There was a time less than a century ago when a telex machine was a bold, new innovation. And anyone who ever operated a telex remembers the dreaded backspace/correct button.
A telex network could send a message anywhere in the world, and it only took about 15 minutes per page. But to send a telex, you had to retype your text (originally produced on a manual typewriter) on a separate keyboard that translated each character into a code on a coil of paper tape. Once the tape was punched, the only way to fix a typo was to backspace and repunch the character. The keyboard was slow and clunky, so corrections — what today’s IT managers think of as modifications, or 'mods' — happened early and often, chewing up valuable time and consuming the last of the user’s patience.
When fax machines came along, telexes landed in the nearest tech museum, and users embraced an early equivalent of a mod-free future.
The telex story has been repeated many time since — think of the iPhone (then the iPad) reimagining mobility; digital cameras stealing a mature market away from Kodak; or on-demand video shuttering Blockbuster. The common denominator was a process of digital transformation that was unimaginable until it happened, grew with lightning speed once it got started, and shattered existing business models, building massive new opportunities at every step along the way.
That transformative moment has now come to public sector IT. And it has a great deal to do with a shift from on-premises to cloud computing that couldn’t come soon enough for public sector managers looking to recruit and retain the next generation of talent and streamline government operations.
A next-generation work experience
Across the economy, and certainly across the public sector, the race for new hires is on, with one US treasury executive estimating last year that fewer than 10% of federal employees are under the age of 30. To draw in the next generation of executives, managers, and front-line staff, public sector workplaces will have to match the fast, user-friendly technologies that millennials take for granted in their personal devices, and expect in their workplace.
They’ll expect intuitive user interfaces; fast, efficient collaboration between functions and job sites; seamless interfaces across desktop and mobile devices; business intelligence systems that learn on the job and deliver the context-driven information users need, before they know they need it.
They’ll need a level of system reliability that is most easily assured through cloud-based systems that deliver timely software and security updates.
And, much more powerfully than that long-ago shift from telex to fax, cloud computing makes local modifications a thing of the past, saving scarce program funds for better uses and allowing on-premises IT teams to concentrate on more specialized, mission-driven projects.
Streamlining government operations
Then again, there are some aspects of public sector service that never change. Streamlining operations and doing more with less are current themes across all levels of government and industry, but they’re entirely familiar for anyone who’s ever had a seat behind a government desk.
The good news is that streamlining is easier in the cloud, and at least one major US government agency is already onboard. Over the last several years, the Government Services Administration has been reinventing itself by updating systems and bringing on a new generation of managers who are prepared to innovate at the speed of business. From accounting to common services, from fleets to facilities, the GSA is pointing the way for other agencies and departments to deliver on challenging mandates.
Nowhere will those enhanced capabilities be more important than in front-line service delivery, where tech-savvy citizens are already asking more of their government. From routine call center operations to emergency services, citizens expect the public sector to deliver timely, efficient, informed, courteous service over an unprecedented mix of channels. To deliver on that promise, front-line personnel need the support of IT systems that will help them get the job done.
And it’s hard to imagine an area where front-line delivery will be more crucial than healthcare, where digital transformation will be a cornerstone of the drive to meet the needs and expectations of an aging population. From health monitoring, to remote diagnosis and care, to efficient billing, the systems of the future are already available to keep Medicare, Medicaid, and veterans’ services at peak performance.
Compared to telex, fax, or even an early mobile phone, today’s and tomorrow’s IT systems offer speed and capabilities that would have been unimaginable just a few years ago. But they’re still a stepping stone to even better, faster service delivery, and that’s where cloud computing really earns its keep. Every public sector organization will make the transition to the cloud in its own time, and in its own way. And, once it’s fully implemented, cloud computing will give citizens routine access to the very best systems and technology, in an era when they demand nothing less.
Read more on Infor in the public sector.