Never before have we seen such high demand for emerging technology, as more organizations strive to meet people’s needs and innovate with purpose. And never before have we had such a fast-growing supply of disruptive capabilities at our fingertips to meet that demand. Even more exciting, many of these emerging technologies no longer operate independently; they’re converging to create completely new experiences and possibilities.

While the global pandemic has presented exceptional challenges over the past year, it has also brought profound opportunities for change, often enabled by emerging technologies. People’s behaviors and expectations have transformed, as have business and government operations. For instance, we never could have anticipated a year ago that so many U.S. federal employees would be working remotely from their own homes for the first time, powered by the cloud and collaboration platforms.

The world’s accelerated move toward digitization is pushing U.S. federal agencies to move beyond thinking about, and talking about, the potential of emerging technologies. Agencies are thinking about how to actually apply and optimize these tools. New applications of technology will be critical for defense and security agencies to keep pace with emerging security threats. And they’ll be essential for civilian agencies that provide human services to meet customers’ rising demands for omnichannel experiences.

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The world’s accelerated move toward digitization is pushing U.S. federal agencies to move beyond thinking about, and talking about, the potential of emerging technologies. Agencies are thinking about how to actually apply and optimize these tools.

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Increasingly, federal CIOs and CTOs recognize the need to implement and integrate new approaches into their environment at scale, in order to unlock their full mission value. But they also recognize their unique challenges: balancing decades of technical debt and actual readiness with vendor and industry hype, comparing objective analysis against agency-specific needs, and identifying the right public-private partnerships.

Where agencies are now

Data shows that the benefits of adopting emerging technologies can be significant. Accenture’s 2020 Federal Future Systems research found that 67% of federal IT modernization Leaders – who adopt and scale new technologies more readily – said that they’re satisfied with their return on their technology investments, compared with only 16% of Late Adopters.

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67%

More than two-thirds of federal IT modernization Leaders – who adopt and scale new technologies more readily – said that they’re satisfied with their return on their technology investments.

16%

Less than one-fifth of federal IT modernization Late Adopters are satisfied with the return on their technology investments.

 

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Recent interviews to establish our baseline understanding of federal agencies’ emerging technology maturity revealed common trends. Federal agencies demonstrated the highest level of maturity in adoption of emerging software engineering technologies, such as DevSecOps, Microservices, and Open Source – with leaders achieving enterprise scale value, particularly in responding to changes resulting from the COVID-19 crisis.

Federal leaders lagged behind commercial organizations in cloud maturity, with agencies gaining the most value by following proven commercial practices of balancing speed and value to enable the overall organization mission. And federal leaders have a relatively low awareness for edge computing versus quantum computing, which is noteworthy because edge is more mission ready.

 Federal agency adoption of robotic process automation seems to be on track with the commercial sector – providing increased efficiency and opportunity to redirect investment to build out new capabilities with more advanced technologies, such as Streaming/Real Time Data, Reactive Event Driven Architectures, and Bottom-up AI. Agencies excelling in the adoption of these advanced technologies consistently used newer data storage technologies.

 Finally, compared to commercial, federal agencies have the greatest potential to accelerate adoption of Internet of Things technologies as challenges with security, data protection and personal privacy continue to be resolved. 

A look at the Emerging Technology Radar

We understand the importance of optimizing the adoption and integration of emerging technologies. So, to help federal CIOs most effectively meet employees’ and citizens’ needs, we’re bringing Accenture’s Emerging Technology Radar service to the federal market. Using global benchmarking data, federal insights, and a data-driven approach, each engagement is designed to provide senior leaders with clear analysis on what mix of emerging technology will deliver the greatest value for their agency. Here are the key steps in each engagement:

  1. Determine and prioritize the most relevant emerging technologies for your organization.

Currently, we’re tracking 44 emerging technologies across six categories, so we can assess the potential impact of their adoption for you. We’ve mapped these technologies across three categories: those organizations should be using now, those to plan for in the next 2-3 years, and those to keep an eye on for the long-term (5+ years out).

  1. Baseline your current adoption and maturity.

Next, we take a holistic look at your technology portfolio, interviewing stakeholders across the organization, to assess current level of adoption as well as the mission, business, and technical impact of each technology. We look beyond use of technology and focus a keen eye on the scale and impact of the results delivered – with the highest maturity defined as fundamentally changing the direction or operations of an agency (e.g., machine learning’s impact with Google and Amazon).

  1. Compare your progress with peers and leaders.

We benchmark your emerging technology maturity alongside other federal agencies and commercial organizations, incorporating industry expertise and data into comparative analysis.

We’ll also provide a summary of best practices, across sectors, to inform the most holistic view. In our experience, many government agencies have high levels of maturity in one or two categories but lag in other categories – representing untapped technological value proven to deliver results for other federal and commercial organizations.

  1. Create a roadmap for scaling and accelerating adoption.

Based on your strategic objectives and our data-driven assessment findings, we’ll provide you with recommendations of the highest-priority emerging technology for your agency and share a roadmap for how you can implement them at scale. Along the way, you’ll have access to all of our resources, including tapping into Accenture’s Innovation Architecture, partner ecosystem, and network of 500,000-plus technology leaders.

As the way government works and serves continues to evolve, federal CIOs and CTOs should have a continuous process for assessing their adoption of emerging technologies to keep pace. So far, the agencies that have made the most progress have all focused on three essential practices of innovation — human-centric design, rapid prototyping, and a growth mindset. And these same approaches will help drive success when building your emerging technology roadmap.

 

Christina Bone

Senior Manager – Accenture Federal Services, Growth & Strategy

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