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A Roadmap for IT Modernization in Government


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Recent U.S. federal legislation and focus at the highest levels of government has fueled activity across agencies, who spend on average 75–80 percent of their IT budget on operations and maintenance (O&M). This activity can significantly improve a public sector environment where new systems development lags behind the private sector, the federal government has excessive costs and significant vulnerability to cyberattacks, and agencies often trail industry in their ability to implement advanced technologies that could dramatically reshape government operations.

This report examines the status of IT modernization in the public sector, and identifies eight key lessons from private industry, state government, and exemplary government agencies:

• Key 1: Understand the organizational drivers for modernization

• Key 2: Plan at the enterprise level

• Key 3: Deliver incremental value at the departmental level

• Key 4: Communicate value to citizens and shareholders

• Key 5: Understand what you have and where you need to go

• Key 6: People then processes and only then technology

• Key 7: Importance of leadership

• Key 8: Look at the “long tail” for modernization

Based on these key lessons, the roadmap below illustrates how successful IT modernization could take place in government, in a manner consistent with the newly released guidance of the Modernizing Government Technology Act (MGT).  Major points from the roadmap include:

• Modernization must be an on-going process rather than a single standalone event, to allow for continuous improvement rather than costlier sporadic “catch ups.”

• Feedback occurs throughout the process to capture lessons learned and act accordingly.

• Ensure a focus on how technology is supporting mission goals.

• Key and supporting players should be identified for each step, making leadership and operational staff both aware of their requirements and empowering them to act.

• Check-ins with agency leadership, functional leadership, technical leadership, and key users must take place throughout the process. • Blend a strong acquisition strategy, technical approach and the right team. • 360-degree communications will foster knowledge and buy-in.

• Measurement identification, and tracking and communication of those measures, should take place both inside and outside the organization

Document Date: 
Mar 16, 2018
Author (organization): 
IBM Center for the Business of Government
Document type: 
Technology Management
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