How the pandemic taught agencies to accept and adapt – GCN


How the pandemic taught agencies to accept and adapt

The pandemic has placed unprecedented demands on government agencies that have had to quickly revamp citizen-facing operations to respond to a new suite of digital services and step up back-office processes to support a remote workforce and hybrid.


Keith alderson
Assistant Deputy Commissioner, Debt Management Services, Office of Tax Services, Department of the Treasury

Richard burnham
Acting Director DCSD-DMS, Office of Tax Services, Department of the Treasury

Sheila rose campbell
Special Advisor for Digital Services, Bureau of Policy, Planning and Resources, Department of State

Judith Conklin
Deputy CIO, Library of Congress

Evan davis
Senior Vice-President, Federal Civilian Agencies, MAXIMUS

Nora Dempsey
Senior Innovation Advisor, State Department

Sanjay Gupta
CTO, Small Business Administration

Larry reagan
Vice-President, Finance, MAXIMUS

Harrison smith
Purchasing Director, Internal Revenue Service

Note: Troy K. Schneider, Editor-in-Chief of FCW, chaired the panel discussion. The May 26 rally was endorsed by MAXIMUS, but both the substance of the discussion and the recap of these pages are strictly editorial products. Neither the sponsors nor any of the roundtable participants commented beyond their May 26 comments.

In May, a group of IT leaders met to discuss how agencies have responded to the changes, the challenges they have faced, and how they broke through old barriers to deliver better services to citizens. .

The discussion was recorded but not for individual attribution (see sidebar for full list of participants), and quotes have been edited for length and clarity. Here is what the group had to say.

Internal customers first

For most agencies, the volume of citizen services increased as senior officials scrambled to move their teams to telecommuting. Roundtable participants noted that this is often more difficult than adjusting the citizen experience, but absolutely essential for allowing the workforce to focus on end customers.

Several officials said it took months to provide employees with laptops and other essential equipment for remote working. “The supply chain has hit us,” one noted.

In other agencies, the challenge was inconsistency. “A lot of our IT is pretty decentralized,” another official said. “Where I’m sitting, we had a culture where people get on board and you give them a laptop, but that’s not necessarily the case in other parts of the department.

Creating a constructive remote working culture took even longer. “I think we really need to think about this hybrid work environment where we have this distributed workforce, people in multiple time zones,” one official said. “At the end of the day, if they feel comfortable with the technology, they will provide better service. They will think more innovatively about how to apply technological solutions to better serve customers. all of that, but I think our focus will be on how to help the workforce really fit into this future workspace? “

The pandemic has also forced agencies to change their expectations for everything from signature requirements – what, exactly, is considered a valid electronic signature? – the acceptance of teleworking by managers.

“Even 10 years ago, I remember the conversation around, ‘Hey, if you can’t give me a work plan for the day, you have to come in to work,’” said one executive. “And my joke at the time was, ‘Yeah, because if you don’t have a job to do you better not work in the office.'”

“I think what really pushed us in unexpected ways was just this ‘we can do all of this online’ mindset,” observed another participant. “I know it sounds so basic, but even rethinking our physical footprint, like those processes we used to say you can only do in person. Well, actually we found a way to do it online. Maybe we had to make it rethink our risk position in doing this, but it forced us to do it. I think this realization that we really need to provide these services online to people. citizens is huge. “

Another official suggested that “the breaking of certain societal norms and the status quo due to COVID have also broken many of these barriers. We are relaxing the security restrictions. We are relaxing workplace restrictions. we communicate with each other. So I’m optimistic that there is an opportunity here for the people who are trying to do what you are doing to use this blackout to open up communications on how to tie these things together. “

A longer version of this article first appeared on FCW, a sister site of GCN.

About the Author

Troy K. Schneider is Editor-in-Chief of FCW and GCN, as well as Managing Director of Public Sector 360.

Prior to joining 1105 Media in 2012, Schneider was Director of Media and Technology at the New America Foundation, and prior to that, Managing Director of Electronic Publishing at Atlantic Media Company. The founding editor of, Schneider also helped launch the political site in the mid-1990s and worked on the early online efforts of the Los Angeles Times and Newsday. He began his career in print media and has written for a wide range of publications including The New York Times,, Slate, Politico, National Journal, Governance, and many other titles listed above.

Schneider graduated from Indiana University, where he focused on journalism, business, and religious studies.

Click here for previous Schneider articles, or connect with him on Twitter: @troyschneider.

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