Across government, agencies face constant and often expanding levels of complexity in delivering on their mission objectives.
Citizen expectations, changing technologies, a mass proliferation of data, and new business processes are among the key external forces that challenge agencies to serve constituents in new ways.
At the same time, growing demands for fast response to problem-solving reduce the time that agencies have for developing strategies that enable them to achieve mission objectives. In recent years, agile development has advanced in both industry and government as a method of designing software that builds functionality in rapid increments that involve both developers and users. Agile methodology is increasingly being used in non-IT efforts as well.
The Opportunity Project (TOP), a program run out of the U.S. Census Bureau at the U.S. Department of Commerce, has for several years served as a catalyst in adapting agile techniques to solve complex agency mission problems, through a process that brings together agencies, industry, and citizens. The Project’s website refers to its goal as “a process for engaging government, communities, and the technology industry to create digital tools that address our greatest challenges as a nation. This process helps to empower people with technology, make government data more accessible and user-friendly, and facilitate cross-sector collaboration to build new digital solutions with open data.”
Every day, U.S. government entities interact with millions of citizens to execute their core missions.
Serving the citizenry has always has been a foundation of our government and today, rapidly advancing technological innovations are fundamentally changing citizen expectations. The last best experience that anyone has becomes the minimum expectation for the next experience. With these changing dynamics as a backdrop, organizations must begin to re-imagine how they innovate, operate, and engage with clients, employees, and stakeholders. Design thinking -- described as a human-centered approach to innovation that puts the observation and discovery of often highly-nuanced, even tacit, human needs right at the forefront of the innovation process -- is currently enjoying unprecedented attention from organizations in search of avenues for innovation, both in the public and private sector.
Based on our recent research and perspectives shared by current and former government leaders, this special report identifies seven drivers for transforming government in the years to come.
In 2018, the IBM Center for The Business of Government marks its twentieth year of connecting research to practice in helping to improve government. The IBM Center continues to execute on its ultimate mission: to assist public sector executives and managers in addressing real-world problems with practical ideas and original thinking to improve government. The Center supports leading researchers to identify trends, new ideas, and best practices—crafting actionable approaches that support government decision-makers in addressing mission delivery and management challenges, through strategies and actions that promote efficiency and effectiveness.
Agile delivery approaches support the federal government’s goals of doing more with less and improving the agency’s ability to manage its budgets and delivery dates.
Many complex IT programs are encumbered by requirements that continually change over long time frames. The results are often cost overruns and schedule delays. As a result, desired mission objectives are not achieved.
Numerous studies and years of implementation experience with software development within complex IT projects provide evidence that Agile approaches, when executed correctly, improve the delivery of software and large system integration projects. For optimal results, Agile approaches must be planned, implemented with discipline, and tailored to the need of the project and the organization.
Following up on the successes of using agile techniques in software development, many leading private sector companies have used agile principles to transform their organizations.
Others have developed guides for agile organizational transformation and are assisting in its implementation. Governments around the world have begun to leverage this progress, similarly adopting agile principles to transform their organizations.
Recently, a colleague asked me, “What is Agile Government?” I didn’t have a concise answer ready. The Box below contains the National Academy of Public Administration’s current definition of Agile Government. In fact, the precise definition of what constitutes Agile Government is currently evolving in many venues around the globe.
This report highlights how government agencies can use innovative methods and tools to transform operations in a way that meets their missions and better serves their stakeholders.
Many of the problems of government can be solved by technology, but the real roadblock is knowing how to fix the problems citizens experience when they interact with the government. More than anything, government workers who want to innovate government operations and services need new methods and tools to help make better decisions and deliver more effective results.
Such frameworks provide practical pathways to help agencies transform their operations in a way that makes more effective use of resources. Transformation involves changing how people do their work, how processes are built to support faster and more effective service delivery, and how technologies are brought forward in new ways that leverage commercial best practices—all focused on improving mission results for businesses and citizens. While government leaders understand the need to transform in response to 21st-century demands, less is understood about actions they can take to address this imperative.
Agile ways of working in government have become a hot topic. But are public sector agencies really going agile? Where and how extensively is agile taking hold? And is it delivering value? These questions continually crop up in our discussions with public sector leaders. To help demystify the topic, BCG conducted a set of interviews and surveys with executives at 23 global, federal, and state public sector institutions in Australia, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK, and the US. The study revealed a remarkable uptake of agile in the public sector.
In short, agile has arrived in the public sector. To keep making progress in adopting agile as its primary way of working, agencies should move beyond practices such as the “daily stand-up” status check-ins, and put in place enablers such as senior leadership support, new funding models, and training.
The term “Agile” comes from the world of software development, and its implementation in project management has led to greater success in technology implementation. Building on this success, good government entities around the world have adopted the “Agile” label to promote better government outcomes.
The Agile phenomenon is highlighted in an upcoming article in the Public Administration Review, "Agile: A New Way of Governing." Authors Professor Dr. Ines Mergel, Professor Andrew B. Whitford, and Professor Dr. Sukumar Ganapati write, “A quiet government transformation is already underway with practitioners who are investing heavily in working in agile environments and applying agile approaches from software development to other types of government problems.”
In this post, we explore two uses of Agile - Agile Government and Agile Governance. In actuality, Governance is twofold – internal Governance that supports service delivery, and external Governance of processes that involve actors outside of government who are significant stakeholders in delivering the outcome of important actions. For simplicity, we will define the two as Agile Government (internally focused and involving government taking action to deliver services) and Agile Governance (externally focused and involving multiple parties beyond government officials, all jointly seeking positive outcomes).
Vision - A global network of governments, non-profits, foundations, academic institutions, and their private sector partners who adopt and implement agile government principles to provide goods and services that fully meet customer needs and build public trust.
The Problem - The United States has been beset with significant social, cultural, and technological changes for decades. The public sector has been slow to adapt to these changes and is often in a reactive mode. Against this backdrop, trust in the federal government has been declining for decades. Nearly two-thirds of those polled by the Gallup organization in September 2019 indicated that they had little or no trust in the federal government’s ability to handle domestic problems. By contrast, the public has more confidence in state and local governments, with Gallup finding that 72 percent of U.S. adults have a "great deal" or a "fair amount" of trust in their local government, and 63 percent believe the same about their state government.
By Ines Mergel of the University of Konstanz, Sukumar Ganapati of Florida International University, and Andrew B. Whitford of the University of Georgia
The evolving concept of “agile” has fundamentally changed core aspects of software design, project management, and business operations. The agile approach could also reshape government, public management, and governance in general. In this Viewpoint essay, the authors introduce the modern agile movement, reflect on how it can benefit public administrators, and describe several challenges that managers will face when they are expected to make their organizations more flexible and responsive