By Ray Bauer, Managing Director of Advanced Solutions, Verizon
COVID-19 has created an urgent demand for critical government services. Now more than ever, government agencies must rely on automated workflows, scalable infrastructure and innovative ways to use communication channels. Legacy systems and outdated processes simply can’t handle the deluge of constituent claims and queries.
A global pandemic isn’t the only reason modernization is nearly a mandate for agencies at all levels. These days, constituents expect government websites to offer the same speed, security and ease-of-use as any smartphone app. This consumerization of technology is also redefining expectations in the workplace as employees increasingly demand access to immersive training modules, collaborative software and other cutting-edge technologies.
Data is another driver of digital modernization in the public sector. By consolidating data scattered across disparate silos and managing it centrally, agencies can harness the power of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to reduce tax fraud, accelerate emergency response to natural disasters, and even battle cybercrime.
First, Consider the Hurdles
Despite these advantages, modernization is far from simple. “Ripping and replacing” antiquated systems is only the beginning. Additional hurdles include balancing digital transformation initiatives with an agency’s day-to-day operations — a task made more difficult with so many employees working remotely.
Skills shortages can also stall modernization efforts. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, more than 50 million Americans filed for first-time unemployment benefits between March and July 2020. As agencies have been inundated with claims, many have struggled to find workers with the necessary COBOL programming skills to keep legacy mainframe systems up and running.
There also is the challenge of change management. Certainly, modernization can help agencies reduce human errors, boost employee productivity, and deliver a better constituent experience. However, reaping these rewards requires designing best practices around new processes, communicating a new vision to employees and driving the adoption of sophisticated tools.
The Upside of Managed Services
Fortunately, managed services can help agencies tackle these challenges while still helping to manage the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. For one, engaging with managed services providers allows agencies to tap into a brain-trust of leading experts that spans disciplines and industries. The result is instant access to qualified professionals without the recruitment costs.
Another advantage of managed services: proven processes and best practices. Working with a wide array of businesses and systems allows managed services providers to test and validate best practices of business transformation through technology. Agencies can benefit by implementing these valuable lessons learned without incurring any risk.
Data silos and fragmented systems can prevent IT teams from identifying hidden problems such as network performance issues and cybersecurity vulnerabilities. The good news is that by taking a holistic approach, managed services providers can create a consolidated view of an agency’s technology assets, helping IT teams gain greater visibility into the health of their digital infrastructure. This enables teams to keep tabs on how software components interact with each other, identify application dependencies, and create a master database so data is reliable, consistent and easily accessible.
Speed, Scalability and Innovation
AI, ML and internet of things (IoT) — these are all disruptive technologies that promise to reinvent age-old agency workflows. However, deploying these can be costly, and they often require specialized skills and experience to implement. Managed services providers can address these challenges by offering best-of-breed, cloud-based solutions without upfront capital expenditures.
For example, an agency can work with a managed services provider to automate its help desk processes. By deploying a combination of high-performance network capabilities, AI-powered chat bots and SMS tools, an agency may be able to cut its response time to pressing constituent queries substantially.
Equally as important as speed is a digital infrastructure’s scalability. Almost overnight, COVID-19 created huge spikes in network traffic and an urgent need for remote accessibility to critical systems. By migrating IT workloads and services from internal data centers to cloud platforms, managed services providers can help agencies quickly ramp up operations and add new services to meet the evolving needs of constituents and employees.
Technology modernization and the role a managed services provider can play in its success extends beyond IT systems and best practices. By outsourcing time-consuming and complex tasks to a managed service provider, agency IT teams can focus on more innovative and meaningful work, such as better serving constituents during a global pandemic.
Preparing for the Future
To be sure, there’s more pressure than ever on federal, state and local agencies to gain the most value from their modernization initiatives. The COVID-19 crisis only raises the stakes, driving greater need for agency IT teams to rely on managed services for improved network performance, enhanced security, and better employee and constituent experiences.
Learn more about how Verizon’s managed and professional services can help your agency improve innovation, security, citizen experience and more.
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This content is made possible by our sponsor Verizon; it is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of GovExec’s editorial staff.