Solve Federal IT Problems Through Cross-Collaboration

Silhouettes of business people having discussions

39 participants. 17 agencies. 6 months.

Earlier this year, the CIO Council launched the IT Solutions Challenge, an initiative to engage GS 9-13 level rising stars in the IT and IT acquisition community. Participants identify shared challenges, those challenges where you might say to yourself, “if only we could [x], life would be so much easier!” Working together over 6 months, the teams prototype and make recommendations for solutions.

This initiative is an opportunity for the CIO Council to work with IT professionals at all levels within the federal government. Specifically, this allows the CIO Council “to tap into the hands-on experiences of the front lines and find innovative solutions based on their fresh perspectives,” according to the CIO Council’s website. The CIO Council believes that working with the best and brightest in federal IT on government’s toughest problems will lead to innovative solutions that help advance the realm of federal IT and IT acquisition.

The teams work with mentors and subject matter experts to develop solutions. The current cohort consists of teams prototyping solutions in the following areas:

Cross-agency collaboration and interoperability of inter-agency networks

Identify ways to reduce the effort needed to conduct contractor suitability checks across the federal government and accelerate contractor on-boarding

Development, standardization, and implementation of federal IT policies and procedures

Solve inefficiency in government due to a lack of standardization across IT policies and infrastructure

Career development, recruitment and retention of federal IT professionals

Introduce solutions that cultivate a challenging work environment filled with cross-agency opportunities to share knowledge, gain experience, and develop an employee’s skill set

Cloud architecture, application development, and security

Increase knowledge sharing on testing, developing, and implementing emerging technologies across the federal government

IT acquisition data sharing, searching, and analysis

Increase knowledge sharing in IT acquisitions by offering a place for IT professionals to find information regarding best practices in IT acquisition

When attempting to solve problems of this magnitude, it is important to frame the challenge with an aspiration and success criteria. Stephanie Brown, visual facilitator for the Performance Improvement Council at GSA, led the teams through several design-oriented activities to help frame problem statements that have a customer or user-centric approach to the solution.

“All of the teams in the IT Solutions Challenge are cross-collaborative in nature since each of the teams represent multiple agencies,” said Brown. “Because of this, it was important for the teams to think divergently to build understanding about the challenges faced by their specific agencies. We then used several design thinking activities to gather insights from the users in their problem area and to synthesize that information with an open and optimistic mindset. The teams had to both build understanding and shape choices to identify a tangible, cross-agency solution to their challenge. The tools and resources of design thinking were critical in the teams’ creation of problem statements and identification of concepts and solutions.”

You can learn more about the teams and follow their work by checking out their blogs and bios on the CIO Council’s website. The teams are expected to share their solutions and findings this fall.

The IT Solutions Challenge in an initiative that uses cross-collaboration as a tool to solve problems. Cross-collaboration means that agencies are working together and providing multiple perspectives to a particular problem. The synergies among the agencies should foster thinking that will provide the government with the best solutions to the toughest problems.

Do you believe that this is a model that can be replicated in other areas of the government to tackle other issues? If so, share your thoughts below.