What do digital government and sustainable energy strategies have in common for agencies? They both promise savings in the future that may not be affordable in the present. They also represent potentially radical departures from old ways of doing things. That makes effective communication a key factor for success.
A recent survey commissioned by AOL Government finds that federal managers see significant potential for improving productivity and saving money through mobile technology. But they also express concerns that agencies aren’t investing enough to make the potential a reality.
The new Digital Government Strategy includes a goal for “enabling an increasingly mobile workforce to access high-quality digital government information and services, anywhere, anytime, on any device.” It also provides strategic principles for achieving that (and several other) goals:
- An information-centric approach
- A shared platform
- A customer-centered approach
- A platform of security and privacy
This structure makes perfect sense but it leaves two things out: innovative financing and change communications.
In both its goals and strategic principles, the Digital Strategy requires significant investments. The AOL Government survey clearly indicates that federal managers are already worried about where such funding will come from in a climate of budget cutting. At the same time, there’s nothing in the Digital Strategy agenda about building consensus for approaches or keeping stakeholders abreast of both the impact and benefits of change.
Perhaps government IT organizations and contractors can take a page from federal, state and local agencies that are innovating to afford energy-saving enhancements and retrofits. Firms like Constellation (an ENC client) are helping agencies make the improvements they need with budget-neutral energy strategies.
There are many budget-neutral options (and some are quite complex), but the gist of the idea is that agencies can finance the improvements they need with the savings those improvements will generate. They can avoid substantial up-front investments, maintain budgets at — or even below — current levels for a fixed term, then capture annual savings once improvements have been paid off. That could solve (at least part of) the investment problem.
Without funding, the Digital Strategy never gets off the ground. Without effective communication, it never lands, at least not in successful territory. There’s nothing small or incremental about it. At its heart, it’s a strategy for purposeful disruption, and it’s targeting a sharp break from previous ways of doing things.
So if agencies can innovate to invest and actually implement the strategy, the potential impact will be sweeping. With such high stakes, it is essential to ensure that stakeholders (including citizens and Congress) understand, accept and anticipate a reasonable definition of success — throughout the lifecycle of deployments.
That’s a big job, and there’s only one way to do it right: by communicating change effectively and extensively. During a recent competitive messaging analysis, we discovered that energy enhancement initiatives typically include a heavy dose of customer engagement activities. Clearly, energy companies consider using effective communications to smooth the path toward substantial change to be a best practice.
Now you understand my concern about both financing and communication. It will require a sufficient investment in both technology and change communications to make the Digital Government Strategy successful.