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By Nick Wakeman

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Nick Wakeman

Delivery should be focus for Biden administration, 18F co-founder says

Greg Godbout is one of the architects of 18F and an early proponent for the digital transformation of the government that can change how it provides and pays for services, modernizes operations and brings innovation to the mission of government.

Now director of digital services for Fearless, Godbout has some distinct ideas about what the Biden Administration should be taking on as part of its management agenda and tech priorities.

Godbout and Ann Dunkin, former chief information officer for the Environmental Protection Agency and current chief technology officer for state and local government at Dell Technologies, have written a white paper for the Day One Project, a group of veteran policy makers (mostly Democrats) who are writing and advocating policy initiatives around topics such as education and workforce, energy and the environment, health and life sciences, innovation, IT and technology, national security, and science policy.

Godbout’s and Dunkin’s paper focused on scaling IT modernization strategies. I spoke with Godbout to talk about the proposals, including why GSA should be a cabinet level agency. In a nutshell, he thinks the GSA administrator could serve the role of chief operating officer and help agencies improve how they deliver services to constituents.

“How can the U.S. government, which spends incredible amounts of money on service delivery, not have a (chief operating officer)?” he said. “If you want to be successful, you’re going to have to also focus on delivery of your policy.”

Right now, the cabinet focuses on policy and not enough on the delivery of the policy. “Everyone is talking about policy and then you sort of pat yourself on the back and send it to the bureaucracy to deliver,” Godbout said. “It’s disconnected.”

With the GSA administrator as a part of the cabinet, it would make service delivery a priority for all of government. Under this model, Godbout said GSA would not dictate to agencies but would be there to help agencies achieve better service delivery.

It would similar to how departments such as Treasury and State work together on national priorities, Godbout said. They both have their individual responsibilities but lean on each other when they overlap.

As the Biden administration comes on board, Godbout said he is looking for several signs that they are moving in a direction to modernize and transformation how the government operates:

  • A COO-type of position on the cabinet. “I’m looking for executive signs that delivery is crucial to government services,” he said.
  • Workforce and recruiting. “What kind of recruiting and workforce training are the pushing? What are the skills they are valuing and recommending that people get trained for inside government?”
  • “We’ve started to see signs now around the importance of analytics in the Trump administration. That’s smart. The government of the future will be very data driven.”
  • Digital Transformation Playbook. There currently is a digital services playbook to help agencies but Godbout said it either needs to be expanded or a new digital transformation playbook needs to be created. It will help “managers understand how to implement changes at scale, not just within a team, but how to do it at scale.”

The Biden administration won’t be starting from scratch on these issues because there is a natural evolution going on as agencies move toward this new way of doing business, Godbout said.

There are lots of pockets of innovations around delivery across the government. The Air Force developed software factories, for example. DHS has innovations labs.

“But now it is time to stop doing it in silos and bubbles and change the enterprise,” Godbout said.

For more, look for our podcast with Greg Godbout on Project 38.

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Dec 14, 2020 at 9:27 AM


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