GSA centers of excellence catalyze digital transformation

GSA centers of excellence catalyze digital transformation
Apr 18, 2018
3 min.

The new initiative offers a “reset” button for agencies caught between competing pressures to innovate and deliver essential services.

The federal government faces a unique set of barriers to digital transformation. To protect the interests of citizens and the nation as a whole, agencies adhere to stringent security, privacy, procurement policies. Those demands, in turn, can make it hard for federal agencies to support innovation, facilitate digital integration, and improve the citizen experience.

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At the same time, the private sector continues to iterate at a rapid pace, continually finding impressive new ways to improve customers’ experiences. Tech giants like Amazon and Google are working around the clock to meet customer needs instantly—a tough bar for government.

“Agencies can feel overwhelmed or as though they don’t have the ability to focus on modernizing or transforming their systems and infrastructure,” says ICF Senior Vice President Mary Schwarz.

According to Schwarz—who has more than 20 years of experience in digital and customer engagement, including web, social, analytics, and IT—the problem isn’t a lack of motivation or talent.

“They’re stuck maintaining what they have for fear of not being able to deliver certain essential services.”


Fortunately, a new initiative announced by the General Security Administration (GSA), Centers of Excellence (CoEs), offers a targeted way to help agencies reconcile these competing interests.

CoEs are dedicated to improving the citizen experience by accelerating IT modernization and reducing legacy IT spending across the government. At a more granular level, that means helping agencies get “unstuck” by addressing five critical areas: cloud adoption, infrastructure optimization, customer experience, customer service call center, and service delivery analytics.

“CoE teams can come in and give them a new point of view and a different set of resources to help move agencies forward.” -- Mary Schwarz, Senior Vice President

“CoE teams can come in and give them a new point of view and a different set of resources to help move agencies forward,” says Schwarz. "It is a multidisciplinary, highly focused exercise led by specialized experts that work together. A modernization SWAT team, so to speak.”

One of the major benefits? CoEs solve for the needs of a specific agency, rather than trying to prescribe a one-size-fits-all approach. Culture, mission, process, and a slew of other factors can vary dramatically from agency to agency, so there isn’t really a single, standardized silver bullet. Once the team has triaged and addressed underlying hurdles, the work is far from over. Next, they need to work with agency stakeholders to figure out how to make transformation sustainable (and realistic) in the long run.

Schwarz and her team have supporting GSA and the USDA, the first agency chosen to deploy CoEs, on the customer experience component of their transformation. Read more about their efforts—and learn how CoEs are working in practice—in our next blog post.

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