Summer is almost here. Time to start planning the vacation road trip.

I’m old school when I plan a trip. I spread out maps to see where I’m going and the entire landscape I’ll be driving through. When I’m driving, I use the GPS in my phone to actually navigate; but for the planning stage, I like to take a step back and see the whole route. That way I can see the terrain I’m going to cover, plan any interesting side trips and even avoid some things that I know from experience are worth avoiding (hitting cities at rush hour, for instance).

A great summer journey takes planning. So does the journey to digital government services. In fact, according to Deloitte, a lack of a strategy is cited as the major barrier to progress for organizations just starting on their digital journey – and continues to bedevil agencies even after they have started.

When CenturyLink works with agencies, we don’t start by jumping in with new technologies and changing workflows or anything like that. We take a step back and look at the whole route to develop a map for the journey.

We ask questions like:

What’s the overarching motivation for this project? This is essentially a vision question. It’s like asking where you’re going for vacation: a quiet mountain cabin or Disneyland? The two trips are very different. We often find that cost cutting is a strong motivator for many agencies. That quickly leads to low hanging fruit like moving some applications into the cloud or managed services to reduce the time you spend managing routine tasks.

On the other hand, Disneyland and the mountains are not completely incompatible. After a week at Disneyland, a couple days in the mountains might sound great to many parents. So, we always talk about more than just cost cutting. Once you free up dollars through a hosting arrangement, other goals can become clearer, such as delivering services to citizens in new ways. We have seen many planning discussions evolve from cost cutting toward real digital transformation.

How will you manage constant evolution? Standing still is not an option. But, once you begin this digital transformation journey, it becomes a never-ending process. Technologies constantly evolve and innovators bring new ideas into the market all the time. You need a strategy for managing that evolution. Managed services can play a role here. CenturyLink is always evaluating new ideas and upgrading the elements in our solutions. We recently introduced Cloud Application Manager, for instance, to help IT manage the complexity of using multiple cloud providers.

What skills do you have, what skills do you need? As your ideas about what you can do evolve, you need an honest assessment of the skills you have in-house – and the skills you don’t have but will need as part of this journey. Imagine getting to that mountain cabin and discovering that the only source of heat is a wood fireplace and you can’t split wood with a broken arm? When you discover a skills gap, you need a strategy for addressing it. You can hire. You can architect around some of the gaps. Or you can partner effectively to fill in the skills you need.

What do you need to secure? We will talk more about security in our next post. But, for the moment, this question is about data and resources. What really matters? That’s an important question because the truth is that you can’t secure everything. Cybersecurity is an arms race between good guys and bad guys. And unfortunately, state and local governments have limited resources. You can spread those resources thinly very quickly if you try to secure every bit in your infrastructure. Some things really are more important than others, and you can ring-fence those things in a variety of ways. Figure out the crown jewels as part of the planning phase and you can gear your project and deployment to most efficiently protect those assets.

These questions alone can easily fill up a few white boards in a large conference room. Yet, they are just the beginning of this journey to digital transformation. This is the equivalent of me spreading out my maps on the kitchen table to plan my route to Disneyland. Understanding the terrain and the key turns will make for a much smoother journey.

And if you’re ready to start mapping out your journey to a digital government future, sign up for an executive strategy session where we will start spreading out the maps to your digital transformation.

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