hurdles (By Suzanne Tucker/


When digital service teams hit innovation hurdles

What: “Digital Service Teams: Challenges and Recommendations for Government,” a report from the IBM Center for The Business of Government.

Why: The revamp of the website led to a shift toward “IT start-ups” within federal agencies that rapidly deliver services using commercially developed tools and processes.  This report details the lessons learned to date.

Findings: In the United States, three forms of digital service teams have taken shape: centralized teams such as the U.S. Digital Service; enterprise teams that can provide digital development and consulting services for other federal agencies like the General Services Administration’s 18F; and agency-level teams such as the Digital Service at the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Defense Digital Service.

The report finds six common challenges of creating and maintaining a digital service team:

  1. Overcoming agencies’ cultural reluctance to agile development.
  2. Attracting top IT talent from outside the government or from other local and state government agencies, civic hacking teams, non-profits or former contractors.
  3. Creating and maintaining a start-up culture within government.
  4. Applying agile methods to the acquisition process and adopting an “open-by-default” approach to project management.
  5. Finding long-term funding to support IT talent and meaningful digital transformation.
  6. Addressing whether new innovations should be built in-house or purchased from the private sector.

Agencies considering setting up digital service teams should understand that digital transformation requires a holistic and strategic approach that includes innovation in acquisition, staffing and leadership.  

Read the full paper here.

About the Author

Sara Friedman is a reporter/producer for GCN, covering cloud, cybersecurity and a wide range of other public-sector IT topics.

Before joining GCN, Friedman was a reporter for Gambling Compliance, where she covered state issues related to casinos, lotteries and fantasy sports. She has also written for Communications Daily and Washington Internet Daily on state telecom and cloud computing. Friedman is a graduate of Ithaca College, where she studied journalism, politics and international communications.

Friedman can be contacted at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @SaraEFriedman.

Click here for previous articles by Friedman.

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