Blog | 04.14.20

State and Local Government Agencies are Looking to the Future with Current IT Spend

Eventually, the COVID-19 outbreak will subside and things will get back to “normal” in the public sector. But that does not mean that telework will end, halted programs will automatically restart and modernization projects will resume as if nothing ever happened. In fact, state and local government leaders made it very clear on a recent Government Technology/e.Republic webinar that “normal” government operations are going to look very different than they did at the start of 2020. They may actually look a lot like they do now.

According to the state, city and county leaders who joined the discussion, it is quite possible that much of the workforce will shift to permanent telework. The COVID-19 crisis proved that employees could remain productive and services could successfully be delivered from afar – with the right IT architecture in place to support the increased online traffic.

Of course, nearly every public sector agency (and even many private sector companies) experienced some hiccups in the first few weeks after mass telework began. Some realized that they didn’t have enough computer equipment for all employees, or that the equipment they did have was too outdated to run many of the secure applications needed to conduct government business remotely. Then there were basic network capacity constraints, VPN connection issue and delays in citizen communications. But this is the first time that government has gone digital in its entirety, and it’s going to take some time to get the back-end IT systems updated and front-line hardware/software configured and secured.

That’s exactly why agencies have already started white-boarding both short-and long-term technology needs and implementing revised spending plans. They can’t wait a few more weeks to see what happens with COVID-19 to start modernizing government IT systems to “new normal” standards, and they certainly can’t wait until the new fiscal year budget kicks in on July 1. Beyond ensuring continuity of finance, procurement and other administrative functions, these IT systems are the key to delivering citizen services online and sustaining essential operations for the duration of this crisis – and, quite possibly, forever. Remember, the public sector also funds schools, welfare programs and even healthcare, and technology plays a central role in these operations.

Agencies are also evaluating and amending emergency response plans based on the learnings from the COVID-19 outbreak. Most are expanding technology utilization recommendations and requirements, and subsequently taking proactive procurement actions to ensure resources are available should this outbreak linger/resurge, or a different type of disaster demands an acute response.

What does all of this mean for suppliers?

According to the e.Republic team and our agency contacts:

  • Expect an uptick in near-term solicitations for hardware and software that can securely facilitate remote work, including laptops, tablets and collaboration tools, as well as large-scale cybersecurity systems, expanded VPN capacity and even networking services. If you haven’t signed up for a daily bid notification service, we recommend you do so now. You can learn about Periscope S2G’s service offerings or sign up for a free account here.
  • Be ready to deliver IT capabilities “as-a-service” versus strictly on premise.
  • Don’t be surprised if some existing projects are deprioritized or cancelled altogether. Funding is going to be re-allocated to the new modernization priorities as well as solutions that aid with cybersecurity and transparency. Be flexible and demonstrate how you can adapt to help customers drive progress.
  • Agencies will not be very receptive to “new” technologies. They made it very clear on the webinar that they are not interested in hearing about conceptual solutions or breakthrough systems/platforms. This isn’t the time to test new things as they can’t afford any more operational disruptions. Plus, budgets and resources are already strained, so they must be confident that anything they deploy from this point forward is going to work as promised. Ideally, they want solutions that have been proven in the public sector. But in situations where they need to expand their sourcing for a system that’s brand new to government in order to meet requirements, they are going to expect suppliers to demonstrate that the hardware/software/service has worked on a similar scale in the private sector. They need to be sure it can accommodate their high volume of users, facilitate their unique applications and meet government’s strict security standards.
  • Plan for more agile procurements. Even as the COVID-19 curve flattens, there is going to be a sharp learning curve when it comes to defining the right government policies, systems and services. What might be sufficient now could quickly change a month from now – and the month after that. Even the best predictive models are just best guesses based on historical trends. There continuous improvements are always being made in terms of technology utilization, the rate at which changes are made – and the extremity of those changes – will likely increase. Agile procurement allows for those fast adjustments. Suppliers who remain flexible will remain valuable.