The fact that digital transformation is being pursued at the enterprise level is not surprising, as it coincides with a push towards shared services and cost savings. However, a surprising finding from the survey was the extent to which mission, business, and operational executives reported that they are leading these transformation efforts, rather than their IT peers. Further findings included:

  • Agencies Pursuing Enterprise-Level Approaches – The vast majority (70 percent) of process modernization projects are being led at the enterprise level, either entirely (36 percent) on an agency-wide basis or in concert with local program offices (34 percent). Only 30 percent of projects are being pursued independently at the process level.
  • Program Leadership Often Driving Change – IT appears to have a limited role in leading these initiatives on either a standalone (20 percent) or hybrid (11 percent) basis. Rather, the vast majority (65 percent) of efforts are being led by program (30 percent) or executive (35 percent) leadership, and this number jumps to 76 percent when hybrid responses are included. While active executive and program participation are critical, equally important is the full involvement of IT leaders in this process.
  • No Consensus on Modernize vs. Replace Legacy Platform – Respondents are split between the most effective strategies for updating the current IT environment. Nearly half (46 percent) believe modernizing existing systems (reengineer and/or re-platform) to meet current expectations and requirements would be more effective compared to 45 percent who support replacing existing systems entirely with new modern systems.

Most important factors impacting digital process modernization

There isn’t a silver bullet for transforming and digitizing operations. Rather, integrated approaches that bring together people, processes and technologies appear to drive the most sustainable success.

The top four factors listed as very important include:

  1. Workforce training and upskilling (72 percent)
  2. Measurable program objectives (68 percent)
  3. Real-time analytics & performance monitoring (63 percent)
  4. Organizational or workflow redesign (62 percent)

A go-slow approach to digital process modernization

Notably, no technology was either operational or being piloted within a majority of agencies. Top contenders included cloud-based systems of record (27 percent operational, 21 percent piloting), self-service technologies (30 percent operational, 17 percent piloting), cloud infrastructure (26 percent operational, 21 percent piloting), and digital process automation platforms (28 percent operational, 18 percent piloting).

The relatively low adoption of robotic process automation (8 percent operational, 9 percent piloting) and AI & machine learning (11 percent operational, 10 percent piloting) was not surprising given their emerging status. However, similar scores for multichannel UX (18 percent operational, 12 percent piloting) and natural language interfaces (14 percent operational, 12 percent piloting) suggests that agencies are either not investing in user experience or face constraints in implementing.

Dave McClure

Principal Director – Federal CIO Advisory Services


Malcolm Jackson

Principal Director – Federal CIO Advisory Services

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