• Stephanie Thum, CCXP

Conquering Paper, Red Tape, and Resistance to Change on the Way to IT Modernization

Updated: Dec 22, 2020

This blog post is sponsored by Pegasystems.

Can we talk about red tape for just a minute?

Because government is well-known for adding it to the workload of government agency employees in the form of paperwork, rules, and checklists before they can even serve citizens.

Red tape creates backlogs for employees and wait times for customers. Nobody wants either!

Why Red Tape and IT Modernization Don't Really Mix

So, when agency leaders present big dreams of “IT modernization” to employees, it only makes sense that many employees will likely see it as complex, fatiguing change. It is seen as another complication. Modernization becomes more red tape. Then, resistance is inevitable.

Anecdotally, I have seen this happen as part of my own experience as a former federal government agency executive. Academics have even studied how red tape creates employee resistance to change in the public sector.

So, when I participated as a social media ambassador at Pegasystems' Evolve for Government virtual conference, I was listening for stories about the intersection of IT modernization, customer experience, and getting past employee resistance to change.

Because IT modernization is no longer a nice-to-have for government agencies. It is required by law in some cases. But just because something is required does not mean employees will easily hop on board with the change.

Unless You Make It Easier for Employees to Get on Board

Pegasystems’ clients hit on this reality again and again during the conference. They spoke of incremental, practical approaches and low- and no-code solutions, low-fidelity prototypes and pilot projects, and Pegaysystems' willingness to support the reality that making employees’ lives easier leads to customer experience improvements.

Take the Vermont Office of Professional Regulation, for example. S. Lauren Hibbert mentioned working with Pegasystems to set up a way to get rid of the “paper delay,” a term that reflects the ripple impact of paper-based processes on employee effort and customer wait time.

“Employees need to be able to move a piece of paperwork from one side of the office to the other without an e-mail or a meeting,” Hibbert said.

Liz McNamara of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) mentioned an internal task force and the governance aspects of modernization. These have been vital components to getting employees on board and managing their agency’s modernization work.

Practical solutions come across as less risky to the people who are accountable for solving the agency’s business problems. Less like red tape and more likely to be embraced.

And then there is the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Few U.S. federal agencies are under more pressure to improve citizen experiences than the IRS. The Taxpayer First Act, Government Accountability Office, and Inspectors General all have called on the IRS to work harder on everything from modernizing their IT systems to improving the on-hold messages in their contact center!

Justin Lewis Abold-LaBreche of the IRS said “value to the customer” is their top criteria for prioritizing the modernization work. They want to move away from paper toward electronic case files and streamline customer data internally so that employees can do their jobs faster and customers don't have to wait as long for help.

But the work goes beyond technology. It's about operational and process improvements.

“The point about process improvement is important,” said Cindi Stuebner of Pegasystems. “Because if you automate a bad process, that’s not going to turn out very well in the end.”

“The point about process improvement is important. Because if you automate a bad process, that’s not going to turn out very well in the end.” -Cindi Stuebner, Pegasystems

Influencing Support for IT Modernization and CX Change

What I heard at this virtual conference is Pegasystems isn’t selling massive, pie-in-the-sky, vague solutions. Their solutions and partner ecosystem are rooted in practical, incremental approaches to getting the transformation work done.

From experience I can tell you, when you’re working elbow-to-elbow with management teams and prioritizing operational decisions for customers and employees, those practical, incremental solutions will rule the day.

Practical solutions come across as less risky to the people who are accountable for solving the agency’s business problems. Less like red tape and more likely to be embraced.

“When I think of resilient agencies, I think of the ones that know that change is a reality,” said Hayden Stafford of Pegasystems. So don’t take on transformation with a massive, multiyear point of view, he advised. Instead, think about it one outcome at a time.

“Change is here to stay. And it’s all about outcomes.”    Follow me on LinkedInTwitter, and Instagram. Find the conference replay here.

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