The Challenge Ahead: How Federal Leaders Can Become Masters of Change

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, technology was establishing itself as a driving force in government, with cloud computing, artificial intelligence, automation, and other advances changing the way agencies meet the mission. The pandemic accelerated all that.

For the Federal government, COVID-19’s impact was far-reaching. “We are truly in unprecedented times in our nation,” Defense Department CIO Dana Deasy said in April 2020. In the face of crisis, Federal agencies showed what they could do, pivoting on the fly to meet the moment’s needs. And they demonstrated clearly that technology is vital to the mission.

Government leaders proved that, with technology, Federal agencies could undertake significant change rapidly when they need to. For example, they supported a massive shift to telework in an incredibly short timeframe. In a single day in early April last year, the Defense Department activated more than 250,000 remote accounts – an unprecedented feat. In fact, our research found that 91 percent of Federal executives say their organizations innovated with unique urgency amidst the pandemic.

The question now becomes: How pervasive and impactful will this shift in mindset be?

Masters of Change

This year’s Accenture Federal Technology Vision lays out a blueprint for carrying forward the key learnings of the pandemic. It addresses five technology trends that are changing the way government gets things done:

  • Stack Strategically: Rearchitecting Government for What’s Next Building and wielding the best technology stack for mission success means thinking about technology differently – making business and technology strategies indistinguishable.
  • Mirrored World: Digital Twins Report for Duty – Virtual models combine data and intelligence to improve shipyards, jet fighters, supply chains, product lifecycles, and more.
  • I, Technologist: Empowering Innovators in the Workforce – Now, every employee can be an innovator: optimizing work, fixing pain points, and keeping the business in lockstep with new and changing needs.
  • Anywhere, Everywhere: Integrating Your Virtual Workplace – Remote work will likely persist in some form. Leaders must develop “bring your own environment” strategies to address the security ramifications of remote work, drive cultural shifts, and evolve the uses of physical office space.
  • From Me to We: Take the Mission Further with Multiparty Systems – Blockchain and other powerful collaborative technologies enable agencies to leverage partnerships and trusted data to address increasingly complex challenges.

We found that the COVID crisis has given Federal leaders a renewed commitment to the power of technology. Virtually all Federal executives (97 percent) said COVID-19 created an unprecedented stress test for their organizations, while more than half (57 percent) said the pace of digital transformation for their organization is accelerating. That’s not a coincidence.

Golden Opportunity

Our Federal Technology Vision makes the case that Federal leaders now have a golden opportunity to reimagine the future. They can take to heart the past year’s lessons and hardwire their organizations to support continuous change.

Here’s what we learned from this year’s research:

  • Leaders don’t wait for a new normal, they build it – Federal agencies must pursue technology leadership urgently to keep pace with how fast the world and IT are evolving. To make the most of the present opportunity, agencies need to look to technology to support rapid transformation. You need to understand what technology is here, what’s coming around the corner, and what the impacts are likely to be.
  • Technology and business strategies are becoming blurred – Technology is so deeply immersed in our operating model that it often defines mission success. This means that deep technical expertise and competency – both individually and organizationally – are needed to sustain leadership. To achieve this, you will need to build the right innovation environments and cultures, taking down the organizational barriers that divide technology from the mission so that both are moving forward as one.

The Accenture Federal Technology Vision is a crucial read for Federal leaders looking to capitalize on lessons learned in the pandemic. With insights into what government and commercial leaders are doing in response to the major tech trends of the day, it’s a deep dive into how technology is making organizations smarter, more agile, and resilient – and more effective in addressing today’s complicated business and mission challenges.

About Christopher Copeland and Kyle Michl
Christopher Copeland is the Chief Technology Officer and Kyle Michl is the Chief Innovation Officer at Accenture Federal Services.