Three broad lessons emerge from our research into what IT modernization Leaders are doing differently.


Federal Leaders invest more in promising new technologies. For example, we found that they’re more than twice as likely as Late Adopters to be early adopters of technologies such as AI, streaming data, data lakes, Software-as-a-Service, and hybrid clouds (Figure 1).

Federal Leaders invest more in promising new technologies.

During 2015–18, the share of Leaders that increased the percentage of their IT budgets spent on innovation was also more than double that of Late Adopters (Figure 2). Leaders reinvest in technologies they’ve already adopted—to ensure their continued high performance—at much higher rates, too.

During 2015-18, the share of Leaders that increased the percentage of their IT budgets spent on innovation was also more than double that of Late Adopters.

We also know that Leaders develop higher levels of expertise around the technologies they adopt. And they’re more likely to pursue innovation in smart ways, such as by using a “minimally viable product” approach (an efficient development technique that emphasizes prototyping). In this and in many other ways, Leaders avoid silo mentalities (applying technology solutions to isolated problems); instead, they create wide-ranging functional and enterprise capabilities.


Moving IT projects from prototype to production or from pilot to enterprise adoption is a common challenge for many federal agencies. However, Leaders show a greater awareness of what it takes to scale new technologies. For example, before investing in AI (which 97 percent of Leaders do, while only 41 percent of Late Adopters do), Leaders invest in complementary technologies, such as data lakes and cloud services, to help AI act as a catalyst for agency-wide innovation.

Leaders also create cultures and organizational designs that are conducive to scaling. We found that Leaders are twice as likely as Late Adopters to have at least 20 percent of their workforce dedicated to innovation functions.

Leaders in our study do many other things that make them better at scaling. They’re more adept at using AI, analytics, augmented reality, and digital-learning platforms to retrain employees. They’re more supportive of technology experimentation, such as by promoting cultures that don’t stigmatize failure. And they typically do a better job of aligning the incentives of their business groups with those of their IT groups, to build agency-wide support for scaling.


Leaders understand that Future Systems must be disruptive, adaptable, and human- centered. Start with disruptive. Leaders take advantage of blurring boundaries—whether between humans and machines or between IT infrastructure and applications—to create new spaces where ideas and partnerships flourish. In such environments, Leaders do a better job of creating shared insights from converged data sources, employing platforms and teams to connect with ecosystem partners, and fueling innovation through crowdsourcing.

Leaders prioritize adaptability, deploying Future Systems that learn, improve, and scale on their own. Leaders understand that Future Systems will make their agencies more agile. They also appreciate the need to (1) decouple data from legacy infrastructure and (2) decouple existing applications from old hardware.

Finally, Leaders understand the importance of human-centered—at Accenture, we call it “radically human”—Future Systems that talk, listen, and observe. Leaders, in other words, believe that technology—harnessing rapid advances in natural-language processing, computer vision, voice recognition, and machine learning—should support more natural interactions, adapting to how people work, not vice versa.

Leaders, for instance, are twice as likely to combine teams of IT and non-IT workers to create customer-centric solutions. And Leaders apply responsible AI frameworks, to strengthen humans’ confidence in machines.

Kimberly Aftergood

Managing Director – Accenture Federal Services, National Security Portfolio, Mission Integration & Special Capabilities

Dave McClure

Director – Accenture Federal Services, Technology Advisory


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