Perspectives

2015 Civilian Industry Outlook

Interview with Dan Helfrich

Dan Helfrich, Deloitte Consulting LLP’s Federal Civilian Sector Leader, envisions a 21st century government with a modern, digitally focused customer experience for its citizens and business operations. He sees this modern approach to government built on investments in its people who help drive innovation and keep government evolving in order to better serve its citizens and interact with its many agencies and stakeholders.

What are some of the biggest opportunities for the federal government’s Civilian Sector in the coming year?

The Civilian Sector is the part of government with which most citizens and businesses interact–getting your passport or Social Security card, filing your taxes, mailing a package with the USPS, reserving and riding an Amtrak train. All of this front-office work requires a streamlined, efficient, and cost-effective back office. Think about that popular neighborhood restaurant on a busy Saturday night–if the back office or the kitchen isn’t a well-oiled, efficient machine, the customer is going to be paying for a not-so-wonderful experience.

For government, there is an opportunity to improve its back-office operations by moving to a shared-services model. In order to effectively move to this shared-services model, the government should focus on both the quality of the work and the cost efficiency. And there are a number of examples of civilian government agencies who are pushing the envelope—from the Department of Commerce and its back-office services, to the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s financial management systems and transaction processing and several government Shared Services Providers (SSPs) who are expanding operations to serve more government customers in the future.

By improving how its back-end business operates, the government can more effectively serve its citizens in terms of the quality of services and the costs associated with them. It is exciting to be a part of this opportunity to help transform how government operates.

What trends do you see disrupting ‘business as usual’ in 2015?

Much of our government is experiencing a big shift from a one-way approach to serving its customers to a two-way, more interactive government. This shift is happening in part because of consumer demand for all things mobile, and it can disrupt how government traditionally serves, communicates, and interacts with its customers.

This demand for a more mobile-first government only appears to be growing. There is momentum within government, such as the General Services Administration’s 18F, as well as other efforts to help the government better meet the digital age. This mobile-first demand can also mean a more interactive approach to government services. Advances in technology are going to continue to reshape how government and citizens interact – there are examples of these disruptive trends through Gov2020, a Deloitte take on the future of government.

And as a younger, more tech-savvy population enters the federal workforce and takes on more leadership roles, one could expect greater adoption of digital tools to boost engagement and service.

​What are some innovative actions federal organizations could adopt to help meet mission objectives more efficiently?

When thinking about innovation, it is easy to jump to a discussion about technology, but one area that may need more investment and innovation is in its human capital programs. Innovation–and associated investment–in human capital programs can encourage employees to take intelligent risks, push the boundaries of the status quo, and drive organizational performance.

So how do you do it? Leadership development is one way. It was a main focus of the most recent Best Places to Work in the Federal Government® rankings performed by the Partnership for Public Service. Another option is a new approach to employee performance management and/or new models for rotating high performers to provide them with more diverse professional experiences. It’s important to never forget that the people in and around government are needed to bring the innovative actions and the innovative technology to life.

And lastly, there is also the idea of a government entity making bold and multi-year outcome goals to drive accountability and change on an important issue. For example, the State of Oklahoma has identified goals across five areas that range from increasing the median household income by almost $6,000, to increasing the number of career readiness certifications by nearly 10 percent. Each goal is backed by clear metrics and a plan forward, which drives program accountability and success.

A similar effort to reach a bold goal is underway at the federal level to end veteran homelessness by 2015. This goal was set in 2009 and since that time, there has been a 30 percent reduction. By articulating a big, tangible goal, it sends a message of importance that gives stakeholders something to rally around. Government should set more of these goals to incent employees and citizens as well as partners in the private sector to get involved and help drive change.

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