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The flood of federal funding combined with service delivery gaps exposed by the pandemic creates a modernization imperative, according to a new report.
The influx of federal funds combined with citizen demand must force state governments to “hyper-focus” on modernizing their applications and services, according to a new report.
The COVID-19 pandemic forced states to act quickly to digitize many of their services, and while the report by the National Association of State Chief Information Officers and VMware acknowledges that digitization is “not a new concept,” it must accelerate as legacy systems do not have the capacity or capability to meet rising demand.
The organizations surveyed state officials — which included chief information officers — and found that 45% said modernization efforts are handled as individual initiatives by each government agency, compared to 41% who said it is handled at the enterprise level. Fourteen percent said their state takes neither approach.
But of those surveyed, 45% of states have a documented and active strategy for modernization, while 24% are considering one and 31% do not have one at all, prompting calls for all states to take these efforts seriously. Almost half of those surveyed said a majority of their government applications need modernizing.
“In order to meet citizen demand, states must put in place a roadmap for application modernization and prioritize investments,”NASCIO’s Executive Director Doug Robinson said in a statement accompanying the report’s release.
The report urges state governments to first take inventory of their applications and measure their business value, before then forming a “solid application modernization framework” to guide the process. Additional frameworks for managing IT programs and initiatives and enterprise portfolio management will enable governments to assess any risks that may lie ahead.
Government leaders must also upskill and re-skill their IT workforce so they can fully take advantage of modernization by ensuring employees can support new initiatives, NASCIO and VMware said. Others have called for a “mentality shift” if governments are to embrace a digital-first approach, including among employees.
As they modernize, governments must also adjust their procurement process to account for the rapid changes in technology. The report suggests that acquisition strategy should become more agile and allow for the greater use of pilots before projects are then rolled out at scale.
Plenty of challenges stand in the way of modernization, the report found. Some of the biggest include funding, staff bandwidth, large legacy systems that can be difficult to overhaul and the need to significantly redesign business processes.
The influx of federal funding presents a perfect opportunity to modernize, however, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic exposed gaps in digital services and has prompted many states to upgrade citizen services delivery.
“We saw across the board our program business areas coming to IT going, ‘We’ve got to figure out new ways of doing business,’ but additionally we saw federal funds coming in at unprecedented levels,” Herb Thompson, SLED Strategist at VMware, said during a webinar hosted by NASCIO last month. “Now we're at this nexus between citizens demanding digital, personalized, integrated services and the federal money coming in the funding model, so we're at this nexus to create an opportunity for application modernization.”