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Navigating 2024: A Roadmap for State and Local Digital Transformation

Vishal Hanjan, Regional Vice President
December 19, 2023

Digital government and digital services are the top priorities for state governments, according to the recently published National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) Top 10 Policy and Technology Priorities for 2024. Tied for first place is cybersecurity and risk management, followed by legacy application modernization.

State and local government digital transformation is a strategic imperative to modernize legacy systems, improve service delivery, and stay responsive to the evolving needs and expectations of constituents. It is an ongoing means to create more responsive, efficient, and citizen-friendly government entities in the digital age.

[ How are other state and local departments transforming? Find out in the guide, Modernization in State and Local Governments. ]

Key motivators for state and local government digital transformation.

Here are some key motivations behind the push for legacy system modernization in state and local governments:

  • Enhancing citizen satisfaction. Providing government services that are more accessible, responsive, and tailored to the needs of the public, such as offering digital platforms and online forms for citizen services, will improve service delivery and citizen engagement. 

  • Improving operational efficiency. Digital solutions and automation streamline processes by reducing bureaucratic inefficiencies, paperwork, and manual processes. Data integration across departments enhances collaboration and reduces duplication of effort.

  • Saving costs. Digital services reduce the reliance on paper, leading to cost savings related to printing, storage, and manual handling of documents. Automating routine tasks and workflows can lead to significant cost savings over time by allowing governments to allocate resources more efficiently.

  • Ensuring compliance. Automated tools help governments meet regulatory and compliance standards more effectively, ensuring that data and processes align with legal requirements.

  • Improving decision-making. The collection and analysis of large datasets provides policymakers with valuable insights for informed decision-making. Access to real-time reporting enables quicker responses to emerging issues, contributing to more agile and effective governance.

  • Adapting faster to change. Legacy modernization makes government systems more adaptable to technological advancements and changing societal and regulatory needs. Digital tools also enhance the ability of governments to respond to crises, such as natural disasters or public health emergencies, by enabling swift communication and resource allocation.

[ Drive innovation at your agency with a better approach to case management. Get the eBook. ]

4 essential elements for your 2024 roadmap.

Government leaders recognize the need for improvement. But the key lies in strategic prioritization. It is important to focus on addressing the most critical aspects first so that legacy modernization efforts yield the maximum impact. 

By prioritizing the most important modernization initiatives, agencies can efficiently channel resources and efforts, laying a foundation for comprehensive and impactful improvements across their operations. 

1. Do more with less: Addressing the persistent labor shortage.

The initial belief that the pandemic-induced labor shortage would be temporary has proven to be overly optimistic. As the shortage of government employees persists, it's imperative for government leaders to devise a plan for doing more with less.

Beyond merely acknowledging the labor shortage, agencies should actively seek ways to mitigate its impact by integrating digital solutions into daily operations. Technologies such as AI and process automation can take over repetitive tasks and routine functions such as processing paperwork for permit approvals. And user-friendly portals for constituents can streamline engagement activities, such as form submission.

Automation not only fills labor gaps but also increases operational efficiency, enabling agencies to operate effectively despite resource constraints.

2. Figure out where AI belongs in your agency.

The integration of artificial intelligence (AI) is no longer a question of "if" but rather "how." Understanding where AI fits into agency operations is crucial for maximizing its potential. It’s not about embracing the latest trend; it’s about determining how you can use AI strategically to extract the most value from this transformative technology.

AI can optimize workflows, enhance decision-making processes, and deliver tangible value. While a skilled professional should always review the results, AI can save time and effort by helping process tasks, identify patterns, and extract data. For example, AI can extract data from documents such as invoices and key it into your system, not only saving time but also eliminating human error that is common during data entry. Generative AI can create initial drafts of procurement documents such as RFPs, based on existing requirements data. And it can summarize data pulled from multiple files.

To avoid “AI hallucinations,” where AI tools invent incorrect answers, government agencies should rely on private AI. That is, they should only use their own documents and systems as source material so they’re assured that the AI tool will provide correct information. Another advantage of private AI is that your information will remain secure. It will not be shared publicly or used to train public datasets.

[ Considering AI? Keep your agency’s data secure with private AI. Get the practical guide. ]

3. Prioritize innovation: Overcome traditionally coded custom apps.

Commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) software applications were once popular with government agencies. But traditional custom-coded applications can stifle innovation and accrue hidden costs over time. The rigid applications tie the agency to a vendor, as they are dependent on them for updates—a process that is not only costly but also time-consuming. Agencies often find themselves on a constant treadmill of development to keep their apps up-to-date with their changing environment.

Rather than replacing their software with another hard-coded application, a better modernization alternative is to transition to a versatile tech platform. The Appian Platform is gaining traction at government agencies thanks to the unparalleled flexibility it offers. Unlike traditional hard-coded apps that necessitate complex and time-consuming updates, Appian’s low-code tools empower agencies to swiftly and easily adapt processes to evolving needs. The agility inherent in a low-code approach not only accelerates development cycles but also allows for seamless adjustments, fostering a dynamic and responsive environment that is crucial for staying ahead in the ever-changing landscape of public service.

Agencies should determine the greatest need in their modernization efforts—that is, which processes are the most arduous or problematic—and address those first.

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4. Invest in your most valuable asset: Your people.

Government organizations struggle to attract new talent—especially younger workers, who are leaving public sector jobs at a higher rate than older workers. To attract and retain skilled professionals, especially younger workers, modernizing enterprise technology can go a long way toward improving employee retention. Intuitive, agile applications capable of navigating evolving landscapes will improve the user experience. Choose technology that fosters collaboration between IT and business staff to promote a harmonious relationship that benefits both people and the enterprise.

Offering competitive salaries, robust training programs, and clear paths for career progression can further entice prospective employees and help you keep your current ones. Moreover, cultivating a workplace culture that values innovation, diversity, and work-life balance contributes to creating an appealing environment that not only attracts talent but also fosters long-term commitment.

A holistic approach to 2024.

As government organizations look to 2024, this legacy modernization roadmap provides a holistic approach to the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. Embracing technological innovation, including AI, will help agencies do more with fewer resources and lay the foundation for a resilient, innovative, and citizen-centric public service.

Learn more about leveraging leading technology to improve government service delivery and the citizen experience. Read the guide, Modernization in State and Local Governments.