This is part one in a multi-part series on how the federal government is implementing Enterprise 2.0. This was done through extensive interviews with Booz Allen Hamilton who has led many of the efforts for various Government agencies. The full series on Enterprise 2.0 for the Federal Government (which includes additional information and specific examples) can be downloaded (registration required) for free.
It all comes down to smart people looking for smart solutions: employees of the federal government (or any organization) realize there are better ways to solve both traditional and new problems than the current tried and tired ways of doing things and they are looking for new solutions to meet these needs.
The Federal government is being asked to do much more with less. The recession that has engulfed the nation is taking a toll on how organizations do business: budgets are tighter, money is more closely watched; agencies are having to choose between employees and tools. In general, organizations are not as free to spend money as they were in years past. Multi-year projects with deep pocket budgets are scrutinized and no longer fit the mold; the federal government is in need of faster, more intuitive, cost effective solutions to solve existing and new problems.
Current and near future demographics do not use the same tools as previous generations. Employees and the knowledge they have built during their careers are one of the most viable assets of the Federal Government, and projected government staffing during the next 10 years shows more than 500,000 employees will need to be hired to replace retiring staff. Most federal agencies lack the systems needed to capture the basic explicit data let alone the tactical knowledge that drives organizations. These organizations aren’t ready to capture the information from the employees that are leaving let alone ready to provide the new employees with the information they will need to be successful.
Employees who have been with the federal government for many years have domain knowledge that allows them to get work done quickly and efficiently; they understand the ins and outs of how things work. However, when those employees leave the organization that same job is a lot harder to get done. The federal government is losing career employees and is replacing them with folks that don’t have those same deep embedded roots within the organization. These new employees are motivated and want to do well so the federal government needs to make sure that these employees get the right information at the right time and can connect with the right people for the right projects. During his 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama saw the changes in demographics and enlisted the use of social networking tools to excite his followers – billed as “the first major politician who really ‘gets’ the Internet,” Obama opened the door for using these tools in the federal space.
Email alone is ineffective as a collaboration tool. Email has been the main communications platform for decades. Throughout recent years we have heard repetitively how email is dead and new tools are designed to replace it, however, employees continue to find themselves with larger and larger inboxes, inundated with the number of messages they are receiving and often unable to dig themselves out. Email has, at this point, become a glorified chat messaging program; as soon as you send out an email you get one back. Not only is this data a closed channel, purged often by users or administrative policies but it is difficult to search and overall makes an awful collaboration platform. Email is far from a dead platform, but in its current state it performs poorly as a collaboration solution.
Speed and agility are becoming critical for success. Large organizations are notorious for their sluggish responsiveness and time-to-action. The internet, however, has globalized business by connecting employees, contractors and consultants from across the globe while expanding the nine to five business day to a twenty-four hour cycle. The speed of these new E2.0 solutions means that you no longer need to wait six months to see the impact and potential; impact and value are immediately perceived.
Federal agencies are expected to meet a new interest in transparency. We are also experiencing a rising shift and interest in transparency, both from employees and partners within the federal government, and from constituents that are outside of the federal government. Recovery.org and Data.gov have been to key initiatives that are seeing more and more interest and demand around transparency from constituents. They recognized the importance of building a good interface that allowed constituents to ask questions while permitting the government to share data in many different ways.