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The digital blur

Mar. 19, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
By ANNETTE RIPPERT   |   Comments
Annette Rippert is a managing director at Accenture Federal Services who leads Accenture's cloud and mobility business.
Annette Rippert is a managing director at Accenture Federal Services who leads Accenture's cloud and mobility business. ()

Today, digital technology drives our connections. These connections extend beyond friends and followers on popular social media channels, to businesses and, increasingly , to the business of government.

This digital impact is causing a monumental government shift. Boundaries are blurring in many dimensions, not only between IT leaders and their business colleagues, but between digital assets and physical resources, and between enterprises and customers, suppliers and consumers. IT strategy and business strategy are now inseparable.

This shift towards the integration of digital and business presents federal agencies with the opportunity to improve efficiency of operations or better serve their customer base –citizens—by leveraging digital technology.

We already see this intersection in our personal lives. When I work out, I listen to music on an mp3 player, I wear a heart rate meter to coordinate with my treadmill while my wristband activity monitor gathers data. These gadgets allow me to track exercise, better understand my own performance, and push myself to run harder or longer. My personal bests are shared online with my sisters who applaud me and encourage me to keep going. The digital-physical blur is helping me to stay on top of my health. And, according to Cisco, by 2018 there will be 177 million wearable devices globally, growing eight-fold from 22 million in 2013. Imagine this same technology being used to improve military health.

The physical world is coming online as objects, devices and machines acquire more digital intelligence. Anew layer of connected intelligence is emerging that augments the actions of individuals, automates processes, and incorporates digitally empowered machines into our lives, increasing insight into and control over the tangible world.

This digital-physical blur empowers citizens to become better informed and better equipped to influence the ways they experience government services. On the flip side, real-time connections to the needs and desires of citizens allow agencies to act and react with speed and intelligence. The integration of digital tools and connections makes it possible for federal agencies to respond to their customers with greater speed, flexibility and accuracy.

In order to chase these new opportunities, federal agencies must rethink how they engage customers and run their businesses in a digital-physical world. The way people interact with the world around them is changing. Digital technologies offer new decision-making experiences—from selecting a restaurant in a new neighborhood to paying taxes and managing healthcare. The power of these decision spaces is that they give users real insights, not just information. Like in the commercial world, federal agencies must adapt to the newly empowered citizen.

Agencies have already begun using digital-physical systems to improve processes and services to taxpayers: sensors, industrial machines, cameras and other devices are creating the Internet of Things. The data generated by these intelligent devices allows agencies, organizations and citizens to evaluate trends, gain insight and loop these findings into their decision process like never before. It is estimated that more than 50 percent of analytics implementations will make use of event data streams generated from instrumental machines, applications and/or individuals –by 2017.

Government must keep up with citizen expectations for the adoption and use of digital tools.

The challenge becomes re-imagining the end-to-end delivery and experience of those processes and services. Federal agencies have an opportunity to optimize not only the experience of their customers, but to impact their own efficiency. Properly leveraging digital means both the agency and the end-user save valuable time and resources.

How will the digital-physical blur affect your agency? Chances are it will change your use of resources, change the productivity equation in the workplace and open new opportunities. Agencies that properly leverage the strengths of machines alongside the strengths of people will be tomorrow’s leaders in government.

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