Government IT's Next Step: Digital Investment

A tight but effective IT budget creates opportunities for new investments in digital government, say government IT leaders at Gartner Symposium.

it does not make sense -- for example, by imposing standard commodity storage suitable for small, frequently accessed records on large, important, but infrequently accessed digital objects. It's important to recognize legitimate distinctions in the business use-case that justify the use of a different technology and not say, "This one solution works for everybody," he said.

Shive said GSA's IT infrastructure is "completely different" from what it was five or six years ago, with a much greater emphasis on consolidation and shared services. Before the consolidation push, different business units "would deliver the same product or capability over and over again," he said. Yet the agency's culture was such that imposing a "draconian top-down" consolidation initiative would not have worked well, even though IT ultimately secured the support of top management.

"Instead, we decided we would try to lead by example," Shive said, consolidating a few services "to show we can do a good job, show we can produce a return." GSA was the first federal agency to consolidate its email services onto Gmail, for example. Those first products built the business case for a broader consolidation initiative that saved $100 million over five years, he said. In addition to consolidating data centers, GSA rationalized its application portfolio, weeding out 16 different budget systems in the process.

Kruse agreed that imposing change is often not the best tactic. "You don't build trust by walking into a shadow IT group and saying, 'Here is how we're going to do things,'" he said. Instead, it's much more productive to establish a culture where IT is always asking "How can I help you?"

"You have to be able to interact not just as the IT guy but to give them counsel, give them technology solutions," Drake said. In the Air Force, the key to winning back involvement in mission-related IT was investing more time in understanding the military mission and what IT could do to support it.

"That's when customers will come to you," Kruse said. "If you do this right every time, you should expect they will begin to come to you with investment ideas."

That's the pivot you want to see: from cutting IT to investing in digital solutions.

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