When the National Cancer Institute (NCI) embarked on a digital modernization overhaul to provide highly capable services to staff, NCI’s Chief Information Officer (CIO) and Chief Technology Officer (CTO) soon realized he needed so much more to be successful.

“To start down the path to our vision, we embarked on a technical solution, but soon we realized we needed so much more to be successful. The most difficult area to address’ culture,” NIC CIO and CTO Jeff Shilling said during an ATARC virtual event on Nov. 30.

The NCI, according to Shilling, has an impressive array of networking and computing capabilities, as well as world-class scientific capabilities. However, the organization uses email for most business process management and fills out more PDF, Excel, and Word documents than digital forms.

Therefore, Shilling and his team want to modernize the organization’s systems “to provide highly capable services to the staff to minimize administrative burden, to be measurable, and to result in workflows that provide authorization and process improvement data.”

“But we quickly found that no one appreciated being told that their systems and methods were old and ineffective,” Shilling said.

To successfully modernize their systems and get the team on board, Shilling and his team had to create an environment for success; one primarily focused on its culture. So, the team embarked on a people; process; technology model, he added.

The people; process; technology (PPT) model is all about how the three elements interact. The people do the work. Processes make the work more efficient. And technology helps people do their tasks and helps automate the processes. Shilling added that it was crucial to maintain clear and constant communication regarding the new systems and processes his team wanted to onboard when addressing their people.

“We discussed our vision with our technical staff and other technical staff,” Shilling said. The team also trained staff, formed a DevSecOps team of all the NCI’s development staff, and lastly built a team of a few Federal Staff to coordinate the effort.

Shilling explained that processes needed to be a strict processing intake, constant monitoring, and clear and constant communication. This, Shilling said, is crucial to accomplishing the organization’s vision. And finally, while looking into the technology aspect, it’s important to make sure that the technology fits the organization.

Additionally, Shilling emphasized that for this massive overhaul to work at any organization, the CIO needs to be a leader for all IT programs.

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