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Advancing Government to e-Government

What's holding back government, all of government, from truly becoming e-government?

e-Government is moving forward, albeit one agency and project at a time. Thanks in part to Karen Evans (OMB administrator for e-government, shared services and IT initiatives), cross-agency initiatives have taken root and continue to grow. However, for government to truly advance as a single entity with some element of uniformity will require the creation of a political constituency around those strategic initiatives that lay the foundation for future building. Gaining support from Capital Hill is a must. However, my experience on capital hill is that while there are some very good ideas, many on the hill don't fully understand the initiatives, value, payback and end results. To be approved by the policy makers and the appropriations guardians, e-government initiatives and IT projects must be simplified to a layman level, supported by overarching evidence and focused on end results. Some of the best end results that clearly speak volumes to policy makers are taxpayer savings, enhanced citizen services and more efficient government.

Another challenge is the approval processing procedural difficulty. Getting appropriations through a stove piped Congress where agencies and congressional appropriations committees desire to control the funding for each agency stifles the legitimate funding flow and delays progress. Certainly congressional oversight is required, however, until this oversight matures from an operational hands-on participant role to a governance perspective major and valuable IT initiatives will follow the way of political progress; or lack thereof.

Finally, I also believe longer-term e-gov projects face additional prejudice and hurdles. Appropriators operate on an annual basis. The high number of short-term projects competing for funding cast a shadow on longer-term projects extending well beyond the fiscal year. Appropriations Committees often find it more difficult to see and authorize the long-term value from funding requests that extend and project value beyond the next fiscal year.

So what's going to overcome these obstacles? In a word, leadership. Good leaders backed by closely aligned management teams are a powerful one - two punch in addressing the issues and results in the language and style of the recipient. Good leaders don't simply make presentations. They champion causes backed by empirical evidence, supportable projections and tempered emotions. They speak with clarity, they educate their audience when necessary, they talk only with a shared vocabulary, they replace rhetoric with engagement, they link their request to a policy, they deliver compelling business cases, they specify the benefits relative to the person or group with whom they are speaking, they translate the benefits to show citizen support (e.g. how does this request help get you re-elected?) and they rally support around initiatives in a way that achieves a cascading and perpetual effect. Need something done? Give it to a busy person. Need an IT initiative authorized by an agency or Congress, give it to a proven, creative and committed leader.

Posted September 18, 2007 in IT Strategy
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