May 18, 2018
Federal agencies striving to meet their mission objectives increasingly adopt digital technologies to improve constituents’ experiences. But many of these agencies fall short of their mark as their IT executives (see Figure 1):
- Navigate constantly shifting constituent and citizen expectations fueled by their experiences as consumers and the rapidly emerging digital technologies.
- Attempt to modernize or transform IT but can’t, hobbled by their agencies’ ongoing financial shortfalls.
- Struggle to pay down large technical debts that stymie progress — with legacy technologies that barely work, cultures centered on internal priorities, and organizational norms resistant to change.
Figure 1. Transform IT From A Burden And Hindrance To Leading And Enabling Transformative Services
But that’s not all. The pressure for accelerated business change, combined with IT’s constrained ability to respond, drives IT’s business partners to invest directly in digital technologies. This bypassing of IT — commonly called “shadow IT” — creates architectural risk and increasing short-term costs, adding to IT’s technical debt. IT must eventually reintegrate these rogue investments into the agency’s other technologies. There’s significant downside to all of this — beyond ballooning costs and crippling constraints to agencies’ business transformation. At the extreme, Federal data remains locked within silos; the politics of ownership block efforts to activate data for operational excellence; and constituents’ experiences lag both needs and expectations.
Federal IT Executives Can Kick-Start Agency Transformation Through CX
Only focused IT transformation, beginning with investments in constituent experience, will bring Federal agencies into the digital era. CX drives agency transformation to be constituent-obsessed — constituent-led, insights-driven, fast, and connected — the key principles of agency transformation. Yes, the large IT investments associated with wholesale IT modernization must occur for agency transformation — paying down technical debt and building out platforms that accelerate change. But this change must occur at the pace of agency transformation, which will remain constrained by budgets for the near term.
To move forward, Federal agency IT must establish a road map of planned change. Begin by understanding both the agency’s business vision and IT’s associated technology vision, then build out an investment road map that traverses the gap between IT’s vision and its current state. You can gauge your IT maturity gap using Forrester’s self-assessment tool.
As laid out in Forrester’s IT transformation vision, success at IT transformation requires Federal IT to:
- Concentrate on culture, talent, and organization first. Focusing on these people elements may seem counterintuitive, but our research points to culture as the strongest predictor of effective transformation.
- Accelerate and connect IT’s processes using design-thinking techniques. To address constituents’ ever-changing expectations faster, Agile delivery must become the norm. Design thinking’s cross-functional, iterative approach to CX design and delivery will lay the groundwork for sustainable innovation.
- Redefine governance for budgets, risk management, and measurement. Fund initiatives that seek to drive the agency’s mission success through improved CX. But measure the outcomes and agility of these initiatives — and manage risk across the agency’s entire ecosystem.
- Prioritize business technology that drives speed and customer engagement. The most impactful digital technologies improve the agency’s speed of execution and adaptation to understand and meet constituent needs and behaviors.
The path for Federal IT to transform, helping their agencies to accelerate business change through digital technologies, requires much more than modernization. IT executives must reimagine how technology can fuel mission success — especially CX — while transforming IT to make that a reality. CX investments begin as simple point solutions, addressing specific customer needs. Over time — as the agency and its IT mature — CX reaches end to end, across the agency and across the constituents’ journey.