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3 Tips for Adapting Programs to Rapidly Changing Technology


­­Many federal managers are confronted with managing programs in a rapidly changing technology climate without a set of rapidly changing capabilities. Staffing, contracting, regulations, etc. all move slowly regardless of how quickly the outside world and technology in particular iterates. Agencies are sprinting to keep up. Federal leaders need to know where to put their resources and how to adapt their programs to recognize these realities.

One way to try to stay ahead of that curve is to engage in technology road mapping. A structured road mapping process is a way to make informed guesses about where to invest based on what the future may hold. It’s an attempt to make a little order out of chaos. Obviously no one can predict the next disruptive innovation or disaster that reshuffles the deck, but you can get a sense of the context in which you operate and what your priorities are. We recommend doing at least three things:

  1. Use Scenarios: No one knows what the future holds, and by looking at several different scenarios that are relevant to your world you improve your ability to visualize the landscape in which you are operating. Think about how you and others would respond to different outcomes. What actions would you take? Your stakeholders? Industry? Scenarios can help you uncover some of the assumptions you are making and get you into a more open mind-set.
  2. Set Criteria: These are the parameters by which you judge the value of any investment. They are the factors that make one outcome more or less desirable to you and your organization. In essence, they are what you and your organization value. These criteria might change slightly over time, but they are likely to change much less than the technology itself.
  3. Look for Leverage: No matter what you do, things will change. An investment made today may be irrelevant tomorrow. There’s no avoiding that, but you can try to minimize it. Look for leverage points where some investment will make an impact on multiple areas and in multiple scenarios. If your investment affects multiple areas, it is far more likely to look like a good bet in the long term.

No one and no program can insulate themselves from change. The best we can do is to plan actively, change and adapt. By using scenarios, setting criteria and looking for leverage, programs can develop a strategy for navigating their environment.

How do you approach planning in a time of rapid technologic innovation?

(Image via tovovan/

Alan Pentz is a partner and co-founder of Corner Alliance, a Washington-based consulting firm that focuses on helping government clients build strategies to stay relevant in and capitalize on today's shifting technological landscape. He is a former Capitol Hill staffer and holds an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin. Contact him at, or follow him on Twitter at @apentz

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