Federal CIO Suzette Kent on Tools and Techniques for the New Way of Work

Suzette Kent, who has served because the Trump administration’s federal chief records officer seeing that February 2018, is a veteran of business transformation efforts at non-public agencies along with EY, J.P. Morgan and Accenture. but like each person else, she’s by no means confronted anything pretty like handling thru an epidemic. In Kent’s case, that entails scrambling to ensure federal organizations have the gear and structures in location to manage in a time of “most telework.”

Kent spoke with government government Editor in chief Tom Shoop currently approximately her efforts and her universal technique to managing federal IT modernization. Excerpts from that interview comply with.

How are you adjusting to the brand new manner of labor?

specially within the beginning, what turned into especially tough was the work cycle turned into nearly non-stop, specifically for a number of the companies that had to installation some of the healing skills in just days. So it was literally around the clock, and we were setting out unique portions of steering that had to be mentioned and reviewed, additionally on that 24-hour cycle. It turned into incredibly intense. I met with the CIOs and CISOs every unmarried day, after which one-on-one for my part, extra than that. We had been simply moving so quickly.

We needed to observe things to say, how can we create new and special obstacles, especially whilst human beings are running from their living space? And what does that appear like? and how do you backpedal from answering the cellphone 24/7? I’m no longer joking: The smartphone would ring at 5 inside the morning, the phone might ring at 2 at night time. while we noticed that the road changed into longer, we needed to get to something sustainable, in order that we had folks who have been clean. And that’s where we looked at extraordinary sorts of shift paintings. And we had to collaborate differently because we had been shifting so quick.

human beings take care of trade very in another way. we all understand that, right? That’s a massive part of the whole lot you do, whether it’s technology or commercial enterprise processes. authorities has a very properly-defined, albeit occasionally rigid, procedure. and even in this, we tried to follow all the ones matters as lots as possible, but just make them cross faster. So every now and then humans had 30 minutes to review some thing, now not 3 weeks. That created different forms of strain. the general public rose to the occasion. some human beings were challenged via it.

one among the biggest positives, although, is that we found out that a lot of the gear that we invested in, and those talents, will paintings. They help us achieve undertaking continuity and we can use them at scale for extended intervals of time. Now we’ve the evidence. We understand that we can do it, we recognize that the body of workers can do it, we recognize the talents can carry out inside the manner we expected. That’s going to offer us a few capacity going forward to reconsider what the work day seems like, and what that would suggest from a time and place standpoint.

What are a number of the gear which might be paying off now?

We had a huge push to move to cloud e mail. during the last two years, businesses went from the low 30s to the general public of them there. So we have been capable of scale and continue to communicate. All groups did no longer have increased capacity to use collaboration gear across their businesses.

We’ve pointed out digital and digital abilities, whether that’s digital signatures and relaxed messaging for sure things, or bigger in digital offerings to citizens. , you can observe five or six of the businesses where moving away from paper-primarily based tactics to digital has been a aim. however it’s possibly one of the regions where we were moving at an good enough tempo, however no longer aggressively. And this created an opportunity where we want to be more competitive.

We had to create matters we did now not have before, and we have been capable of use cutting-edge, scalable, configurable platforms.

Has this enjoy changed the manner you act as a supervisor?

I wouldn’t say it has modified my style. In among the things i have finished in my profession, I’ve been involved in responses to matters, whether it was the financial crisis, a storm, a storm. My overall fashion doesn’t change, but while crises occur, you need to do things otherwise. There are a few methods that I revert back to, like speaking rapid even in case you don’t have all of the facts. That’s kind of hard for some authorities folks.

you may’t agree with that the whole lot’s going to get thru the process in exactly the same way, shape or form. You move to a unique frequency and intensity of communication.

My fashion may be very outcome-based—and possibly people might say impatient—but I assume that’s a great aspect. I suggest impatience in an awesome way. I’m usually asking, “are we able to cross quicker? What else could we be doing?” I continually try and be inclusive, meaning anyone who has a stake in the sport is on the table and a part of the communique.

We need to be extra competitive in figuring out what things may be executed in a virtual way.
Even whilst you’re constructing and growing a product—and once I say product, it is able to be a policy, a bit of steering, an method to a mission, some thing—while it is going through a single stovepipe and you come out with a product and you haven’t talked to the alternative human beings involved, sometimes you miss that possibility to make it better. That’s really vital in a disaster scenario while you’re constructing—whether it’s generation or business approaches—that don’t exist nowadays and are for a very specific cause.

What have you ever found out from the shift to maximum telework across authorities?

within the technology network, humans are very comfy with the tools, manifestly. They take their pc with them anywhere, and lots of them select digital activity versus paper-based totally. That isn’t always the mode of conduct of all of us inside the federal government. And so, we saw people asking to take printers home. We noticed folks who didn’t take their system home.

We saw people—despite the fact that their organisation had extraordinary collaboration equipment—they’d by no means clearly used any of them, because they have been at ease in a face-to-face, bodily meeting putting with paper agendas and those kinds of matters. Switching to this environment didn’t provide everyone a choice. To hold your work you needed to adopt and emerge as acquainted with gear. You had to do your paintings digitally.

may want to it’s greater elegant? Are there matters we can maintain to do to improve? Of path. however that become a massive studying point.

We had numerous individuals who had been very secure switching to telework. there are many who weren’t. They neglected the interaction with their friends, they favored the talk and people varieties of interactions—in particular in coverage improvement. people have had to re-evaluate how they get paintings executed, and we’ve needed to be flexible with that.

What I’m frankly excited about, speculating for the future, is that because we’ve been capable of maintain operations in so many situations, I absolutely hope that it we could corporations reflect onconsideration on what sort of footprint is vital. As we consider the bodily setup of our federal homes—in a number of them it is able to take more time to create distancing alternatives or to reconfigure to make safe offices—some organizations are considering shift paintings.

How would you characterize the status of IT modernization in authorities in fashionable right now?

typically, the matters that have been underneath IT modernization had been targeted on digital tactics, on moving off of legacy structures, on transferring to commercially to be had software program answers. inside the cybersecurity region, we’ve got a variety of metrics which might be a part of the President’s management schedule which might be tracked every zone and said on round tool security—each your telephone and your pc. I’m very glad those were in our consciousness location, due to the fact study what we’re doing now. the ones have grow to be human beings’s number one mode of work.

We noticed individuals—despite the fact that their agency had tremendous collaboration equipment—they’d in no way definitely used any of them.
So the efforts are persevering with. You’ve seen the things which have come through the era Modernization Fund, however that’s a small piece of some things that gets plenty of attention. in case you observe every corporation’s roadmap and their personal strategic plan, there’s significant paintings taking place—getting legacy programs moved, getting the

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