RESEARCH REPORT

In brief

In brief

  • While government is increasingly digital, many federal agencies have yet to reap the benefits of true transformation.
  • IT chiefs are bogged down by budgetary constraints, antiquated processes, and cultural resistance to change.
  • Federal CIOs and Accenture experts share what’s working in special Federal Times Report.


Government IT leaders are on board with this vision. Digital transformation is the top-ranked business priority among government chief information officers overall, according to Gartner’s 2018 CIO Agenda Survey. Yet, many find themselves unable to realize their transformation ambitions: Only 6 percent of federal managers rate their agency’s digital transformation tools as excellent, according to a survey by Accenture and the Government Business Council. Despite the hurdles, some see government on the brink of change, with a new era of digital empowerment just around the corner.

People & processes: The role of the CIO

Transformation begins at the top. For government to shift its IT assets into a modernized modality, the role of the CIO must first pivot. CIOs need to draw back from day-to-day micro concerns and focus their energies on the big picture, pushing forward the transformation agenda. Some say that to drive business transformation, the CIO must first push for cultural change. Others describe the CIO’s evolving role as a shift from an internal focus to an external focus. To drive digital transformation, the government IT leader who used to worry about keeping the servers up and running must instead worry about the entirety of the citizen experience.

"Most agencies put all their money toward keeping the lights on with these old legacy systems, and have a hard time meeting the needs of new missions and customers. ... The CIO needs to head up the change and articulate that vision, to build trust in a proactive way."

— Jerad Speigel, Managing Director – Accenture Federal Services

Platforms: The future of IT architecture

Government can no longer afford to undertake massive, specialized technology projects in pursuit of over-prescribed and narrowly defined functionalities. The alternative: platforms based on commonly accepted standards that can support an ever-expanding, ever-changing user base. Rather than continue to develop point solutions, agencies should instead build IT for broad, underlying functionality, and then layer specific applications on top of that common infrastructure. The universality and scalability of a commercial platform approach can enable government to take advantage of the latest iterations in digital thinking and advances such as machine learning, and business intelligence systems.

Procurement: Smarter buying drives digital adoption

In their quest to realize the full value of their digital investments, agencies are hampered by their procurement processes. Current purchasing methodologies are meant to ensure the responsible use of taxpayer funds, but too often, these safeguards stand in the way of digital adoption. New buying practices could lessen the burden while still ensuring the responsible use of public resources. Government IT needs to get out of the mindset of ownership. Rather than buying big systems, agencies can invest in cloud services, buying just what it needs without having to undertake an elaborate request for proposals each time the demand changes. Micro-buying offers another alternative approach, which involves smaller procurement available to a larger base of potential vendors. This approach provides agencies with faster procurement, using a low-risk, try-and-fail philosophy that surfaces good ideas.

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