Intelligent Government Adapts at the Speed of Data

We are constantly hearing about smart government these days, both from several vendors’ marketing campaigns and from government clients. As is often the case with catchwords, the phrase “smart government” construes different meaning, depending on whom you talk to. What does it really mean?  And what's the difference between smart government and intelligent government?

Our recent Build for Change® government forum, which drew several public sector experts and partners to Washington, D.C. for the day, gave me one glimpse of this nuance.  A large federal agency talked about their challenges, which included how they could reduce development and maintenance costs, while at the same time be able to respond quickly to legislative changes. They also talked about how they can comply with existing federal mandates and security concerns and in parallel, offer support for new mobile capabilities, all with reduced budgets!  Pega Chief Evangelist and VP of BPM Technology Setrag Khoshafian spoke to the top organizational trends that public sector agencies need to pay attention to, and advised that government needs transformation, because business as usual will only deliver barely adequate results, as usual.

There are many descriptions for smart government, but basically it speaks to a strategy that combines business processes with technology – leveraging innovation – to transform government in such a way that it will improve the quality of service to government customers.  

In the Webster Dictionary, there are many definitions for “smart” – beyond the ones such as knowledgeable and intelligent – that include:

  • Making one smart – as by causing a sharp stinging;
  • Marked by often sharp forceful activity or vigorous strength – as a smart pull of the starter cord;
  • Brisk, spirited – as in a smart pace; and
  • Neat, trim – as in soldiers in smart uniforms.

The definition that is supposed to be most applicable in the smart government context is something that operates due to automation, as in a smart machine tool. Although I contend that the other definitions above may be more apt. 

Webster defines “intelligence” as (1) the ability to learn or understand or to deal with new or trying situations, and (2) the ability to apply knowledge to manipulate one's environment or to think abstractly as measured by objective criteria.

As vendor partners to government, we need to ensure that we are delivering intelligent solutions that will ensure sustainable success.  Specifically, I’m talking about solutions that can help government learn and understand new situations.  These are solutions that allow Government to create knowledge out of data that is coming at them at a fierce velocity – and then enable them to quickly adapt and make necessary changes based on that knowledge.

The definition of “transformation” is the act of changing in composition or structure – so how do we apply intelligent transformation to Government?  As Setrag advised at our Build for Change® Government forum, implementing government solutions in the same manner will simply deliver the same results. Transformation begins with a different way of thinking. To achieve that goal, my advice is to:

  • Drive solutions around outcomes…. Don’t worry where the data is or isn’t.
  • Create collaborative solution teams… Stop labeling them Business or IT.
  • Develop only ONE solution per outcome… Forget about agency silos.
  • Automate or make everything “smart” … the documentation, the coding, and the work.
  • Re-use everything….Do not create “channel silos”.
  • Leverage existing technology investment……. While safeguarding the ability to invest in future technological advancements.
  • Think big…. But start small.
  • Prepare for the unknown…. Build for Change®.

Government needs intelligent solutions that enable them to adapt to change at the same speed as data – or the success of smart government will not be achievable, much less sustainable.

Cathy Novak

Cathy Novak joined Pega in January 2013 as Industry Principal for Public Sector, and is responsible for driving strategy for our public sector practice across Federal, State and International boundaries.  For more than 20 years, Cathy has held senior executive leadership positions in the government market including for GE Capital Consulting, Northrop Grumman and MorphoTrust.  She also spent a decade as CEO of a company highly focused on Ireland government. Cathy is an accomplished thought leader in driving technology solutions to accomplish government agency missions, and is involved in many industry associations.