Business, Government - Written by Steve Guengerich on Monday, September 21, 2009 9:28 - 3 Comments
New Methods Needed for Government 2.0
My colleague Nick Vitalari and I recently attended a conference in Washington DC on Government 2.0. We have both written about our reflections on the speakers and examples they described during the event, with Nick writing about the new public-private ecosystem and me writing more generally about favorites and the differences between the Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and the large federal agency members that composed the majority of the audience.
To highlight these differences further, my personal observation was that there was a dramatic over-emphasis on visual, programmatic, and evangelical descriptions of the Government 2.0 examples presented during the event. However, there was an under-emphasis on subjects such as process change, adaptable methodology, and cultural dynamics.
The one notable exception was Eric Ries of Kleiner Perkins Caufield whose “lean start-up” discussion was an insightful, but moreso from the perspective of the “developer of a product” and not “the implementer of a large-scale enterprise solution” – see Eric’s blog for more: http://www.startuplessonslearned.com/
This is not to say that presenters dismissed the subjects. But their comments amounted to lip service clichés, such as “you have to manage the change” and “it’s important to get your management’s support.” But there were practically no specifics given for how to perform those critical activities.
In fact, the only presenters that spoke confidently about such issues were the government reps themselves: CIOs and directors, for example, from large healthcare, communications and defense agencies. However, it sounded as though most were relying heavily on their knowledge and skills with existing, time-tested Systems Development Life Cycle (SDLC) frameworks, leadership approaches, and change management methods.
This is a problem. On the one hand, the Whitehouse and current administration is opening up the floodgates of structured and unstructured data, supported by everything from policy directives, such as the Open Government Initiative, to technology innovation, such as last week’s initial roll-out of the federal Apps.gov website, promoting Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications and cloud computing.
On the other hand, there is an enormous federal bureaucracy with its supporting technological, procedural, and people infrastructure supporting systems and that are mission critical and strategic – they can’t go down and they can’t fail. Many people’s lives and livelihoods depend on them.
It’s like having two gears that are spinning at very different speeds, but extremely rapidly, with the force of the government 2.0 movement forcing the gears together. My opinion is that the solution to enabling the gears to mesh and spin together is from innovations in process management and service implementation of enterprise 2.0 (or what I’ll refer to, for simplicity’s sake, as “collaborative”) systems.
It may not sound so thrilling, but I believe it is absolutely the key to success. At nGenera, we have spent a great deal of time and money studying organizational collaboration, large and small. And, from this research, we have learned what elements are crucial for the success of large-scale collaborative initiatives, like those that lie ahead of the federal government as it implements more government 2.0 initiatives.
Some of these elements are well-documented, for example, “Eight Ways to Collaborate,” published in the Harvard Business Review by Tammy Erickson and Lynda Gratton in 2007, from their landmark study on enterprise collaboration.
Since then, at the heart of newer research, is a construct referred to as “collaborative intents.” In other words, collaboration and collaborative systems are not an “end” in themselves…they are a means to an end. The question is what are the difference kinds of “ends” – or better said “outcomes” – that leaders seek to achieve through collaborative systems. This is an absolutely fundamental, crucial decision point that must be met early in the design and development process.
Far too often, unfortunately, the collaborative intent or intents are not decisively settled. This lack of clarity can be a major source of misalignment and can cause significant hardship resulting in cost and timeline over-runs for a major government 2.0 project. We’ve developed a boardroom imperative describing collaborative intents that you can download.
Others have begun to recognize that existing management processes and approaches to implementing new services are insufficient, as well. At the conference that Nick and I attended, there was a large presence from major service providers, such as Booz Allen Hamilton, to smaller niche players, such as Aquilent. In every case, there was no doubt that there was a great deal of momentum and a lot of learning going on about how the old ways of doing things needed to be re-thought.
I’ll be talking more about collaborative intents and associated methodologies in future posts. In the meantime, I look forward to hearing from others about their experiences with implementing new social networking-based or collaborative systems for their public sector purposes, whether local/municipal, state/provincial, or federal.
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