3 strategies for government agencies to plan for the long term "new normal"

When US states and cities implemented lockdown protocols in early March 2020, most agencies at the Federal, State and Local levels had to immediately to devise plans and implementation strategies to sustain agency operations, while enabling remote work for their employees. These early strategies largely focused on scaling existing technology platforms (such as VPN capacity, office productivity solutions, online meetings tools, etc.). And, selectively introducing new solutions to address critical gaps, such as form intake and document management. 

The challenge is this: most of these early strategies have been devised with the assumption that COVID-19 related disruptions were short lived, agencies would eventually return to normal, and pre-COVID style of working would return in the summer months. Unfortunately, recent trends indicate this may not be a reasonable expectation. 

The short-term challenge to enable secure remote work are largely solved for government employees. Now, it is time for government technology leaders to think about the investments and strategies they need to employ for the longer term "new normal". 

Here are 3 key areas public sector IT leaders should consider as they plan to modernize their agency's operations over the longer term:

1. Focus on the citizen experience

Now more than ever, it is important to take stock of all the various ways that citizens or stakeholders - your agency's customers - engage with employees and mission critical processes. How Americans get access to unemployment benefits, deliver child support payment, file tax returns or small business loans, or understand emergency response and weather related emergencies has never been more important than right now. 

  • Boost citizen engagement by optimizing citizen requests and engagement with faster, seamless online and mobile services with Box. Plus, allow access to content from anywhere or any device. 
  • Reduce the burden on citizens services centers by digitizing case claim intake and processing, benefit applications, and care delivery with Box. Plus, eliminate the need for paper signatures with integrations like DocuSign, AdobeSign or 1400+ best-of-breed apps to integrate Box

Box customer USDA Farm Services Agency is modernizing the way 2000 Farm Services centers across the country operate remotely with Box. By focusing on the experience of farmers and producers in a digital first environment, and scaling cloud investments, USDA was able to enable this new digital process to thousands of employees in a matter of days and weeks, thereby ensuring mission resiliency not just for the immediate term, but over the long term.

2. Re-think business processes for the digital-first world

The fact is, effective business processes drive agency missions. Delivering on missions that aim to deliver effective outcomes to their constituents is challenging when most business processes are not fully digital and require in-person intervention or paper-based scenarios. For example, when a case worker walking down to meet with their supervisor to discuss the specifics of a case or when an inspector in a code enforcement agency needs an opinion from an engineer on a blueprint. Both scenarios are incredibly difficult with employees working remotely. 

  • With Box, accelerate and improve accuracy of your mission critical processes with collaborative, streamlined work for government personnel from governing bodies to field operators enabling secure collaborate, sharing, and analyzing files faster. 
  • Improve accuracy and reduce margin of error for field staff by securely managing and sharing sensitive government  files from any device, anywhere. Plus, automate repeatable tasks so you can quickly review and approve of documents, driving mission critical outcomes. Learn more about Box relay. 

Box customer California Department of General Services (DGS), Division of the State Architect DSA quickly pivoted to digitize state school construction and retrofit project plans review business process using Box. DSA enabled stakeholders to submit complex blueprints and plans digitally, internal review, annotations and comments digitally by DSA employees regardless of where they were working from, while ensuring the security of government data, allowing the DSA to keep these critical projects on track.

3. Invest in scalable, inter-connected platforms, not systems

As the pandemic continues to evolve, states and cities will continue to evolve strategies in order to support their citizens over the foreseeable future. New government assistance programs emerge, increased demand for government assistance, unemployment insurance needs, in combination with a changing political climates, agency priorities will continue to change with it. To stay ahead of this, IT leaders need to re-think how they buy and deploy IT solutions. 

  • Historically, many IT solutions supporting agency operations have been designed, built, deployed and supported as individual "systems", with agencies procuring and overseeing the development and operationalization of these systems as discrete projects. This approach is no longer sufficient in enabling the agility and efficiency agencies need, especially in times of stretched budgets. 
  • As technology leaders, the right approach is to invest in a handful of key scalable, secure and inter-connected platforms like Box that can be acquired, deployed and integrated once, but re-configured and used over and over again to solve new and emerging business needs. 

Box customer, DC office of the Attorney General (DC OAG) needed a digital way for citizens to apply for and receive adjudications for child support payments. In partnership with Box and other cloud solutions, they deployed a digital child support application in a matter of weeks, allowing citizens to engage and get services digitally end-to-end, including case management, document submission and review, and call center support. 

While the definition fo what the "new normal" will look like is not yet well defined, it is reasonable to expect that large segments of the government workforce will be unable to return to in-office work in the near to mid term.  As we plan for the future, the core principle to remember is to move beyond enabling basic employee productivity and find ways to fully enable digital-first agency operations. Whether that means how your agency engages with stakeholders and citizens or how your agency delivers government services, Government IT leaders have an unprecedented opportunity in this environment to re-prioritize their investments and strategies and increase adoption of digital platforms and approaches. The current slate of enterprise cloud platforms marketplace is rich with solutions that can be deployed quickly, scaled to meet future needs, and deliver rich capabilities and functionality to help government agencies with their modernization plans. 

If you are interested in learning more about the future of work and the best-of-breed cloud ecosystem supporting it, please join us on September 17, 2020 for our virtual conference, BoxWorks. To learn more about BoxWorks, visit boxworks.box.com