Federal agencies need to be more collaborative internally and better connected with each other to take advantage of the opportunities that new technology offers, but to do that they will have to overcome some familiar barriers, says a new report from the Partnership for Public Service.
“For the government of the future to flourish, agencies must develop more robust and broad-based connections—doing a better job of working with one another, collaborating internally, engaging the public and establishing ties with stakeholders from outside government,” said the report, done with the Ernst & Young accounting firm’s public sector practice.
However, it said that agency units often work in silos that “inhibit collaboration, preventing government from using data to its fullest and getting the most out of its technology and its workforce. These silos can stand in the way of a program manager discovering and using data housed at another agency, for example, or keep a team of IT specialists from building a tool that meets the needs of non-IT colleagues—if those colleagues are not involved in its development.”
Regarding internal collaboration, it said that program managers, data scientists and technologists for example “need to have a common understanding of the problems they seek to solve together. That would markedly increase the likelihood that program managers use the best available data and technology, and IT specialists create technology that best serves their colleagues and the public.”
Further, combining data from different agencies can yield new insights, it said, giving as an example using data from Labor, Education, HHS, HUD and Transportation to better understand unemployment. However, that “is an underused practice in government, often due to the time involved,” it said, adding that privacy concerns and agency culture pose additional obstacles.
Better connections can be achieved in other ways as well, it said, such as co-locating offices in the same buildings and using employee rotational programs.