Digital transformation allows agencies to modernize their information technology portfolios more disciplined, well-managed, and controlled. However, Federal officials said that a lack of governance and direction makes a digital transformation difficult to achieve.

For Philip J. Letowt, the executive director for the Information Sharing and Services Office at the Department of Homeland Security, the biggest challenge is an agency’s ineptitude.

“For any digital transformation to work an agency needs governance and direction. But there is a lack of governance within some agencies that cause digital transformations to fail,” Letowt said during an ATARC virtual event on Nov. 30.

To avoid said failure, IT leaders must not only focus on the technology side of things but also on the guidance and governance needed to succeed, Letowt added.

Sean Wybenga, the informatics specialist for the Food and Drug Administration, agreed with Letowt, adding that from cultural resistance to lack of clear vision from leadership, there is not a technology problem, but a people problem. Constant and clear communication is important to being successful in any digital transformation attempt.

“As a tech guy, we tend to focus a lot on these gadgets and systems that we want to experiment with, and we let the people part of this fall to the wayside. And we shouldn’t because it is equally as important,” Wybenga said.

Letowt added that agencies have also utilized patchwork strategies such as robotic process automation (RPA). But these patchwork strategies can only be useful temporarily, not for long term solutions.

“If you can use RPA to automate your systems then you should be spending the money on better long-term solutions,” Letowt said. RPA is an example to agencies perpetuating legacy systems that do not ensure a complete and effective business management process.

Wybenga agreed that RPA was a temporary fix but initially believed it’s a good solution for agencies that need a quick fix.

“But agencies should capitalize of creativity for long term solutions,” he added.

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Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.