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How Digital Transformation Drives Federal HR

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When it comes to competing for talent, the stakes have never been higher. With private companies stocking their offices with snacks, slides and offering in-company meals as well as work-from-home benefits, the public sector is realizing it’s falling behind…and fast.

“Tech is just a super competitive place to recruit. You’ve got big brands out there like Facebook and Google, and you’ve got young people who think that the government maybe isn’t the place for them. The government needs to turn this story around.”

– Dimitri Boylan, CEO and Founder of Avature.

But it’s not just about flexible work models and company merchandise. The private sector has upped its technology game as well. Driven by ever-evolving needs, companies have wielded hardware and software to save time and deal with the fast-paced world we live in, winning over new talent as well.

In a recent event hosted by FedScoop, Billy Mitchell VP of Content & Community & Editor-in-Chief at FedScoop sat down with our CEO and Founder, Dimitri Boylan. Throughout the conversation, technology was highlighted as a necessary ally that’ll enable the federal government to modernize its processes and approaches and compete for talent with the private sector.

With this strong need to take the federal government to the next level in the talent wars, the first step is digital transformation. We’ve compiled a guide of what this entails and how going back is no longer an option.

Tackling Federal Government Digital Transformation

Digital transformation is more than just applying technology to old ways of working: it entails changing entire processes and modernizing the workforce as well as making agility a top priority for a much-needed “ready for anything” work approach. This can involve moving from paper-based processes to digital or online ones or updating legacy systems’ infrastructure.

When implementing digital transformation strategies, new technology needs to go hand in hand with data and tech-savvy talent. Data drives and powers decisions, like the allocation of resources and creation of specific programs and the federal government in particular handles large amounts of data.

One approach the federal government can take is upskilling some of the existing workforce and implementing learning and development programs that will help their understanding of new technology and processes in place as well as ways to handle the amounts of data handled daily.

But the federal government also needs to look for new profiles such as data scientists, data analysts and cyber security experts. These profiles are of high interest to the private sector as well, so the public sector has to effectively compete for talent.

For a sector that hasn’t always been able to move at speed, scaling is a great way for the federal sector to tackle digital transformation and incorporate agile solutions. Keep in mind: this doesn’t mean building one massive implementation or plan.

Scaling can be done at a small level, replicating successful approaches throughout several departments once it has worked. Implementing changes in phases within areas can help make digital transformation much more approachable and your workforce won’t feel overwhelmed.

Learn From Commercial

When embracing the change that comes with digital transformation, the federal government could benefit from looking at the commercial sector itself to learn from the experiences of private companies, their successes and failures. One of those elements is adaptability.

For many large companies, this has been a constant process of adapting to new technologies and strategies, learning as they went and upskilling their workforce to be on par with the technology in place.

“Their transformation takes several years. (…) So I think the government has to recognize it’s going to take several years to catch up with the vanguard of the commercial space.”

– Dimitri Boylan, CEO and Founder of Avature.

But it takes time as well as an understanding of the market, which is essential in any digital transformation strategy. Dimitri highlighted the need for the federal government to be more agile and adjust to a dynamic market that has its own changes. This means that different markets require different strategies and implementing a system that is flexible enough to execute all of these can be highly beneficial for the public sector.

“There’s some new things they have to learn that have been new for the big companies to learn, too.”

– Dimitri Boylan, CEO and Founder of Avature

Commercial systems are an ideal weapon for talent wars. For the federal government, reinventing itself to compete for talent may seem like an exhausting task, so starting with a commercial system that’s built for a specific purpose is a “not so scary” step forward. The key is to select a system that is flexible enough for the public sector to use and that can be tuned and tailored to align with their specific mission and goals.

“Large multinationals are complicated too. You’d be surprised by how complicated they are. I don’t think that’s a reason to stay away from the commercial sector. There are commercial systems that are flexible, that can be tuned to what the government wants and I think the government has a sense of urgency right now that requires that approach.”

– Dimitri Boylan, CEO and Founder of Avature

The AI Component

When asked about AI, Dimitri explained that nobody’s really sure how far it will take us. Knowing that artificial intelligence does certain things very well, for example analyzing massive data at scale and making suggestions, he defined the challenge as trying to understand where these powerful use cases fit into their strategies in order to get the desired business outcome. He also explained how the private and public sectors compared when it came to implementing AI in their digital transformation strategies:

“Right now, the commercial software has not really successfully deployed AI inside the frameworks that they have. So in that area, the government is gonna be basically right on par with the commercial sector. They’re not behind on that one because the commercial sector is still figuring that out, so that’s good news. Who gets it right? It’s hard to tell.”

– Dimitri Boylan, CEO and Founder of Avature

When it comes to automation, everyone seems to agree that the path forward is much clearer. With the federal government looking to reduce both costs and time, certain manual or paper-based tasks could be easily solved with the help of simple digitalization and automated workflows.

To Conclude…

There’s always a series of improvements and training, trial and error, when it comes to competing for anything, be it a sport or, in the case of the federal government, talent. If fed wants to capture the talent they need to face their goals for the future, it’s essential they start by implementing a digital transformation strategy.

This past year, we’ve been able to see that, when necessary, the federal space can move and adapt as quickly as needed. Digital transformation is already making its way through the conversations of public sector agencies all around and there is a consensus that there is no going back to the way things were. It’s just a matter of embracing digital transformation, one step forward towards the future at a time.

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