Initiative aims to reform government services around life events
Smart Lean concept would reorganize IT from the outside in.
A cadre of former federal information technology leaders has a novel plan for how to reduce billions of dollars in overlapping information technology services governmentwide: They want to look at the recipients of those services rather than at the agencies where they originate.
The project, known as Smart Lean Government, is designed to whittle down the government’s interaction with citizens to a single point for each “life event” such as giving birth, going to college, buying a home, starting a business and dying.
The life event would become the province of a single IT system and a single “community of service” in government, saving money and improving service delivery for all levels of government, advocates said. If implemented, the plan would loop in state, local and tribal governments too.
“There have been well over a decade of attempts to consolidate redundancy in government IT and once again we’re seeing that push to consolidate,” said Mark Forman, the first administrator of the Office of E-Government and Information Technology under President George W. Bush and a member of the Smart Lean Advisory Council. “What we’ve learned is that redundancy in IT is a direct reflection of redundancy in government programs.”
The Smart Lean project is sponsored by the American Council for Technology and Industry Advisory Council, a government IT industry group, and the National Association of Public Administration. Volunteer members of an independent Smart Lean Advisory Council have pitched the Smart Lean concept to Office of Management and Budget officials and received positive feedback, they said, but no official endorsements or commitments.
“Every time there’s been a budget reduction, the path of least resistance has been to use a sort of salami slicer across-the-board,” Forman added. “We need a smart way to rationalize the costs, the benefits, the data and the people associated with these programs and that’s what this architecture gives you.”
The advisory council is seeking funding for a pilot to show how Smart Lean could root out duplication in services to a particular community such as veterans or health care recipients. The pilot also would look at barriers to consolidation at each level, such as vested interests and congressional mandates, according to a proposal.
Smart Lean doesn’t necessarily aim to reorganize government agencies and responsibilities, advisory council members said, but to reorganize workflows. That virtual reorganization might lead to a physical reorganization, though, they added.
Advisory council members distinguished Smart Lean from programs such as President Obama’s Business.USA.gov website, a single government interface for small business entrepreneurs. Business.USA.gov essentially wraps the data being collected and services being provided by various agencies into a single point on the front end, they said, while Smart Lean aims to actually reform that back end collection and service system.
In addition, federal Chief Information Officer Steven VanRoekel’s Shared Services Strategy is more narrowly focused on reducing duplication within agencies compared to Smart Lean’s focus on duplication governmentwide and at the state and local level.
Correction: This article has been updated to correctly describe the role of the Smart Lean Advisory Council.