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Modernize Your Apps, Keep Your Staff

Bryan Scott Larkin 's avatar

By: Bryan Scott Larkin

February 13, 2019 | Human CapitalLeadershipIT ModernizationCase Management/BPM

MicroPact regularly includes content in our blog from guest authors in order to provide additional subject matter expertise and additional perspective. We are pleased to present the following thoughts from Bryan Scott Larkin, an Executive Solutions Architect with Unisys. 

It has been about a decade since I last wrote a regular blog. In those days, I focused on data management best practices to help ensure the data you use to drive day-to-day and strategic mission decisions is complete, accurate, and relevant.

That work is still essential—perhaps even more so with the advent of big data. You really don’t want your decisions to be made faster or with more data if that data is bad. While new tools—such as case management solutions—can modernize the automation of processes and improve data management, recent research into other impacts of modernization has encouraged me to write again. The research shows the results of modernization and its positive effects on your staff. The happy coincidence is that modernizing your applications and other aspects of your IT environment can also provide other benefits like lower costs and risks along with improvements in the services provided to citizens and other stakeholders.

Modernize Your Way to a Happier More Productive Staff

Until recently, organizations were not aware of the potential impact a modernized application environment might have on their employees. With the advent of the U.S. Digital Services Playbook, federal agencies have been encouraged to improve the User Experience (UX), undertaking best practices found in leading commercial enterprises. However, the actual impact of improved UX has been largely unquantified, until now. In June of 2018, a Unisys global survey reported that organizations with modern application environments and modernized IT tools had happier staff and were more likely to retain those employees. Specifically, employees whose employers provided outdated technology felt less productive, were 750% more likely to be frustrated, and were 450% more likely to want to quit their job1.

These were big findings and, to some, probably a big surprise. For years, though, workers have been finding ways to work around legacy applications that do not offer the functionality they need to perform their job quickly, accurately, and at pace with shifting priorities and requirements. For organizations that need to retain knowledge workers, this should be a clear warning sign. Workers who possess institutional experience, skills, and specializations are a critical factor in an organization’s success. Finding ways to improve their ability to perform their job more effectively and efficiently will pay big dividends in productivity and in worker happiness. A happier staff means a significant reduction in turnover rates. For organizations and their staff, increasing confidence in the ability to perform tasks through modern tools and technologies is a win-win. In addition to retaining operational knowledge, daily operations will be able to promote a more cohesive organizational culture. Without having to fight the legacy applications and processes, and with the capabilities provided by modernized solutions, workers will be better able to collaborate to produce higher quality work products. For Federal agencies already facing large-scale retirements, the last thing needed is a legacy environment that helps encourage their staff to retire even earlier.

Mobile – The New Normal

Based on my observations of recent Federal IT procurements, Agencies are seeking mobile solutions as key enablers of modernized environments. While a traditional notion of a federal worker is office bound, in reality a great many Federal workers do their jobs out in the field as case agents, investigators, safety inspectors, etc. Whether the mobile functionality is for reporting, alerts and notifications, or for active daily operations (acting on triggered events in case management, for example), citizens and stakeholders have identified mobile solutions as a critical component of digital transformation. The June 2018 Unisys global survey found that 65% of the workers who bring their own devices (primarily smart phones) to work, download apps, and use websites not supported by their organization’s IT groups2. They do this because those apps help them perform some aspects of their job better than the tools their employer provides. Federal agencies often do not want their employees utilizing their own devices for work for several reasons, including the potential risk to Personally Identifiable Information (PII) data or national security. The Unisys global survey also points out that in the U.S., actively disengaged employees are costing $483 to $605 billion each year. So beyond other risks, Federal agencies face a loss of productivity that dramatically inflates the cost of doing business to taxpayers.

This loss of productivity also directly results in a reduction in the services that an agency can offer their constituents.

Interestingly, employees in organizations considered technology leaders are more fearful of technology making their jobs obsolete within the next 5 years. Perhaps this is because they have seen how technology improvements translate to better efficiency and organizational performance. Perhaps they understand what even more modernization might bring. On the other hand, those in “technology laggard” organizations have not experienced such benefits. Modernization will most likely have a bigger impact on their organizations and bring with it a greater overall improvement in productivity and workplace happiness. In fact, improvements in automation, use of artificial intelligence, and the introduction of Internet of Things (IoT) technologies stand to make a greater impact on laggard organizations and their employees.

Modernization for Every Agency

Aligning your staff to the next wave of modern technologies is critical to the success of IT service delivery projects and programs. These tools are specifically designed to streamline and continuously improve business processes and provide more centralized tracking and management of work streams, allocations, and capacities. Productivity and performance is measurably improved through improvements in priorities, better defined roles and responsibilities, and the ability to more effectively collaborate and communicate. Providing access to next generational tools that enhance business and operational outcomes is a critical step in moving towards digital transformation. In addition to an immediate boost in institutional knowledge and productivity, these solutions lower operational costs and risks. The result is a more efficient service delivery model that reduces the time-to-market (TTM) for mission-critical services.

For almost all agencies, one of the predominant types of work is that of case management. EEO, grants management, investigations, and other cases that need tracking are prime candidates for modernization. Agencies that have previously automated case-related tasks will find that recent advances in technology and methodologies can bring more than incremental benefits to their daily operations through both functional and UX improvements. For agencies that have not yet automated case-related processes, doing so will have an even more significant positive impact on operations. In both cases, such modernization can include extending these processes securely to mobile devices. Overall, modernization will go a long way to improving the happiness and productivity of your employees and your contractors, and this should also provide additional benefits to your operations and to your constituents.

MicroPact’s guest authors are not otherwise affiliated with or employed by MicroPact. The views or opinions expressed by the guest author are independent to that author and do not reflect the views or opinions of MicroPact.

1. The New Digital Workplace Divide: U.S. Workers Whose Employer Provides Outdated Technology Feel Less Productive, are 750 Percent More Likely to be Frustrated and 450 Percent More Likely to Want to Quit, June 26, 2018.
2. The New Digital Workplace Divide: U.S. Workers Whose Employer Provides Outdated Technology Feel Less Productive, are 750 Percent More Likely to be Frustrated and 450 Percent More Likely to Want to Quit, June 26, 2018.

About the Author

Bryan Scott Larkin is an Executive Solutions Architect with Unisys, developing technology, process, and organizational change solutions in response to US Federal Government needs. A recognized writer and speaker, he has expertise in process re-engineering, enterprise architecture, data quality/governance, value chain automation, B2B electronic commerce, sustainability, and compliance.