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Using Technology to Drive the Climate Change Revolution

Jason Adolf, Industry Vice President - Global Public Sector
April 9, 2021

When President Biden took office, it did not take long for his administration to focus the vast resources of the Federal government on the issue of climate change, bringing the US back in line with the vast majority of nations in the world. Climate change is not a problem unique to the US, as it requires all governments to flex their regulatory powers to bring reluctant industries and parties to the table. This is by no means a rapid process, but the clock continues to tick on the potential for irreversible damage to our planet. 

In Executive Order 14008 dated January 27th of this year, President Biden laid out a number of key priorities including three that I will focus on in this discussion:

  • Putting the climate crisis at the center of United States foreign policy and national security.
  • Taking a government-wide approach to the climate crisis.
  • Use of the federal government’s buying power and real property and asset management.

As more and more governing is being performed through policy and executive action, agencies at all levels of government are being required to adapt faster to change than when legislation drove many of these programs. One consistent overarching theme is that to meet these three major priorities, case management will play a massive role in the execution of these initiatives. 

The initiatives I’ve highlighted above aren’t unique to the US and in my dealings with foreign governments, we’ve seen a shift towards contracting that places an emphasis on environmental impact. So whether you are a US or foreign government, these types of priorities are not going away, certainly under current regimes. The question then is, how can technology help? 

There is no doubt that is a broad question to ponder, but let’s narrow the focus a bit and think about how low-code case management and automation can enable governments to deliver on these important initiatives more quickly. When we look at the types of use cases Appian is well suited for, we see a lot of opportunities to help:

  • Permitting - This includes the many permitting components such as environmental reviews, planning, public comments, leasing, and construction.
  • Licensing and Certification - In the US, programs like EnergyStar and the Leed building program have strict requirements to gain certifications. Programs such as these require detailed applications, tracking and adjudications.
  • Regulatory Administration - How the government manages compliance with complex policies and laws. This includes the workflows that drive approval processes and the research required to complete these tasks
  • Inspections - Performing work that requires the government to validate attestations from a third party as to whether they do or do not comply with a regulation. This may require detailed checklists and documentation that has to occur often in the field on various device form factors.

While this is not an exhaustive list, it reminds us that regulating this area of government is highly labor-intensive, and in many cases requires very specialized knowledge or skills to be effective in a role. In the 13 years I’ve worked in the Appian ecosystem, I’ve watched practitioners and experts use the Appian platform to declutter and detangle their work environments. We’ve freed up experts from having to spend time on administrative tasks to focus more on complex decision making. And we’ve helped to improve the efficiency and throughput of agencies making decisions and pushing those policies into practice. 

My expectation is that over the next few months, we will see a renewed focus on systems that serve as the primary mechanisms by which government workers perform this work. This will require modernization efforts that attempt to unlock complex policy business logic from older, code-based systems. Agencies will need to take a closer look at what is manual today and automate more.  It will also require government agencies to examine how they deal with the vast amounts of data at their disposal and make it actionable. 

But it will also serve as a catalyst and opportunity for re-engineering. I’m excited for this mission. Our partners are excited for this mission. And I believe that for the reasons I’ve outlined above - and frankly many more that would make this blog post too long - low-code automation will be front-and-center in driving the climate change revolution.