REIMAGINING CITIZEN SERVICES IN GOVERNMENT

As citizens change, so will their expectations. 

As we reflect on where and how the federal government is implementing the business discipline of customer experience, we find that we are at the very early stages. While some agencies are making progress, many other agencies are just recognizing they have customers. They are identifying who their customers are and determining what their current and future experience is and should be. Some are beginning to collect feedback in pockets, though few are transcending agency siloes to have the full picture of their customers’ experience. Other agencies have been focusing on their customers and are about five years down the path with considerable progress to report. 

It’s not a surprise that progress is slow: CX is a disruptor that touches every person and function in an agency.

The focus over the past decade has been on improving digital services, which can reduce costs and increase citizens’ satisfaction or overall experience. But sometimes digital services don’t meet their needs and citizens want to interact with a person via their channel of choice. That could be via the phone, email, chat or another channel within the contact center. Many agencies don’t have multiple channels and if they do, they don’t transfer the content of the issues across the channels. That means when the citizen interacts with the government through multiple channels, they have to start at the beginning each time. Citizens want to solve their problem at the first contact, easily, with quality information. When the experience is fragmented, inconsistent and difficult to navigate, everyone loses—the citizen loses, it’s not efficient for the government, and it reduces trust in the government.

Last fall, 15 agencies and industry participated in three workshops to reimagine citizen services in 2025. What will the citizens’ expectations be in 2025? Where will technology take us in the next five years? What channels will be available? What will the demographics of the population be in five years?

In 2025, baby boomers will be 61 to 81 years old. Gen Xers will be between 46 and 60; millennials will be 31 to 45 years old and Gen Zers will be between 10 and 30 years old. The non-English speaking population is increasing each year making it necessary to provide information in other languages. 

How will the experience in citizens’ personal lives impact their expectations of the government? Will they expect to be able to conduct all transactions online, securely and privately? Will citizens expect to be able to interact with the government and provide their information one time to be used across the government or certainly within one agency? Will they expect that if they change their name and/or address in one agency that it carries to other agencies? Today, services are impacted because an address change is made in one part of an agency and it isn’t changed in all of the agency’s systems because they aren’t integrated. 

Today, citizens expect an experience that allows them to interact, engage and transact with the government anytime, anywhere on any device. This requires an omnichannel experience that protects their privacy and security, provides consistency between channels, and easy to use. Citizens should be able to interact with government personnel who are empathetic and helps them to solve their problems or complete their transactions. We know that this isn’t the case. We also know that most agencies have little ongoing knowledge of their customers’ expectations.

BUDGET RELIEF FOR FEDERAL CONTRACTORS

https://www.podcastone.com/episode/2-year-budget-deal-passage-brings-some-relief-to-federal-contractors

GSA Schedule Open for IT

Over six hours, teams from across the country will work on improving the design, functionality and processes of four critical applications.

The General Services Administration is holding its first multicity hackathon June 19, putting up $20,000 in cash prizes for working ideas to improve four of the agency’s most-used applications.

“By bringing people from the outside with no affiliation, just pure skillsets, with a very brief background on what we’re trying to achieve, I hope to be able to get out of it ideas that we wouldn’t normally come up with—better than what we’d normally come up with—in a shorter period of time and for less money,” said GSA Chief Data Officer Kris Rowley, who is leading the hackathon in his role as acting chief technology officer.

The team received a handful of submissions from across GSA and ended up choosing four apps for the hackathon: the IT service help desk, the Acquisition Gateway, the Human Resources Links system and the Federal Real Property Profile management system.

Near the end of the day, before 4 p.m., the various projects will go before a panel of judges, with a $2,500 winner in each of the four groups. That final four will then compete for a top prize of $10,000, judged by Federal Chief Information Officer Suzette Kent and a senior leader from the U.S. Digital Service.

“If you get 100 people working for six hours, that’s essentially 600 hours of effort for $20,000,” Rowley told Nextgov. “So, we think the [return on investment] on that is pretty good.”

Currently, the plan is to hold simultaneous hackathons at eight cities across the country, including D.C., San Francisco, Kansas City, Chicago, Philadelphia, New York, Boston and Fort Worth, Texas. However, if participation is low or nonexistent for any of those locations, the team says they’re prepared to adjust.

Rowley said he expects the biggest participation will be in D.C., where GSA has held five hackathons since 2015.

“The folks in town know what’s going on, know the type of work being proposed, know the right people to send,” he said.

The right people are “coders or programmers that know how to take a business problem and make it a very smooth, easy process,” Rowley said. “And then also customer design experts who know how to design websites and design capabilities so that when I go in it’s visually appealing to me.”

As of Friday, the event had about 70 participants signed up, though the team hopes to get at least 100 before registration closes on June 12.

While there will be distinct winners on the day, Rowley said GSA plans to use all viable ideas that come out of the hackathon.

“We take all of the products that come out of this event and look for ways to insert them as minimum viable products, as starting points for future development activities for these applications,” he said. “Whether it’s the code itself or whether it’s a design or whether it’s an improvement to the business workflow, there’s lots of different nuggets we can pull out of this and insert right into our daily operation

GSA Software Outdated

The Defense Department needs to rethink how it buys and develops software, according to Defense Innovation Board report.

The Defense Innovation Board warned that the Defense Department’s age-old approach to software procurement and development could dull the military’s technological edge.

“A large amount of DOD’s software takes too long, costs too much, and is too brittle to be competitive in the long run,” the board said in the study’s executive summary of its Software Acquisition and Practices report. “If DOD does not take steps to modernize its software acquisition and development practices, we will no longer have the best military in the world, no matter how much we invest or how talented and dedicated our armed forces may be.”

The SWAP study was mandated by the National Defense Authorization Act in fiscal 2018. It examines how the agency procures and advances software and offers recommendations on how it could do so more efficiently.

The board noted that the study largely echoes recommendations and conclusions drawn from past studies, and particularly a 1987 Report of the Task Force on Military Software by the Defense Science Board.

“This particular assessment, from over 30 years ago, referenced over 30 previous studies and is largely aligned with the assessments of more recent studies, including this one.”

In its latest study, the board emphasizes three “overarching themes” that are critical to their findings. First, the study identifies speed and cycle time as the most important metrics for software. It notes that most Defense software projects use “waterfall development processes” that take years to identify requirements and select contractors, and by the time the projects come together, the software or tactics may be outdated.

Because software is made for people by people, the report notes that digital talent matters. Yet it argues most of Defense’s human resources policies are not “conducive to attracting retaining, and promoting digital talent.” The board said while DOD presently has military and civilian expertise, it’s not taking advantage of its internal personnel through pay bonuses, outlined career paths, or access to early promotions.

The board also iterates that software is different from hardware. Though Defense buys software in the same light that it does hardware, it should actually be developed, deployed and improved using different and less-linear cycle times.

“The current approach to acquisition was defined in a different era, for different purposes, and only works for software projects through enormous effort and creativity,” it said.

The board organizes its specific recommendations for the Pentagon into “four lines of effort” that bring together multiple defense stakeholders.

It suggests that Congress and Defense must refactor statutes, regulations and processes for software to allow for more rapid deployment and continuous improvement to the field.

It also said the Armed Services and the Office of the Secretary of Defense should create and maintain cross-program and cross-Service digital infrastructure and eliminate existing hardware-centric regulations and barriers. The board also recommends they establish new paths for digital talent by presenting software development as a high-priority career track.

Defense and industry should also work together to change the actual practice of software procurement and development by modernizing approaches in a way that prioritizes speed as the most critical metric.

“In many ways this mission is as challenging as any combat mission: while participants’ lives may not be directly at risk in defining, implementing, and communicating the needed changes to policy and culture, the lives of those who defend our nation ultimately depend on DOD’s ability to redefine its approach to delivering combat-critical software to the field,” the board said.

DON’T WAIT TO GET ON GSA

GSA Schedule Contracts are consolidating do not wait to get a contract in place!

I am reading many blog posts and come across so much information on GSA Schedule Consolidation and everything I ready says “Once the consolidation begins there is no telling how long it will take to get your firm on GSA Schedule.  Right now depending on what schedule you are applying for it can take months or more.  However, once the consolidation takes place we will see a longer time for approvals and to get your clarifications and revisions.

It truly is common sense the GSA Schedules will be revamped as they are consolidating 24 schedules into one, of course it will take longer to get on schedule.

We at BKM Management Consulting specialize in the GSA Schedule Contract and assisting businesses in attaining their GSA Schedule.  Call us today to see if your company qualifies and diversify your business and start making money.  www.bkmmgmtconsulting.com or call us 1-800-506-7539

Fast Track For Air Force

Air Force’s New Fast-Track Process Can Grant Cybersecurity Authorizations In One Week

By Aaron Boyd,
Senior Editor, Nextgov

MARCH 27, 2019

The process is a mix of quick but comprehensive testing up front followed by continuous monitoring through the life of the app.

The Air Force is taking one of the longest, most difficult, critical aspects of cybersecurity and IT deployment in the public sector and fast-tracking the process.

Last week, Air Force Undersecretary Matthew Donovan signed a memo authorizing officials to grant IT systems an authority to operate—the designation certifying the application is reasonably secure from cyberattacks—on an expedited timetable.

Obtaining an ATO is often an arduous process that can take months, especially for military systems that are constant targets for bad actors worldwide. During pilot tests earlier this year, officials at the Air Operations Center used the Fast-Track ATO process to certify a system in just one week, according to Frank Konieczny, the Air Force’s chief technology officer.

Prior to developing the fast-track process, the Air Force relied on the Risk Management Framework, a schema developed by the National Institute for Standards and Technology to establish a baseline cybersecurity posture. However, that largely led to check-the-box compliance rather than real security, Konieczny said during a panel Tuesday at the RSA Federal Summit.

“People always complained RMF was too long, too onerous and didn’t provide anything except a lot of paperwork,” he said. “So, now we’re trying to get back to the operational side, let’s look at it from an operational viewpoint: What do we really need to do to actually support it going forward and doing it faster than just paperwork?”

Rather than go through each security control individually, the fast-track process allows project owners to run a penetration test—in which cybersecurity experts attempt to break the system—to establish a security baseline, then incorporate continuous monitoring of those systems into the future to ensure it remains secure.

“It comes down to the premise that RMF is a compliance issue. It doesn’t mean you’re secure, it means you’re compliant,” Konieczny said. “We’re saying, basically, if you want to do a fast ATO, you need to think about looking at some of the controls that you’re going to monitor, doing a pen test and doing continuous monitoring after that. … The pen test will actually answer some of those controls [questions] right away. And it’s a better case because it’s not just compliance anymore, it’s how you operationally put the information out there.”

BKM Sharing Government Spending Info

The agency is moving to the cloud at fast clip but it wants feedback to ensure its strategy is sound. “GSA Schedule Contracts are going to be a contracting vehicle used for this, I bet says BKM Management’s Eric Cohen.”

The Homeland Security Department and its component agencies are actively migrating or have successfully migrated 5 percent of its systems and almost 20 percent of its applications to the cloud, but the department’s cloud journey is just beginning. “GSA Schedule Contracts are a good source of finding vendors says Nicole Bryant of BKM Management Consulting”

According to a Feb. 19 request for information, DHS—led by its newly formed Cloud Steering Group—is focused on achieving enterprisewide benefits through a “hybrid IT, multi-cloud, federated and vendor-neutral” cloud strategy that effectively optimizes data centers and shutters legacy technologies.

In other words, DHS is out with the old and in with the new but it wants help shaping requirements and solutions for acquiring the new.

The RFI follows a decision last year to move away from recompeting its Enterprise Acquisition Gateway for Leading-Edge Solutions, or EAGLE II—from which it procured a variety of IT tools and solutions—to rely on governmentwide offerings, such as the General Services Administration’s IT Schedule 70. EAGLE II expires in 2020.

According to the RFI, DHS wants:

  • Efficiencies, resilience, agility and speed through automation, IT (development, security and operations) business process reengineering, and optimized resource utilization.
  • Improved mission support and information sharing through cloud-native shared services, enabling more efficient, faster and lower risk application modernization.
  • Timely and effective mission and administrative decision support through data quality improvement, automated policy enforcement, tailored data access controls and analytics.
  • Clearer pathways toward use of various cloud service models for infrastructure, platform and software-as-a-service, replacing costly and bespoke legacy implementations.
  • Removal of fixed costs (i.e., data centers) and other liabilities associated with operating and refreshing government-owned infrastructure and other assets as possible.
  • Agile and proactive cybersecurity through consistent and in some cases common instrumentation, use of shared services and analytics.
  • Moving the agency’s workforce toward as-a-service IT operations.
  • Leveraging market-based innovation through a vendor-neutral, multi-cloud, hybrid approach.

The component agencies will lead cloud adoption while the Cloud Steering Group keeps the efforts aligned. “If you are looking to more efficiently do business with the Government I would look to GSA Schedules”say’s RJ Stephens of BKM Management Consulting.

“The takeaway is a broad-based, component-led, DHS-wide adoption and move to the cloud that is multi-year, robust and well underway,” the RFI states.

The RFI makes clear the agency’s cloud push coincides with an effort to optimize one of its two main enterprise computing centers—“Data Center 1”—while migrating data from its second enterprise computing center—“Data Center 2”—which has a contract that expires in 2020. Data Center 2 has a wide footprint, supporting 10 component agencies. According to the RFI, approximately 50 percent of Data Center 2 systems will migrate to a cloud service provider, while 30 percent “may need assistance planning their target environment and migration strategies.”

“The [Cloud Steering Committee] is looking to partners in industry to help inform our strategy, shape our requirements and provide solutions to realize the targeted outcomes,” the RFI states.

GSA Contracts Recession Proof?

Agencies are expected to spend more on cloud, digital services

If current trends continue, the federal government could spend more than $93 billion on IT in fiscal 2020, according to projections from Bloomberg Government analysts. In the wake of analysts calling for a recession this is interesting news.

The administration’s 2020 budget proposal isn’t expected until at least March 11—another government shutdown could push that out further—but the federal IT budget has grown about 5 percent annually in recent years.

“Based on historical spending trends, we’re looking at between $93 and $94 billion in an IT budget, about half of which will go to civilian agencies and the other half will go to the Pentagon,” Bloomberg Government Federal Market Analyst Chris Cornillie said Tuesday during a webcast.

Cornillie noted a spike in IT contract spending from fiscal 2017 to 2018, jumping from about $59 billion to $64.7 billion. Bloomberg analysts expect that trend to continue based on ongoing programs and initiatives, bringing the projected 2020 contract spend upward of $68 billion.

Cornillie also offered projections on three major IT areas: artificial intelligence, cloud and digital services.

The latest push to incorporate AI technology in government—the White House’s American AI Initiative launched Monday—does not include any funding, but Bloomberg analysts have found an increase in spending among civilian and defense agencies. This information is invaluable for Vendors interested in getting on schedule.

Agencies spent $592 million on AI and machine learning technologies in fiscal 2018, including the first $100 million AI contract, awarded by U.S. Special Operations Command. Spending could increase in 2019 by more than 40 percent to $850 million, according to projections, with defense agencies outspending their civilian counterparts by about $50 million.

While AI is one of the biggest buzzwords in tech, cloud will remain the top IT spending category in the coming year, according to Bloomberg analysts. Spending on cloud services has grown by 18 percent in civilian agencies and 28 percent in the Defense Department, bringing the total spend to $4.1 billion in fiscal 2018. Based on current trends, analysts expect cloud spending to top $5 billion before the end of 2019.

A good portion of that spend will come from defense agencies, including initial outlays on major contracts like the $10 billion Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure and Defense Enterprise Office Solutions contracts, which are both on track to be awarded this year.

“Although the Pentagon is a relative latecomer to cloud computing, spending on cloud at the Pentagon is increasing dramatically,” Cornillie said.

Spending on digital services—things like citizen-facing apps and web portals—has also been on the rise, gaining 5 percent to 10 percent annually in recent years. Agencies spent $4.3 billion on these services last year and are on track to spend $4.6 billion in fiscal 2019.

Bloomberg analysts also noted this will be spurred by the December passage of the 21st Century Integrated Digital Experience Act, or 21stt Century IDEA, which requires agencies to improve digital services within the next two years. Spending for the Government is affected by recession luckily for all Government Contractors or those slick enough to get onto a GSA Schedule.

Government Contracting For Small Businesses

The Navy Needs 2 Tons of Storage Devices Burned to Ash

By Aaron Boyd,
Senior Editor Next Gov

FEBRUARY 4, 2019 03:00 PM ET

Researchers at the Naval Surface Warfare Center have a lot of classified information stored on digital devices and issued a solicitation to literally watch it all burn.

The Naval Surface Warfare Center at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico has—literally—tons of IT hardware and equipment used for classified programs that need to be destroyed by the most secure and irreversible means.

While White Sands Missile Range is an Army facility, NAVSEA researchers have a detachment there working on “land-based weapons system testing, directed energy weapons testing”—lasers—”and research rocket launch support,” according to their webpage. Those researchers have on hand some 4,000 pounds of IT equipment, including magnetic, optical and solid-state storage devices with highly sensitive, classified data.

The center issued a solicitation for destruction services that specifically calls for all designated equipment to be burned “to ash.”

The information stored on these devices is highly sensitive, as evidenced by the physical security requirements set forth in the solicitation. The incineration facility must have “at the minimum, secure entry, 24-hour armed guards and 24/7 camera surveillance with recordable date and time capabilities.”

Due to the sensitive nature of the data, only federal employees are allowed to transport the equipment and government representatives will remain on site during the destruction process. For logistical reasons, contracting officers are restricting eligible awardees to those with facilities within 10 driving hours of the White Sands Missile Range.

Once the contract is awarded, the winning vendor will have 10 days to start the incineration work, which the center expects will take no more than eight to 10 hours. NAVSEA contracting officials expect all the work to be completed and the contract closed out by Sept. 30.

Interested companies should submit bids by email in PDF form by 3 p.m. Feb. 8.

Government IT Spend is on the rise!

Record $64.7B on IT Contracts in 2018

By Frank Konkel, Shared by BKM Management
JANUARY 29, 2019 06:09 PM ET

Some agencies saw double-digit growth in pursuit of modern systems.

Federal agencies spent a record $64.7 billion on IT contracts in fiscal 2018, according to research released this week by Bloomberg Government.

The nearly $65 billion spent represents a 9.5 percent increase over fiscal 2017 levels and includes higher levels of spending in cybersecurity ($6.4 billion), cloud computing ($4.1 billion) and almost a doubling of other transaction authority spending, to $4.2 billion from $2.3 billion.

IT spending jumped in both civilian and defense agencies. Across the Defense Department, IT contract spending grew by about 12 percent to $33.8 billion—the highest nominal spending figure ever for the Defense Department, and highest adjusted for inflation IT contract spending since 2012.

In civilian agencies, IT contract spending bumped up 6.6 percent to $30.8 billion—an all-time high in both nominal and real dollars, the report said. The departments of Veterans Affairs, Treasury, State and Education “each saw double-digit IT spending growth pursuant to their goals of infrastructure modernization and rolling out digital services to citizens and end-users.”

“IT spending reached unprecedented levels in fiscal 2018,” said Bloomberg Government analyst Chris Cornillie, who authored the report.

Following an extended government shutdown that saw thousands of federal contractors laid off and 800,000 federal employees furloughed, the report highlights how reliant agencies are on technology contractors.

“These figures underscore just how central IT and IT contractors are to modern government operations,” Cornillie said in the report.

IT spending grew in the past year over every key IT market: technology services, cybersecurity, cloud services, digital services, software engineering and agile development, data analytics and artificial intelligence