IT modernization in the Federal government will require collaboration, effective policies, and a focus on the true end-goal: improving the government experience for citizens, said agency CIOs and industry leaders at a May 23 FedInsider webinar on IT modernization.

“I’ve been in government quite a while, and I’ve never seen the level of collaboration that I’m seeing today,” said Jason Gray, CIO at the Department of Education. Gray tied the trend in collaboration to impacts of the President’s Management Agenda (PMA) issued earlier this year and the Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA).

Karl Mathias, CIO at the U.S. Marshals Service, explained how his unit embraced agile development and even took it a step further. “We take (new technology) to the field, and show the districts what this looks like to make sure those deputies who weren’t involved in development do the sanity check,” he said.

Mathias also highlighted how units within agencies can work together. By sharing a service desk with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the Marshals Service reduced customer on-hold times from 17 minutes to under two minutes. “What’s great about the PMA is it gives us this backing of ‘yeah, you should be doing that,’” said Mathias.

The potential for transformation depends on having the right policies and resources in place to continuously improve, officials said.

“We should have the expectation for our agencies to be continuously reinventing themselves. There’s no room to set it and forget it,” said Margie Graves, deputy Federal CIO.

“In the office of the Federal CIO, we are changing our policies to allow rapid adoption of cloud technologies. You will see several agencies that are participating with us on pilot projects on how you would use the trusted Internet connection and how you would promulgate security in the cloud,” Graves added.

“I think at the core right now, what’s going to happen modernization-wise, it’s all about EIS,” said David Young, senior vice president of strategic government for CenturyLink, referring to the Federal government’s Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions contract.

Throughout the webinar, speakers explained how all of these efforts are leading to an important goal: delivering services to citizens through efficient IT.

“I think that customer experience is a growing movement,” said James Williams, former commissioner of the General Service Administration’s Federal Acquisition Service and partner at Williams and Schambach consulting. “We have a unique opportunity in time to transform these government agencies into providing better citizen services.”

“IT and technology is an enabler of the transformation itself,” Graves added. “[People] expect to receive [government services] in the same way they receive … any other kind of service they would receive in the private sector. And why shouldn’t they?”

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