The first project I was assigned as a Strategist/Innovation Specialist at 18F was to lead research on a project to identify the best practices for government digital transformation. It’s a badly-formed research question of course – what is best? what do we mean by practices? does anyone have a clear definition of digital transformation? The first thing we tackled was refining it to an answerable question:
What makes modern digital practices stick in a government entity, beyond a single innovation project?
We conducted a literature review of industry digital transformations and reminded ourselves how challenging the transition to the web was in the private sector. Then we set about our recruiting and interviews.
We spoke with 16 people involved in various levels of technology project, from hands-on staff to CTOs, at the federal, state, and local levels. Whenever possible, we recruited multiple people at different ranks who were involved in the same project.
We were able to draw preliminary conclusions – digital projects have lasting impact when:
- software teams have constant feedback loops with users
- agencies build cross-functional teams of substantial duration
- change agents use community organizing techniques to bring staff on board
- authoritative guidance supports the changes
The whole report is publicly available on Github.