National governments are creating digital service teams at an accelerated speed. I have written about their approaches, team compositions, and outcomes in a report published by IBM’s Center for the Business of Government last year and expanded on it in this interview. My report mostly focused on the U.S. Digital Service Team and 18F, and highlighted some of the practices of the Danish Agency for Digitisation and its Mindlab, as well as the UK’s Government Digital Service and Team Digitale in Italy.
Since I published the first report, additional service teams were created in 2017: the Canadian Digital Service, Finland’s D9 team, and New Zealand consolidated its IT operations into one new agency, Digital.Govt.NZ.
I wrote a paper based on my interviews with CTOs and digital service innovators in the U.S. federal government. The goal of the paper is to bring together the elements that lead to innovations in digital service delivery. I contrast traditional software development processes with elements of an agile innovation management approach. The result is a research framework and research questions for future explorations:
Governments are facing an information technology upgrade and legacy problem: outdated systems and acquisition processes are resulting in high-risk technology projects that are either over budget or behind schedule. Recent catastrophic technology failures, such as the failed launch of the politically contested online marketplace Healthcare.gov in the U.S. were attributed to an over-reliance on external technology contractors and failures to manage large-scale technology contracts in government. As a response, agile software development and modular acquisition approaches, new independent organizational units equipped with fast reacting teams, in combination with a series of policy changes are developed to address the need to innovate digital service delivery in government. This article uses a process tracing approach, as well as initial qualitative interviews with a subset of executives and agency-level digital services members to provide an overview of the existing policies and implementation approaches toward an agile innovation management approach. The article then provides a research framework including research questions that provide guidance for future research on the managerial implementation considerations necessary to scale up the initial efforts and move toward a collaborative and agile innovation management approach in government.