5 IT predictions for 2016

2016 will be an exciting time to work in the public sector as new innovations come to the fore and existing initiatives start to bear fruit. Maximus Federal President Thomas Romeo shares his top picks for 2016.

We may already be well into fiscal 2016, but with a new calendar year before us, we have an excellent opportunity to consider the trends that will shape federal IT over the next 12 months. From federal and state innovation and collaboration to data analytics 2.0, here are five trends we see affecting government agencies in the coming year:

Increased collaboration among federal, state and local agencies

As we saw during the rollout of the Affordable Care Act, there are significant challenges when federal, state and local governments need to coordinate for major initiatives. In 2016, we expect to the IRS, Department of Veterans Affairs, Social Security Administration, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Labor Department and many others introduce new programs that will require complex interagency collaboration to achieve mission success and deliver positive outcomes to citizens.

Technology systems and business processes that might be highly functional within a single agency will need to be adapted and upgraded to break down silos and open up new channels for information sharing.

The continued momentum of the citizen experience

This past year has seen exciting progress among federal agencies seeking to improve the end-to-end experience an individual has when seeking government assistance, also known as the citizen journey. Whether using a government website, calling a contact center or visiting an agency office, every engagement or interaction that citizens have with their government informs their experience, which directly correlates to their overall trust in the government.  

Agencies are creating and empowering senior leaders in positions that sound similar to what you might find at Amazon or Zappos, such as the VA’s newly minted Chief Veterans Experience Officer and the General Services Administration’s Chief Customer Officer.

Furthermore, 18F, which GSA created to help improve the public’s experience with government through transparent technology solutions, celebrated its first anniversary in 2015 and has already launched nearly two dozen user-centric software products for government agencies.

As citizens’ expectations for consistent, efficient and high-quality service continue to rise, agencies will invest more resources in improving the customer experience.

Heightened attention to outcomes and accountability

With this year’s budgets looking no rosier -- fiscal 2016 will be the seventh straight year of a shrinking federal market -- agencies need to get the maximum value from every dollar spent. To do that, they will seek more accountability both within their own organizations and from their partners.

Internally, we expect to seek a heightened focus on reducing fraud, waste and abuse, such as CMS’ push to reduce Medicaid fraud related to improper payments. In addition, the trend toward seeking efficiencies through consolidation and shared services has also created some potential conflicts of interest for vendors, and agencies will need to examine these relationships to ensure the independence of their selected vendors from any biases in the market they serve.

Externally, we anticipate that more agencies will begin to structure programs using an outcomes-based model, which ties vendors’ compensation to their ability to meet or exceed defined program outcomes in a meaningful and measurable way. By doing so, they will be able to drive more innovative and cost-effective services, more equitable risk sharing and better citizen experiences.

The use of data analytics to support mission effectiveness and better outcomes

The role of data in government continues to evolve and mature. As that happens, we’ll see data analytics start to become a key performance indicator of mission success in categories such as quality of service, effectiveness and delivery. That trend has already begun in some agencies, where qualitative data from smaller pilot programs is being used to make better decisions about where to invest in large-scale transformation initiatives that will deliver the highest impact.

Analytics can also help identify potential fraud, waste and abuse, allowing agencies to address areas where inefficiencies are draining precious resources and reallocate those budget dollars to delivering measurable outcomes.

The next phase of IT consolidation

In the past five years, many agencies have pushed to consolidate data centers and platforms to meet the objectives of the Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative. With most of that consolidation now complete, agencies are realizing significant benefits in increased security, improved disaster recovery and more efficient IT services that allow them to refocus their time and resources on delivering on their mission.

In the year ahead, we predict that the government will comfortably adopt more commercial technology services that improve overall functionality and reliability, and allow more specialized technology resources to be developed as needed for unique mission needs.

Of course, these predictions only represent a few of the factors that will affect our federal landscape in 2016. As the government navigates new demands -- and an evolving political climate -- we’ll no doubt see other influences emerge in the ongoing quest to provide better and more efficient services. Given the challenges and opportunities ahead, it’s never been a more exciting time to work in or serve the public sector.