The General Services Administration serves many functions in the federal government, including managing federal property, providing employees with travel resources and managing government acquisition vehicles.

And, according to GSA Chief Information Officer David Shive, the agency’s size and diversity of mission makes it an ideal place to test new and innovative forms of information technology that can then be pushed to the rest of the federal government.

“We will take a look at some business problem that needs to be solved, find some enabling technology, try it out, and then scale it across GSA if we find some good outcomes, and then find the acquisition vehicles or bodies of work for our Technology Transformation Service or rewrite some of the policy to accommodate that new technology,” Shive said at the March 4 ServiceNow Summit.

“We’ve had some pretty decent outcomes from doing so.”

According to Shive, GSA relies on an IT model called DevSecOpps, which means that systems and programs are developed on a rapid, rolling basis, while ensuring that security is introduced at every level of development.

“We do incremental funding and incremental delivery. The outcome of that is a continuous integration of new capability as the business of GSA changes,” said Shive.

“We don’t just do that internally; that’s how we operate when we’re doing business with our federal partners, as well.”

The model has also enabled GSA to embody one of the primary goals of recent modernization efforts: improve agency operations while cutting back on spending.

According to Shive, his organization’s budget has faced significant cuts in recent years, but has still been able to prioritize funds in a way that creates improvements in employee experience.

“My budget over the last five years has shrunk by 17.8 percent per annum. That’s not a small amount of money. The employee satisfaction of those who use this technology has gone up 20 percent in that same timeframe. So we’re spending dramatically less money and getting much better outcomes,” said Shive, adding that GSA is seven standard deviations ahead of the rest of government in cloud movement.

That progress has also meant retraining employees whose jobs have been rendered obsolete by technological progress.

“You can’t transform an organization without transforming people, otherwise you would leave them behind, and as a government executive that’s something you never want to do,” said Shive.

“We turned people who were swapping tapes on backup servers into solution engineers. We did that time and time again, gave people the skills necessary so that they can operate in this new way.”

Jessie Bur covers federal IT and management.

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