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How government is eliminating complexity and improving service with low-code automation

Doug Averill, Log in to subscribe to the Blog

This year at our largest public sector event, Evolve for Government, leaders from some of the most recognizable government agencies shared their experiences implementing modernization plans within highly secure and complex operating environments. Whether the goal is to improve constituent services, enable agility through low-code, and connect or replace legacy systems, our guest speakers described the strategies their agencies are using to adapt to changing needs, streamline internal agency workflows, and improve the overall customer experience.

Moving toward a platform mindset and strategy

Pega’s Hayden Stafford and Rosetta Carrington Lue began by discussing how distributed technologies are accelerating the need for a platform strategy. The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the importance of having an infrastructure that supports flexibility and connectivity, even for work that entails sensitive information. As Hayden explained, government leaders need to focus right now on “people, process, and technology, and how to scale across all three of these dynamically and together to really future-proof systems.” Agile platforms make it possible. They foster collaboration and empower agencies to upgrade and adapt systems and operations in timelines measured in days, not months.

For example, this past March, New Jersey Courts re-engineered their operations to shift from in-person court activities to digital court proceedings and electronic filings in only six days – work that their CIO estimated would have taken six months without an agile platform.

On a national scale, the U.S. Census Bureau supported more than 300,000 enumerators on their platform for the decennial census. One of the largest peacetime operations of the U.S. government, the Census Bureau developed an ECaSE platform that connects their systems for survey control, self-response data consolidation, field operations control, enumeration, ISR, and CRM, and acts as a central brain to manage and distribute workload for data collection. Connecting these systems through APIs creates a flexible architecture that empowers the Census Bureau to deliver outcomes with accuracy and speed. A. Terry Galloway, chief architect of the census enterprise data collection and processing program, explained the importance of their platform in our Tech Showcase interview this way: “The quicker we can get the data and the quicker we can get the data to other users, the more reactive we can be actually in the overall operation.”

“When I think of resilient agencies,” said Hayden, “I think of the ones that know that change is a reality. If it's policy driven or if it's externally imposed – as we've seen in 2020 – they know that it's all about outcomes and that they need to drive outcomes, no matter the situation.”

Tackling large-scale modernization by starting small

The U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) each drive unique outcomes. At first glance, these agencies don’t seem to have much in common, but both are large, complex organizations whose operations are guided by hundreds of intricate business rules, and both are in the process of modernizing operations to improve the customer experience. The IRS wants to make it easier for taxpayers and agency staff to resolve taxpayer issues in a simplified environment. The FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH) is transforming all of the steps related to the design, production, and lifecycle of medical devices for internal stakeholders (CDRH staff, medical experts) and external stakeholders (patients, providers, clinical research partners, and more than 21,000 manufacturers). These are complicated projects that include legacy system replacements, multiple integrations, disparate data sources, numerous users, and regulated environments. As Elizabeth McNamara from the FDA also characterizes it, “We are building the plane while we’re still up in the air.”

To get it right, the FDA and the IRS are starting with small, controlled, or prototype projects and following a defined governance process to scale project success. Enterprise case management, cloud capabilities, low-code, and reusable application components are at the core of these projects. Justin Lewis Abold-LaBreche of the IRS explains, “Like Liz is undertaking at the FDA, we're really trying to make certain that we modernize our business processes to take full advantage of the technology … It's just the tip of the iceberg for us, because everything we've done is going to be reused for the next set of business processes, and so I imagine that over the next year, we'll have several more business processes, customer-facing and internal, delivering value in Pegasystems. That's our secret sauce, small, reusable components scaling quickly to provide value.”

Digitizing and automating to make operations more efficient

According to Accenture’s Federal Technology Vision 2020 global report, many government agencies are still in the early stages of their digital transformations and struggling to keep pace with technological changes. Aaron Jackson, who runs Accenture Federal Services’ Pega practice for federal government clients, says agencies realize they need to mirror the modernizations that have taken place in the private sector, such as providing citizens with an Amazon-like experience, and are looking to technologies like artificial intelligence, robotics, and automation as part of their digital transformation and citizen experience improvement plans.

Accenture’s David Steuer sees huge opportunity in starting by leveraging an agency’s legacy systems and taking an iterative approach to transformation. One example is combining case management capabilities with event hubs to drive innovation and value for government clients. This type of “digital decoupling” has worked in the private sector with clients like Virgin Money in the U.K., where Accenture’s team was able to reduce onboarding time from 15 days to 15 minutes. David says, ”So if you think about that concept and if you apply that same concept to your government agencies and organizations, you can have some huge benefits for the citizens and huge benefit for your government organizations as well.”

Taking a phased approach and migrating in an iterative fashion

An iterative approach is the path the U.S Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency (DCSA) is taking for their digital transformation. The agency, which provides national background investigative services, is building a new IT platform that is flexible and adaptable. DCSA’s Geoffrey Hart explains, “The program's goal is to continually migrate to a new system in an iterative fashion, so we could ensure a secure platform with flexibility to adapt to both new technologies as well as new policy changes.”

Using an Other Transaction Authority (OTA) process, DCSA was able to work with private sector businesses and develop a platform prototype that could operate within a secure cloud environment and help modernize the agency’s internal processes. By using technology to its full potential in this way, DCSA is not only automating manual processes but improving processes at the same time – an intelligent automation approach to constant improvement. Using agile, low-code development processes, DCSA now releases platform improvements on a quarterly basis. Says Geoffrey, “We're constantly able to insert new technologies, change processes as they evolve, and make the system better for our customers and our applicants.”

Learn how your agency can digitize and modernize operations to improve the customer experience. Watch full replays from all the event sessions.


Successful Government Modernization During Unprecedented Times – Hayden Stafford and Rosetta Carrington Lue, Pega

Agency Modernization to Improve the Customer Experience – Justin Lewis Abold-LaBreche, U.S. Internal Revenue Service; Elizabeth McNamara, U.S. Food and Drug Administration; Doug Averill, Pega

Pega and the Post-Digital Government: A Conversation Between Accenture Federal Service and Accenture – Aaron Jackson, Accenture Federal Services; David Steuer, Accenture

Transformation in Government: How DCSA is Expediting the Security Clearance Process – Geoffrey R. Hart, National Background Investigations Bureau; Cindi Stuebner, Pega

Spotlight Talks

U.S. Census Bureau: CRM for Partnerships – Rasha Nahas, Accenture Federal Services; Jacob A. Wright, U.S. Census Bureau

Enhancing the Professional Licensing and Certification Process – George Marakas, Bresatech; S. Lauren Hibbert, Vermont Secretary of State

Future-proof the Citizen Experience: How the Pandemic Provides an Opportunity to Become More Citizen-centric – Amber Rosebaugh and Jim Ziaja, TTEC; Rosetta Carrington Lue, Pega

Tech Showcase

Inside the Digital Transformation of the U.S. Census Bureau: Panel Discussion – A. Terry Galloway, Patty McGuire, Zach Schwartz, U.S. Census Bureau; Doug Averill, Pega

Join the conversation! Connect with industry leaders from around the world on the latest tech, ideas, and success stories at our largest virtual event, PegaWorld iNspire!


Industry: Government Product Area: Platform Solution Area: Enterprise Modernization Topic: Digital Transformation

About the Author

Doug Averill, Pega’s vice president and global government industry markets leader, helps governments around the world increase operational efficiency, improve constituent experiences, and respond more quickly to legislative change through digital transformation.

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