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When Should Your Institution Consider Government IT Modernization?

Government entities at nearly every level struggle with the same problem: deciding when to move forward with a digital transformation.

If asked when they plan on transitioning to the cloud, most government CIOs would probably say “as soon as possible,” though many would be hard-pressed to provide a concrete timeframe. With funding being difficult to obtain and a continually shifting political climates, CIOs struggle to know when the “right” time is for government IT modernization. As a result, some government agencies still maintain a wait and see approach to transformation, despite mounting pressure to move forward.

Even in the private sector, launching a modernization initiative is a daunting task, one that requires careful consideration before starting. However, government organizations at both the state and federal level are faced with unique considerations that make modernization a bigger priority than it is for private companies. In other words, government CIOs really should start the process of modernization as soon as possible.

Why Government IT Modernization Needs to Start Now

Citizens are growing increasingly frustrated that their digital experiences with government entities are not as easy and user-friendly as their experiences with sites like Amazon or Facebook. Moreover, they don’t understand why state and federal agencies haven’t modernized already. Expectations have changed, and government agencies need to change with them.

Security is another major driver for upgrading existing systems. Much has been said about the importance of securing government data, but as the number of government-focused cyberattacks increase, it becomes a question of when, not if, your agency will be targeted. In fact, it’s the lack of modernization that makes local governments a prime target for cyberattacks. Transitioning from outdated legacy systems to an “always up-to-date” cloud ERP solution is, therefore, critical from a security standpoint.

Finally, government agencies are under increasing pressure to cut costs while improving efficiency. Agile, cloud-based systems and automation can help them achieve this, allowing federal and state agencies to reduce workloads and speed up internal processes. This, in turn, frees up resources so that staff can spend less time handling small tasks and more time on strategy.

A Tipping Point for Modernization

Government IT modernization has reached a tipping point, with support for modernization coming from all corners. According to a study by ACT-IAC and MeriTalk, 94% of government CIOs believe there has been a shift in momentum with regards to modernization at the state and federal level. Moreover, about 83% say that IT modernization is essential for future mission success. In other words, support for modernization is about as high as one could hope for.

To put it succinctly: there has never been a better time to push forward with a government IT modernization project. Support for modernization initiatives has been building for years, moving to the forefront during the Obama administration and continuing on through the Trump administration. With the abundance of support, combined with the increasing need to upgrade legacy systems, CIOs will be hard-pressed to find a better time to modernize.

Paving the Way to Modernization

While there has not been a better time for government digital transformation, agencies still face a number of challenges before they can kick start modernization. Two challenges, in particular, are regularly cited as standing in government CIOs way: staff and budget. Here are some insights into how these obstacles can be overcome.

Staffing Considerations

Aside from budget, one of the biggest roadblocks to government IT modernization is fear of staff pushback and lack of adoption. According to the ACT-IAC/MeriTalk study, about 85% of respondents agree that federal and state agencies “can’t have modern technology without a modern workforce.” Getting buy-in, clearly communicating the details of the transformation, and training employees in the new solution are all big obstacles that require the CIO to partner with other leaders in the organization in order to execute.

These obstacles can be overcome, however, with a strong change management strategy and support. Change management can help show employees the value of a government digital transformation as well as educate them on what to expect before, during, and after the initial transformation. Everything that involves the human and process side of a transformation, change management covers.

Budgeting for Government Digital Transformation

Cost is another major roadblock to modernization for any organization, but especially so with government agencies, which typically have limited funds. But while the cost of IT modernization is high, waiting to modernization can prove more expensive in the long run, as the longer government entities wait, the more money is spent fixing and maintaining legacy systems. In fact, according to findings from the Government Accountability Office and the Office of Management and Budget, roughly 80% of IT budgets are currently dedicated to operations and maintenance of outdated infrastructure.

It’s because so much money is spent on holding up legacy systems that CIOs need to advocate for additional funding. Modernization is expensive, but by transitioning its infrastructure to cloud-based ERP solutions will dramatically cut down on maintenance costs, saving money in the end. A well-executed transformation that consistently hits its deadlines can ensure that budgets don’t balloon out of control.   Digital transformation accelerators can also speed up the time-to-value of modernization.

It’s Time to Get Serious About Modernization

While digital transformation should be at the top of every government CIO’s to-do list, it is not a process that should be started for its own sake. Before any digital transformation, it’s important to have a clear understanding of how this new technology will help your agency achieve its objectives. Otherwise, it will be hard to achieve any significant ROI from the process.

It’s also important that government agencies think of transformation in terms of people and processes, not just technology. A digital transformation is the time to evaluate existing processes and workflows and find new, more efficient ways to execute them. These changes naturally require employees to be trained in the new processes and kept up-to-date on the transformation milestones. Agencies that are planning to modernize need to be ready to change these aspects of their organization as well.

Lastly, government CIOs need to understand that modernization is not a one-time effort. It is an ongoing process that continues long after the initial transformation work has been completed. Over time, new features are added to the cloud-based platforms, which need to be embraced and utilized. Training also never really ends, as new employees are brought in and older employees require refreshers or corrective training. Modernization is a commitment to new technological solutions and a more agile business structure, and government agencies need to be willing to make that commitment.

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