No tool helps future-proof all the digital capabilities and technology in a Federal agency’s tool belt. Therefore, it’s important that when developing or onboarding new tools Federal agencies keep in mind the tool’s agility, Federal experts said at the Google Government Summit on Nov. 15 in Washington D.C.

Dan Berrigan, the Digital War Room Collaboration Lead for the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), explained that because the technology space is constantly evolving, the adoption of a ‘continuous growth mindset’ is critical.

“We understand, particularly as a research facility, that the technology space is constantly evolving. What was on trend or growing 10-years-ago is no longer in growth now. So, our culture and people need to adapt,” Berrigan said.

“[AFRL] expects that our tools and digital capabilities shift and adapt with time and so a lot of it is fostering or designing those tools with that in mind,” he added.

For the State Department, future-proofing is ensuring that it’s ready to respond at a moment’s notice regardless of any international incident or activity that may be happening, Ken LaVolpe, the lead for the Enterprise Cloud Platforms at the U.S. Department of State, explained. 

However, because the agency does not have the convenience to have technologists in every space it conducts operations, the tools at their disposal must be agile and easy to use for those who do not have an IT background.

“For us, future-proofing is the process of having those tools available for those individuals to implement themselves quickly and easily, even if they are not perfect,” LaVolpe said. “One of the things that we have been striving to do is … offering products that meet security controls and mission agility that we can put in the hands of non-IT people right away.”

The goal for the Federal government is always to meet its mission imperative and according to LaVolpe, “as long as we keep innovating and providing more and more capability to those individuals so they can be efficient, we will do that.”

Katherine Tobin, the head of Workspace Innovation at Global Public Sector at Google, agreed with LaVolpe, adding that especially in the government, missions must be accomplished, and sometimes on a time crunch. Therefore, she said, “you can’t stop time waiting for the perfect tool, so you need it to be good enough to help those who need it accomplish the mission.”

In addition, LaVolpe explained that increasing collaboration in an agency requires a top-down-bottom-up approach.

“What it takes from a leadership level is a constant push to make your staffers collaborate. Now, the bottom-up part of it, giving feedback about what’s working well within the organization and what’s not. Because we can’t at the top of the hill assume we know everything,” he said.

“We are working very hard to establish that environment in our agency. I’m in a very heavily contractor-driven organization, to create an open atmosphere where individual contractors can talk to their fellow in leadership is important to creating that safe space and continuous collaboration,” LaVolpe added.

Berrigan agreed to add that leaders need to understand the importance of feedback.

“Putting the workforce in the middle of solving even the [smallest] of issues is critical because these are issues that will or could affect them and it allows for collaborative problem solving,” Berrigan said.

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