The impact of COVID-19 shaped the way the federal government will operate for years to come. In this era, agencies made rapid changes to the way they work to ensure the needs of citizens, as well as their employees, continue to be met. As a result, federal agencies kicked their digital transformations into high gear by embracing tools that enhanced citizen services and workforce productivity, secured data and promoted safety.
Having previously served as a CIO of a cabinet-level agency, I was part of the immense strides taken to modernize federal technology long before the pandemic. However, the past two years spurred incomparable change. Looking ahead to the new year, Gartner projects that global government spending will increase by 5.5%, exceeding $4 trillion in 2022. With this additional funding, federal leaders must sustain the positive momentum generated during this period to ensure they uphold the initiatives set forth by the Biden administration, spanning from vaccine mandates to the President’s Management Agenda. Here are three areas where federal agencies can hone their efforts.
The Future of Work
As federal employees ring in the new year, they will also gear up for a widespread return to traditional office spaces. Despite this shift, the world of work simply won’t look the same as it did prior to March 2020. Instead, federal agencies will likely enforce a hybrid work model for the foreseeable future, which is why they must have flexible, agile and modern workflows in place to maintain staff productivity and engagement. A few ways to achieve this include:
- Investing in conference room technology that promotes collaboration between employees who are working on site and those who are in remote environments.
- Retiring legacy systems that are either hard to maintain and secure or can’t be used remotely and replacing them with cloud-based platforms that are configurable for flexible work environments and offer modern user experiences.
- Utilizing automated systems that can help disseminate and analyze the data federal agencies have and ultimately bolster their cybersecurity posture.
Federal agencies must recognize that they’re entering unchartered territory as they move into this next period of transition. Making some missteps along the way will be inevitable as they adjust to safety protocols, so it’s vital that leaders adapt their approaches and employ tools that give their workforce the ability to adjust to these changes smoothly and securely.
Vaccine Management and Tracking
For the better part of the last year, health care providers relied heavily on vaccine management tools, which allowed the public to seamlessly locate administration sites and ultimately schedule their vaccination appointments in just a few minutes. Federal agencies also leveraged automated tracking tools, enabling leaders to monitor the real-time progress of their workforce that obtained the COVID-19 vaccine and deliver reports to the administration on these updates.
With a report from the Office of Management and Budget indicating that more than 90% of the federal workforce received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, it might seem like vaccine management and tracking tools will soon become irrelevant. However, with Delta and Omicron variants causing COVID-19 cases to rise again, we may see further investment in these tools to schedule and obtain booster shots at government facilities. If new mandates are established requiring federal employees to receive booster shots, agencies will need to enhance their vaccination status tracking tools. By partnering with trusted technology partners to record the vaccine status of employees rather than creating their own systems, they can avoid unnecessary data silos and security risks and benefit from industry-driven innovations, like the use of smart health cards.
When the public interacts with the federal government today, it is not a consistent experience, and in some cases, can be in a very disconnected manner. It doesn’t have to be this way. The Biden administration recently published its President’s Management Agenda, which underscores the need to deliver greater digital services for citizens and employees. In 2022, the federal government is poised to create a new and improved national digital strategy that charts a course for greater integration and improves the development of these capabilities.
COVID-19 caused a sizeable shift in how and when citizens want to interact with federal agencies. Integrating technology such as cloud systems, robotic process automation and artificial intelligence simplifies these interactions by providing greater consistency and removing unnecessary steps. We’ll begin to see these tools increasingly used as a connective tissue across federal agencies as they can securely record a citizen or employee’s interaction, direct them to the right department and track their previous engagements to help address their needs more quickly.
The next year will undoubtedly serve as yet another inflection point in the federal government’s ever-evolving digital transformation. By focusing its efforts on three key areas, employees and citizens alike will see substantial improvements to government operations.
Jonathan Alboum is a principal digital strategist for the federal government at ServiceNow.