It’s Time for Digital Government to Thrive

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By Scott Lindsay

Senior Client Partner

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As tens of thousands of Americans apply for unemployment, medical benefits and other essential services amid the COVID-19 pandemic, citizens have never been more aware of how their lives are closely linked to government services and systems.

Under the weight of overwhelming demand, websites have crashed while applications for some services have frozen in place. In less than an hour after the Small Business Administration began accepting requests for emergency aid for small businesses, its online system for processing the applications crashed, reported The New York Times.

State and local governments across the country are doing everything they can to meet unyielding citizen demand during this crisis. If anything, the 2020 pandemic has validated the predictions of many government IT leaders who have been working for years to transform slow-moving legacy systems into modern digital platforms. It was reported the central issue plaguing the SBA is “aging technology.”

Yet, “Government agencies are striving to serve citizens better, faster, and more efficiently, but great citizen experience requires a revitalized tech core,” says Forrester. At the same time, the government, like private industry, is grappling with how to work-from-home and enforce social distancing while maintaining business and service continuity.

For understaffed state and local agencies processing unemployment claims and other critical services using legacy systems, the shift to remote work is far from seamless, if not impossible. The good news is that reimagining the government’s service delivery mandate in the age of the cloud, and other transformative technologies, isn’t like jumping across the Grand Canyon. Significant change and performance improvements can come in reasonable, incremental steps.

Take, for example, the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, a Medicaid-related service Nerdery is working on. Following a cloud migration readiness assessment, we are helping them migrate over 50 web applications from on-premise systems to Azure Cloud. Additionally, Nerdery helped the Washington State Health Care Authority plan an AWS migration and evaluate the environment against best practices. Having adopted the recommendations and tools best suited to their needs, Washington is moving forward with confidence to migrate their most challenging workloads to the cloud with support from Nerdery. 

Today, amid the pandemic, agencies in all 50 states are rethinking how they can improve their levels of service and citizen experience to meet exploding demand. With the long-term in mind, consider addressing the following options as your first steps toward improving service levels for citizens in the current environment:

Move On-Premise Systems to the Cloud for Anywhere Access

Compared to a decade ago, the costs of moving your systems to the cloud are less than ever. Due to high costs and long lead times of procuring on-premise systems, it’s almost always less expensive and more expedient to move your mission-critical systems to the cloud. Additionally, you’ll avoid the high costs of maintaining these systems, and your team can access applications from anywhere.

Invest in Team Collaboration and Chat Tools

Modern collaboration and chat tools can significantly boost productivity and improve service delivery to citizens. Collaboration tools help breakdown both inter- and intra-agency silos and help build trust and increase communications, particularly with geographically scattered teams. Online chat tools give your citizen “customers” the chance to engage you directly when they’re completing a form or on your site without going into a phone queue. What’s more, these proven tools have been vetted by commercial companies and used for years. 

Adopt Cloud-Based Office Productivity Tools, Embrace Cloud Storage

The long-term lower costs — up to 50 percent by some measures — of cloud-based productivity tools such as Google Apps or Microsoft 365 are well-founded. More agencies, public school districts, colleges and universities are adopting these tools in place of traditional software. The same goes for cloud storage. At the federal level, agencies are shuttering data centers as more transition to cloud storage to improve efficiencies and save costs. State governments are following the same path.

Investigate Virtual Desktops

Virtual desktops have the potential to free up essential government IT staff to work on more mission-critical projects. In the process, agencies and organizations will significantly reduce desktop and operating system incidents. At the same time, virtual desktops allow your teams to access their PC desktop environment from anywhere, which improves productivity.

Evaluate VPN Solutions for Location-Tied Systems

Because of data privacy concerns, while conducting government transactions, virtual private networks can help maintain service continuity — and security — with part of your team working remotely. Without this secure connectivity, teams working remotely may not have access to your sensitive business-critical applications. Creating a security-rich environment — where all your applications and systems can operate from anywhere — is becoming the new gold standard for teams working remotely.

It’s Time for Digital Government To Thrive

When the whole world is trying to navigate through the same storm, sometimes it’s difficult to see a clear path. But many government agencies throughout the country are rising to the challenge. Amid surging demand for critical services, many are quickly adopting new processes and pivoting to more effective technologies to close service gaps.

During this period, changes don’t have to be novel. Each of the above suggestions is a proven, low-risk practice, vetted by both private and public organizations. 

Nerdery can help you evaluate your current service delivery models while you adopt modern technologies and practices to meet citizen services. Contact us to start a conversation.