Transforming the Business of Government – Insights on Resiliency, Innovation, and Performance

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The insights and actions detailed in this book provide a practical path forward in transforming the business of government to meet evolving demands.

Governments face increasingly serious, seemingly intractable public management
challenges that go to the core of effective governance and leadership,
testing the very form, structure, and capacity required to meet and
overcome such challenges. Many problems facing public sector leaders
are wickedly complex, do not respect bureaucratic boundaries, and are
nonlinear and fluid in nature, “where very small effects may produce disproportionate
impacts.” In many ways, traditional government approaches
seem obsolete and incapable of meeting evolving complexity. Prescriptions
abound on how best to address these issues, coalescing around calls for
whole of government, enterprise, and networked approaches.

Moreover, government leaders continue to face the unforgiving realities of
disruption and uncertainty. Agency officials increasingly indicate that what
were previously viewed as Black Swan events are now becoming more frequent—
and more destabilizing. The vulnerability of social and economic
well-being is magnified by reliance on both connectivity and distributed
value chains subject to disruption on multiple fronts. Risks have grown due
to complex variables such as geopolitical conflicts, multiple public health
emergencies, and natural disasters (e.g., wildfires, hurricanes, drought).
Addressing risks has placed renewed emphasis on the importance of being
resilient. The combination of perpetual uncertainty and an ever-evolving risk
environment continuously overtakes current planning models.

Given this new reality, government leaders need practical, actionable
insights on how best to manage and lead through uncertain and disruptive
periods. For 25 years, the IBM Center for The Business of Government
has sought to inform government leaders and stakeholders by supporting
independent research from recognized public management experts, with the
overarching goal of improving public sector management and operations.
The Center’s collaboration with scholars, thought leaders, and government
executives intends to spark the imagination—identifying emerging trends,
original ideas, and best practices, and providing decision makers with
knowledge about the benefits and challenges of transformation. The Center
delivers on this mission by publishing first-class research that provides lessons
learned and insights to better address mission and management challenges
in an increasingly uncertain world.

From Mission and Management Challenges to Preparing
for Uncertainty

The IBM Center released its latest research agenda to meet current mission
and management challenges facing frontline government executives. The
Center has also dedicated time and resources to explore how best government
agencies can prepare, address, and overcome the disruptive inevitabilities
of “future shocks”—those increasingly common and severe events that
have effects within and across nations.

Partnering with the National Academy of Public Administration (Academy)
and the IBM Institute for Business Value, as well as other U.S. and global
partners, the Center launched a “Future Shocks” initiative in 2022 to help
government leaders further identify core capabilities critical to building resilience,
building on lessons learned from pandemic response efforts. Governments,
around the world have navigated and responded to the impacts of
the pandemic, and have captured valuable lessons and gained an understanding
of critical areas of focus. The Future Shocks initiative sparked a
series of international roundtable discussions with global leaders from across
the public, private, academic, and nonprofit sectors to capture lessons
learned, share insights, and offer guidance in several core areas:

  • Emergency preparedness and response
  • Cybersecurity
  • Supply chain
  • Sustainability
  • Workforce

In each of these areas, insights from these roundtables were documented
in a series of published reports that offer strategies and actions to help governments
address challenges that lie ahead. These roundtables and reports
leveraged previous work that build on past experiences, such as a series of
IBM Center reports on pandemic response, along with IBV studies and the
Academy’s Grand Challenges effort. Insights derived from the Future Shocks
series and reports inform the first six chapters of this book.

Leveraging Innovation and Performance to Drive Government Forward

To commemorate our 25th anniversary and identify innovative ideas that help
government move forward in the face of inevitable uncertainty, the Center
conducted a Challenge grant competition. This competition solicited essays
from academics and thought leaders describing a future of government that
can help inform agency readiness—identifying strategic actions for innovation
and performance to drive agency missions forward. These essays pointed to
new ways of understanding and framing problems; new processes to solve
problems; and new implementation solutions. The essays, featured in the
second half of this book, focus on a handful of specific topics:

  • Intelligent automation (IA), including artificial intelligence (AI), is revolutionizing
    how governments derive value and insights from data to achieve
    key goals and objectives. An effective automation program can greatly
    enhance the ability of the public sector to improve services. The challenge
    going forward is to design and implement IA and AI programs with critical
    elements to successfully enable mission delivery and citizen services.
  • Data and evidence can help government executives and managers to
    do more of what works to deliver better outcomes. This challenges leaders
    to collect accurate and timely data, conduct more informed analysis,
    make better decisions, and take smarter actions. Governments must also
    seek high-quality data to derive insights for improved delivery.
  • Shared services in the federal government have focused primarily on
    “back office” functions of financial management, human resources,
    acquisition, and technology related functions. More recently, grants and
    cybersecurity services have been added to human resource and finance
    as the focus of dedicated Quality Service Management Offices (QSMOs).
    Shared platforms across open ecosystems can enable agencies to leverage
    innovative and cost-effective services, both to modernize the scope
    of existing services and develop new ones.
  • Customer experience is now a key strategic priority across federal
    agencies. Focusing on customer experience (CX) enables agencies to
    improve service and build trust. By delivering a great experience for
    customers, agencies can provide great value for the people they serve.
    CX thus becomes a strategic imperative in mission delivery, and a foundational
    element for trust in government. Optimizing new technologies
    can enhance the user experience and incentivize innovators to modernize
    how government does business and delivers services.

Nine essays—encompassing such topics as AI, quantum computing, data
and evidence, oversight, shared services, and customer experience—
comprise Part III, chapters 7-15 of this book.

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