What’s the Big Idea: How Thinking Differently is the Key to True Transformation

(Illustration: Shutterstock)

(Illustration: Shutterstock)

The Federal government is not traditionally known as being on the bleeding, or even leading, edge of technology. Yet agencies are being challenged every day to innovate, modernize, and “think outside the box”–many times with limited resources. And these challenges are coming from everywhere: from inside the agency, from outside forces such as hackers, and even from constituents who are engaging with agencies in a digitally transformed world. Anyone can tell you it costs a lot of taxpayer money to dream big.

Or does it?

In reality, the big ideas are already tested and validated in the commercial sector. Sometimes, you can match up the big idea with a transformative approach to realize dramatic change…and equally dramatic savings. Most agencies tend to think of IT modernization in strictly hardware and software terms. But modernization is a different strategy…a different way of thinking that includes human beings as well as machines.

All you need to start with is a mission to transform your thinking.

The Mission

To think differently you need to collaborate in entirely new ways. We’ve done this at Dell EMC and we see it all the time within our customer community. The successful groups, the ones that really transform, start by gathering a small but diverse group of people to help. If you’re not the CIO, then invite the CIO. Now add long-tenured IT staff Federal employees, front office administration, a person from finance, one from human resources, a field officer, and then sprinkle in a millennial or two for good measure. You can’t have fresh ideas by using the same thinking and strategies that you use today.

Start with the core mission of your agency, and identify the tech-enabled tools that are helping you accomplish that mission every day. How well are those tools working? How smoothly is the system functioning? Separate them into three lists – good, average, fail – and then triage the “failing” group by assigning priorities based on a function’s criticality to accomplishing the agency’s mission. How much time, money, or resources will it take to correct each problem you’ve identified? Your workgroup will have different ideas about which challenges are merely challenges, and which are outright roadblocks. Allow them to determine your IT priorities.

Traditional, IT-centric projects focused on by managers operating in silos within an agency, simply do not align with an agency’s mission. An antiquated system of servers, storage, and networking cannot deliver information quickly enough or across enough devices. IT priorities have evolved to both create the new information delivery system and make old systems deliver information to that new infrastructure.

We say a future-ready Federal agency is one whose IT infrastructure is the engine of efficiency, not the anchor that prevents it from moving forward. One whose IT infrastructure not only allows change, but is prepared for it. One that enables IT to unlock greater value from its investments, adopt emerging technologies more rapidly, and focus more on new areas of innovation. Digital transformation is an imperative. It is the difference between a successful mission and utter failure.

The transformation has already begun in the workforce and among your constituents. People are witnessing the myriad ways technology is changing the way they conduct daily life, and they expect to have access to those tools when they get to the office. Providing the latest app-enabled tools creates a workforce that grows more connected even as more employees work remotely.

Next Steps

By simplifying and automating an existing IT infrastructure and updating when and where it’s possible, your agency will discover it can actually free up funds for innovation–even with a flat budget. Dell EMC has worked with numerous Federal agencies, here and abroad, to achieve both savings and modernization.

It takes a strong team to break with tradition, think differently, and apply new strategies to doing business. Change doesn’t just happen organically, and it won’t happen if we continue to rely on old modes of thinking. But if there’s a willingness–to spend differently on different priorities driven by a different strategy–then there’s a clear way to IT transformation that aligns with your agency’s mission, not just IT’s mission.




About Bettina Chavanne
Bettina Chavanne is the field marketing consultant for Dell EMC Federal’s Federal systems integrator account team. Previously, Bettina was external media communications lead for Lockheed Martin rotary wing programs and social media lead for her business unit. Before joining industry, Bettina was the Pentagon correspondent for Aviation Week & Space Technology magazine.
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