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ICF recognized as major player in public sector IT transformation

Apr 14, 2020
2 MIN. READ
Washington Technology—and thousands of federal employees—rank ICF an industry innovator 

In today’s world—with rapidly evolving markets, technologies, and preferences—it’s no longer enough to simply manage quality (or risk). Program teams need ways to easily innovate, and apply design thinking to their project work.

That’s why we created Spark Labs, a process that changes how people exchange ideas and work together to create solutions. And why Washington Technology handed us an Industry Innovator award, which was based on an independent survey of 3,500 U.S. government employees.

Rekindling the spark

Spark Labs is grounded in change management principles to build resilience across an organization. Specifically, it targets the critical middle layer that directly manage project teams and deliver day-to-day work.

“Too many initiatives stall as staff spin through side conversations and endless email threads. The challenge is that execution and innovation require different mindsets, skillsets, time, and space,” says Chuck Akin, ICF health IT expert.

Using such tools as Spark Sessions creates a dedicated time and space to step back from the daily grind and examine trends that drive opportunities as well as risks. Project teams work together, under the guidance of ICF’s certified Innovation Managers, to develop ideas and action plans.

Washington Technology recognized how the approach led to the modernization of 15 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) programs. Through this work, we helped the CDC develop strategies to modernize surveillance systems—including cloud infrastructure, customer application systems, and anti-tobacco program evaluations. We also helped a myriad of ICF clients integrate AI, analytics, and automation into complex content curation and database systems.

How do we know it works? “We’ve seen our approach organically adopted across diverse sets of project teams, influencing how client organizations manage innovation,” says business development leader Audrey DeLucia. Long after that first Spark Session.

ICF’s systematic and sustainable approach

The approach relies on two core principles:

  • Make innovation relevant to everyday work.
  • Build targeted innovation skills across project teams.

And while the process rewards out-of-the-box thinking...we start with a box. Three boxes actually, where innovation opportunities exist:

1. Optimizing the present to focus on incremental innovations that allow the current business model to better perform.

2. Selectively forgetting the past to differentiate between roots (core processes) and chains (artificial constraints).

3. Creating the future to explicitly identify opportunities for transformational innovations that require more effort than simply operating the current business model better.

Spark Sessions are not about novel applications of a specific technology. They are a management approach to identify priorities for change—and a framework to advance change despite execution pressures.

To learn more, listen to this Killer Innovations podcast, from the nationally syndicated radio show, which explains the ICF approach in further detail. Ready to spark some innovation into your next project? Reach out to our team.

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