The biggest technology challenge for government CIOs
Government CIOs face unique challenges amidst this sweeping technological change. In a recent Forrester study, U.S. CIO Tony Scott noted that 80 percent of the U.S. government’s $80 billion technology budget is spent simply maintaining legacy systems rather than on improvements. The federal government isn’t alone in feeling strapped for cash and continually doing more with less.
But the biggest barrier to change is not the budget. It’s your own front-line workers, many of whom are ill-prepared to tackle technology. According to Gartner’s 2016 CIO Agenda: A Government Perspective (subscription required),
While workers aren’t necessarily up to speed on technology, a growing number of constituents are. You know that constituents are demanding better service, and for many of them, better service revolves around technology. Millennials don’t want to have to talk to anyone–offer digital and mobile self-service and they’ll process their paperwork for you. Older generations may still enjoy picking up the phone and calling or even coming to the counter window, but when they do, they want immediate information via a digital file, not an hours-long or even days-long wait while someone tracks down missing folders.
Providing outstanding, timely and transparent service to constituents means transforming not just your intake processes by, for example, allowing constituents to apply online or with a mobile phone, but in transforming your back-end processes as well. Digitized documents, automated workflows, well-trained front-line employees, and always-available information are at the root of a great constituent experience.
Getting buy-in from customer-facing and back office employees
All IT professionals know that the best technology investments are the ones that users actually use. Empower your agency’s employees to comfortably use technology with these techniques.
- Help employees feel the problem. “Before you can get buy-in, people need to feel the problem,” says John P. Kotter in the Harvard Business Review. Sometimes even cumbersome and time-consuming manual processes cease to feel that way after a time because they’re just “the way we’ve always done it.” As bad as things are, employees may feel the status quo is preferable to a change that will bring uncertainty.
Highlight the problem in terms that emotionally resonate with your employees. Perhaps a paper-intensive process results in application backlogs, meaning fewer constituents can be served and many wait longer than they should for service. Or lack of digital self-service results in younger generations simply skirting around the issue and not complying. Or long in-person lines and full waiting rooms make window workers feel stress trying to move the queue.
- Understand where you and others fall on the change curve. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross originally developed the change curve to explain the grieving process. Today, many organizations use it to help people understand change and the stages they might go through when processing it.
As the CIO, you’re considering or have already bought into a technology change, but many employees may not have heard of it at all or have heard only rumors that make them more nervous than excited. Give them time to catch up to where you are in terms of learning about, understanding, buying in and accepting the change.
- Show staff the big picture. What is your technology vision? Likely it has several components, such as streamlining workflows, improving productivity, protecting valuable information and assets, helping make compliance less of a burden, and most importantly, providing better service to constituents. Front-line staff who communicate with those constituents every day are much more likely to embrace the technology if they understand that the vision behind it is in providing better service.
- Offer comprehensive training. As noted above, CIOs believe their biggest problem is in having staff that believes they are not equipped to handle technology. Have a good understanding of what the learning curve is and budget training time accordingly. Some people will need more hand-holding than others, but the shared goal still applies: use technology in service to constituents.
The digital revolution is here. Are you ready? Benchmark your agency and develop a transformation plan with our white paper, “Go Digital for Constituent Satisfaction: Guiding governments through digital transformation”