2014 Outlook on the Federal Government
Interview with Janet Foutty
Forward-thinking leaders are re-examining how their resources are managed and deployed, and they are embracing — or expanding — exciting innovations such as mobile, social media, crowd-sourcing, geospatial visualization and gamification, according to Janet Foutty, principal and Federal Consulting leader, Deloitte Consulting LLP. Read on for her perspective on the opportunities 2014 holds to make our country stronger.
What are the biggest challenges facing the federal government in the coming year?
One of the foremost challenges for federal agencies is the effective transition from conventional operating wisdom to a more modern approach — one that takes into account the explosive growth of new technologies, and the changing budgetary and spending priorities that reflect a sluggish economy. This is no easy task. Sequestration cuts and funding uncertainties make planning and forecasting increasingly difficult for federal officials and their employees. Many agencies exhausted most, if not all, of their funding flexibilities. Current approaches may no longer be sustainable; now is the time to explore new delivery models. Forward-thinking federal leaders are re-examining how their people, resources and assets are managed and deployed. Prime consideration should be given to adapting the leading practices of the most successful global businesses, especially in the areas of technology growth and application, resource management and financial accountability.
The past year was tough for federal employees — from pay freezes to furloughs to the recent government shutdown. Not surprisingly, these moments correlate to some of the lowest levels of federal workforce satisfaction and commitment, according to the Partnership for Public Service. Reversing this trend will be critical in this industry, where employee engagement is linked strongly to mission success. Federal leaders may want to create opportunities to re-engage employees and cultivate leadership at every level.
What trends do you see disrupting “business as usual” in 2014?
“2014 will again be the year of the cloud – and not just in the way data is collected, stored, analyzed and shared.”
We can expect several key developments to impact the federal government over the next 12 months. Some of the changes are inevitable, generated by the accelerating revolution in IT. It’s fair to say that 2014 will again be the year of the cloud – and not just in the way data is collected, stored, analyzed and shared. Talent clouds will form, creating new categories of workers often paid by task or assignment, who work remotely and rely on mobile connections to their assignments and their bosses. Mobile, social media and augmented reality have the capacity to transform the way federal employees operate — from the back office to the front office, in the field and the situation room. Another trend that may become top of mind with federal leaders is not only how to prepare sufficiently for disruptive events — for example, another government shutdown, data breaches or natural disasters such as Hurricane Sandy — but how to manage the aftermath. It’s possible that government officials will face one or more of these scenarios in 2014, and they will require recovery plans that secure or restore assets, resources and data.
What are some of the steps federal organizations can take to foster innovation?
Government leaders understand the value of innovative new technologies and fresh insights as they pertain to their agencies. They want a “solution revolution,” and there has not been a better time to apply the three C’s of successful management — collaboration, consolidation and cost-savings — to that objective. One way to meet these challenges is greater emphasis on public-private partnerships. This collaborative effort could expand to include incubators, accelerators, not-for-profit organizations and foundations, social enterprises, civic-minded innovators and other funding sources, both traditional and unconventional. These are fertile areas: Corporate philanthropy runs into the tens of billions, while global revenue generated by socially responsible enterprises has reached $2.1 trillion, and socially responsible investing is approaching $1 trillion. We’re seeing constructive efforts that involve the public and private sectors, from cybersecurity and critical infrastructure protection, to housing and hunger, to providing care for our military veterans. Transitioning to new service models, through increased use of shared services (a staple of private enterprise) and improvements in supply chain management, is a key consideration for agencies in 2014 and beyond. It’s another step in the evolution of smart business management, in collaboration with innovative private sector leaders increasingly willing to balance inherent risks against the returns they propose.
Technology is the thread that connects all lines of government business and services. Mobile technology and information analytics will become even more important in federal decision-making. More federal organizations are actively embracing crowd-sourcing, geospatial visualization, gamification and other exciting concepts. Not only will technology help in enhancing how the workforce interacts with constituents, it can boost productivity, reduce costs and generate higher returns on mission impact — all toward making our country stronger.
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