Federal IT Leaders Find Success in Modernization

A study on federal early technology adoption offers intriguing insights for all government and commercial IT leaders.

John Edwards, Technology Journalist & Author

June 5, 2020

4 Min Read
Image: tiero - stock.adobe.com

A study released by professional services firm Accenture finds that federal government IT leaders who eagerly embrace new technologies are gaining the upper hand over their less enthusiastic colleagues. The study also claims that CIOs and other senior IT executives can learn important lessons from federal agencies that are getting their IT modernization efforts right.

The report -- Modernize with Impact -- states that 67% of federal IT managers at the forefront of technology adoption are satisfied with their technology return on investment versus just 16% of late technology adopters.The study also notes that innovation leaders are more likely than late adopters to see high levels of citizen satisfactionwith government services (54% versus 26%, respectively).

Federal IT managers realize that modern solutions drive better customer experiences, observed Malcolm Jackson, a principal director, CIO advisory services, at Accenture Federal Services. "They see this in the higher satisfaction rates," he said. "On top of this, the systems being deployed are performing better, which gives IT managers more agility to launch new products and services in a fraction of the time." The various tools and dashboards provided with modernized systems will also help IT operations align more strategically across the enterprise and improve leaders' ability to track technology ROI, he added.


The study also reveals that early adopters are more likely than late adopters to deploy mechanisms to track returns from their technology investments. Early adopters are also more likely to use reliable data to form insights that drive business change, to see a large, positive impact from new technology on business operations and change-management processes, and to systematically manage artificial intelligence (AI) responsibly, the report notes.


Agility and scalability matter

Organizations that adopt technological innovation in an agile, scalable manner that embraces change management tend to be the most successful, Jackson observed. "These organizations realize that modernization is not a 'one time and done' intervention -- it is a continuous cycle," he observed. "Modernization, in some sense, should never truly stop."

Less successful modernization efforts generally adopt a 'project-by-project' approach that's time-consuming and narrow in focus, said Dave McClure, a principal director, CIO advisory services, at Accenture Federal Services. "These less successful modernization efforts fail to establish modernization boundaries or a roadmap of how modernization will be operationalized over time," he explained. "This results in a lack of prioritization on what to do by when, and governance shortcomings."


Shared approaches and goals

Jason Layman, managing director, innovation, architecture and cyber, at Accenture Federal Services noted that the report builds on Accenture's ongoing Future Systems research, the firm's global survey on the state of enterprise systems transformation. "Many of the U.S. federal findings were very similar to the commercial results, almost surprisingly so given the hurdles that US federal agencies face," he said. "The consistency across sectors suggests that success is a matter of focus and prioritization of investment."

Layman recommended that IT leaders at enterprises of all types and sizes should recognize that sustainable transformation requires close enterprise-wide collaboration. "Working as one team across business and IT, leaders can then identify customer and mission needs and implement the operational, architectural, and process changes required for modernization in a human-centered manner," he said.


Setting a future course

Due to the COVID-19 crisis, nearly all organizations have accumulated unanticipated technical debt. As a result, many IT leaders will need to reassess their continuity of operations in terms of new work models and the need for more resilient operations, better collaboration, and faster insight, McClure advised. "This should help to make the case for having systems that are more digital, cloud-based, automated, and data-driven," he added.

In a future that isn't likely to return to the old normal anytime soon, if ever, it's likely that new modernization projects will require greater data sharing. "This will enable more collaboration among public, non-profit and private-sector organizations," McClure predicted. The new future will also lead enterprises to place digital-first services at the forefront. "Organizations will be using, and listening to, digital channels more than ever before," McClure said. IT leaders can also expect to see accelerated AI adoption across future modernizations. "This will lead to new roles, new governance, and new service delivery models for public service," he concluded.

Additional information from Accenture Federal Services:

Three Steps to Impactful Modernization

  1. Provide a safe space for experimentation: Carve out a space for testing potential IT tools in an efficient way that minimizes costs without leaving information vulnerable to attacks.

  2. Focus on scaling: Build out an IT ecosystem for a more scalable and agile organizational approach, facilitating efficient data use to respond quickly to customer needs.

  3. Human-centered systems: Focus on enterprise systems as the future of seamless interaction to elevate satisfaction. Study respondents reported that by moving forward from legacy hardware, they're more likely to securely share data and insights across sources.

About the Author(s)

John Edwards

Technology Journalist & Author

John Edwards is a veteran business technology journalist. His work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and numerous business and technology publications, including Computerworld, CFO Magazine, IBM Data Management Magazine, RFID Journal, and Electronic Design. He has also written columns for The Economist's Business Intelligence Unit and PricewaterhouseCoopers' Communications Direct. John has authored several books on business technology topics. His work began appearing online as early as 1983. Throughout the 1980s and 90s, he wrote daily news and feature articles for both the CompuServe and Prodigy online services. His "Behind the Screens" commentaries made him the world's first known professional blogger.

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