Open Gov Partner Approach: Program Offices (Post 1 of 8 in Series)

Motivations: Program Offices are often those folks that are motivated by outputs and outcomes that most directly relate to the bottom line mission areas of an Agency. They are charged with implementing programs that tie into the strategic goals of the organization and are often the closest to the stakeholders. These folks are closest to the pain points in Agency processes and statutory limitations. They know what they need to be successful but often times face barriers in implementation with the integrating offices (OCIO, OPA, OGC, etc…) so they often “go it alone” and do what works for them in order to meet their mission, not focusing on integrating their efforts with the needs of the entire organization. In a perfect world, they would have access to customizable solutions to help them meet their business needs that have already taken into account the hard legal, policy, technical and performance questions.

Approach: Program offices identify a business need, and will fill that gap with the solution that best balances their time, resource, cost and technology limitations. To create these solutions, program offices tend to follow some form of a project management process to design, implement, maintain and improve upon their initiatives, consulting other offices when appropriate.

This approach is no different when programs decide to utilize open government tools. Building a blog, a wiki, or a specialized participation tool requires a project management approach to stand it up, and then program management to maintain and improve upon it. When standing up an open government tool, program offices will be particularly concerned with the following questions:

  • What type of information sharing with the stakeholders will help me to achieve my strategic goals more effectively?
    Will open government tools help my bottom line by making public engagement easier?
  • What type of outreach reaches my stakeholders the most effectively? Do those stakeholders have the technological maturity to transition to a primarily online collaboration environment?
  • What type of program is realistic to maintain given my personnel, budget and time constraints?
  • What tools are available for me to use? Are those tools adequately vetted from a security, privacy and utility perspective?
  • How much ability do I have to execute creative license over the tool to customize it for my needs?
  • Is there any reason why I can’t do what I want to do (internal policy, statute, the law, etc…)?
  • Has an effort like this worked any where else outside my organization or within it?

Partner’s Bottom Line: In order to implement an open government tool that considers the answers to each of these questions, program offices should:

  • Work closely with a team of the legal, technical, policy, and performance subject matter experts;
  • Follow project management discipline in order to manage risks, costs, schedules and resources; and
  • Be provided with a source where Agency best practices and resources can be shared so each program office is not forced to ask these same difficult questions each time a new business need emerges.