This year’s ACT-IAC’s 2015 Management of Change Conference kicks off this Sunday, May 17, and is scheduled to bring attendees to discuss how they can best incorporate lasting innovative ideas to their organization. WashingtonExec spoke with ACT-IAC’s 2015 Management of Change Government Chair Kathy Conrad, Principal Deputy Associate Administrator, Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies/18F at the General Services Administration (GSA), about the challenges agencies are currently facing in the modern workforce, the impact the Internet of Things will have on the govcon industry and what she’s looking forward to at this year’s conference.
WashingtonExec: How to you foster a culture of innovation at your agency, and how does it contribute to your success?
Kathy Conrad: Leading with Innovation is one of GSA’s six priorities and core to our mission — to deliver the best value in real estate, acquisition and technology services to government and the American people. In each of these key areas, GSA is leading by example, as one of the first agencies to successfully move to the cloud, building an open, collaborative workplace and by establishing 18F, an exciting start up that now has more than 100 top designers, developers and other experts recruited from the most innovative corners of industry and the public sector. They are bringing best practices to work in helping agencies deliver on their mission using digital and web services. The Presidential Innovation Fellows program, a part of 18F, pairs talented, diverse technologists and innovators with top civil-servants and change-makers working at the highest levels of the federal government to tackle some our nation’s biggest challenges.
We are also driving innovation across government through such shared services and solutions as the Digital Analytics Program and its recently released Digital Analytics Dashboard, which provides real time analytics on the performance of more than 3,700 websites across government to enable data driven improvements.
Our success in sparking innovation reflects the culture we are building — encouraging our immensely talented teams to seek, share and pursue new ideas, take risks, track results and continuously iterate to reflect customer needs. These are some of the key issues that will be explored in depth at the Management of Change conference.
WashingtonExec: What are the biggest challenges agencies are facing in the modern workforce, and how can they overcome those challenges?
Kathy Conrad: Recruiting and retaining top flight technical talent in high demand IT fields such as agile development, data science and analytics is particularly challenging for agencies. To address this ever-increasing need, over the last year, GSA 18F and USDS have launched major recruiting initiatives to attract some of the nation’s leading experts into public service. We’ve had fabulous response and have hired amazingly talented, diverse teams of digital experts from top companies, non-profits and academic institutions. The scale and impact of public sector opportunities are unparalleled; we see a growing recognition that there is no more rewarding work than serving the American people.
WashingtonExec: How can adopting continuous delivery as a strategy benefit organizations in the current market?
Kathy Conrad: As will be discussed at the upcoming Management of Change conference, continuous delivery is critical to incrementally developing and testing solutions that meet customer expectations, rather than defining up front a complete set of requirements that address anticipated needs. Continuous delivery builds customer confidence, enables changes to be made to reflect actual customer experience, and ensures user research and testing result are incorporated into solutions as they are being built. This user-centric approach is critical to meeting citizen expectations for 21st century government.
WashingtonExec: Besides consumer applications, how do you see IOT changing the technological landscape in the coming years? How will this growing trend benefit industry and government?
Kathy Conrad: As our world becomes increasingly digital, connected and data driven, there will be boundless opportunities to change how we work, live and deliver services. Real time data consumption, aggregation, analysis and visualization from an increasingly interconnected world will revolutionize our ability to make decisions, identify trends, and build new products and services in key areas including health care, transportation, cyber security and public safety.
WashingtonExec: What do you see as the biggest factor in change resistance, and how can government break through that barrier?
Kathy Conrad: Resistance to change is largely about culture. While obsolete technology and bureaucracy are factors, lasting change requires cultural shifts that are being tackled across government. Effective, visionary leadership from the Administration and use of crowdsourcing and other techniques are enabling agencies and the public to engage in creative problem solving to overcome barriers to change and pursue innovative ways of tapping into the ingenuity of our government, industry and the public. The theme of this year’s Management of Change conference is “Hacking Culture through Innovation”; sessions will explore how these and other other new approaches are are busting through change resistance and accelerating adoption of new technologies and service delivery models.
WashingtonExec: What are you most looking forward to at MOC 2015?
Kathy Conrad: Collaboration and enthusiastic, active engagement among more than 400 of the best minds in government and industry, focused for two days using innovation to drive culture change. What could be more fun and rewarding than that!