it easy for them to find the answers they’re looking for.
  2. Artificial Intelligence: One of the major challenges government agencies (and plenty of private enterprises) face while looking to restart the economy is an inability to derive real, actionable insight from the data they have. AI and machine learning are enabling agencies to leverage the data they already have, creating models for better optimization and efficiency, and automating time-consuming manual processes. AI has been one of the major advancements that has begun to make an impact on the lives of government employees.
  3. Infrastructure optimization and cloud: A solid foundation is needed as entire agencies are now serving the American people from home. Migration to the cloud is not an easy feat but it absolutely can help streamline operations and support an increase in capacity, as can shifting clunky old legacy infrastructures to “-as-a-Service” tools that can lead to significantly more efficient processes. We’ve been able to not only reduce the number of data centers we use, but also have them run more effectively.
  4. Accelerators: Responsiveness to this crisis is at a premium. By shifting to an agile development approach, we have been able to take advantage of short-term projects and talent in ways that wouldn’t have been able to before. This has allowed agencies to tap into innovation in a more incremental way, which leads to accelerated progress because it eliminates the barriers that existed in legacy methods.
  5. Data and analytics: Like any digitally-driven organization, government agencies understand the importance of data, particularly as they, and we, move toward this more citizen-focused ideal. But most don’t have data scientists on their payroll, and they often don’t have access to modern tools with the latest capabilities to derive insight or the knowledge of how to use those insights. So, as we implement better tools to both serve the immediate needs of the pandemic or the everyday public service needs, we also try to instill a data-focused, evidence-based, decision-making philosophy and/or process so that those tools can really deliver on their value promise.
  6. Identity management: As stimulus checks flow to citizens, small businesses and essential industries, minimizing fraud, maintaining the proper security protocols, establishing trust and streamlining access becomes critical. A strong identity program across government drives widespread digital adoption and can propel agency digital transformation forward.

In these uncertain times, we, in TTS, consistently go back to our mission statement – improving the lives of citizens and federal employees through technology – and ask ourselves what real impact have we had by that measure? Our achievements aren’t the number of new tools or technologies we’ve helped get implemented; our success is in the real impact our efforts have delivered.

COVID-19 has made us all focus our attention on what digital transformation should be all about. Our focus is why agencies want to work with us – we don’t try to introduce new tech for no reason; we’re known for delivering real value. 

Anil Cheriyan
Anil Cheriyan is Cognizant’s Executive Vice President, Strategy and Technology. Overseeing all aspects of Corporate Strategy, Global IT and Global Security, Anil is responsible for Cognizant’s strategy, alliances and business development, and for strengthening the company’s global IT and security capabilities.