Preparing the Public Service for the Fourth Industrial Revolution
More Highlights from the 2016 National IPAC Conference
“Think big. Start small. Scale Fast.” - Vivek Kundra:
Social media is buzzing with the World Economic Forum’s announcement of the dawn of the Fourth Industrial Revolution which is predicted to take the global digital revolution exponentially further and faster. The digital technology and innovation of the Third Industrial Revolution have already energized and disrupted businesses and government services around the world. With digital technology front and centre, digital policies are top of mind for senior bureaucrats worldwide.
One of the most fascinating presentations at this year’s IPAC National Conference was Vivek Kundra’s keynote address titled Digital: Getting to the Future Faster. Vivek has served as Chief Information Officer for US President Barack Obama, and also has advised Prime Ministers and senior officials throughout the globe about how to translate digital policy into technology that better meets the increasing expectations of 21
Vivek discussed how digital technologies are transforming the service experience for citizens, government departments, and agencies. He shared his experience in championing “open data” in the United States Federal Government by launching data.gov
in 2009. With hundreds of thousands of data sets available to the public - covering every aspect of government operations from health care data to public safety information - innovators from across the country have been busy putting these datasets to work. So far hundreds of apps have been created for solutions that include helping parents keep their children safe, assisting travelers find the fastest route to their destinations, and informing home buyers about the safety of their new neighborhood.
Vivek noted that a significant gap remains between government services and citizen expectations in the United States. Even with the progress made, this adage is still true: In the US private sector “there's an app for that” while “there's still just a form for that" in most US government offices. To help forward-thinking governments close this gap, Vivek offered five lessons from his own management of huge technology projects in the White House:
1. Apply “light” technology and shared solutions.
Vivek noted that we're not in a mainframe world anymore so technology improvements don’t need big multi-billion dollar systems. While at the White House, Vivek was a big champion of the use of cloud technology in US Federal Departments, which can be deployed more rapidly and cost effectively. He summarized his philosophy with six words: “Think big. Start small. Scale Fast.”
2. Strengthen program management and make sure accountabilities are clear.
Noting that one of the US Federal Government’s biggest challenges was its siloed approach to managing IT projects, Vivek forced a more integrated approach. All IT projects were to be managed by small multi-disciplinary, integrated program teams (IPTs) consisting of business process owners, IT professionals, acquisition professionals, along with finance, HR and legal staff.
3. Align the acquisition and budget process with the tech cycle.
If you take two years to define your business requirements in this day and age, it’s safe to say that your new system will be outdated and irrelevant before you build it. Vivek pioneered significant shifts in the US Federal Government’s approach to procurement and budgeting, enabling the bureaucracy to keep better pace with technology developments.
4. Streamline governance and improve accountability.
When Vivek worked in the White House, he created a dashboard that publicly tracked progress for all IT projects and clearly identified who was responsible. Apparently peer pressure does work!
5. Increase engagement with the private sector.
The private sector can be a great resource for government. There are some remarkably innovative companies out there that would jump at the chance to help government agencies better deliver services to the public. Public servants, however, may not be aware of what’s available. Vivek noted that public servants also tend to be unnecessarily cautious about engaging with the private sector directly – before producing lengthy request for proposal documents that may miss the mark altogether.
Overall, I found Vivek’s presentation fascinating and relevant to the BC context. My experiences to date with big IT BC Government projects suggest that we’re already doing much of what Vivek suggested, but there is always room for improvement and value in learning from others. If you’d like to know more about Berlineaton’s thoughts and experiences in managing big IT projects, please take a look at Richard Eaton’s blog at: How to Lead Great Big IT Projects: 4 Tips for Project Champions or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 250.472.3767.
This blog post is the second in an ongoing series of blog posts about Norma’s participation at the 2016 IPAC National Conference in Toronto. If you would like to read more of these blog posts, please visit Berlineaton’s blog page.