Written by Roberto Calderon

Technology has been a big game changer in people’s lifestyle. It just not moves the world around a cycle of industrialization and mass production of new items and services, but also constantly have an impact on how people make decisions, get information, seek entertainment, and work. Within the past 30 years, the world has been introduced to several new inventions that were considered sci-fi myths before. Just by looking back to the early 90s, when there was no smartphones, no cloud technology, no house-available ultra-high speed internet, no flat screen monitors, and definitely no platforms for document sharing and live editing; it can be concluded that previous generations saw and performed work in a different way. It is, indeed, thanks to all these new technologies that people nowadays have alternatives to perform work tasks at a faster pace and with less utilization of both human and material resources, which ultimately result in cost savings for organizations.

It is crucial for businesses, in any type of industry, to keep up with technological advancements if they do want to survive the demands of customers and stakeholders. For instance, while 25 years ago having a website was sought as something very innovative and new, nowadays it is the standard for any organization which wants to attract new customers and provide information about the company itself as well as products and services provided. The same idea of having “standards of technology” also transfers to other expected technology stakeholders, employees, clients, and the general public assume organizations will provide or keep up with. Government is not an exception. After all, Federal agencies do have a mission and if they fail to take the modernization train, they will be at risk of not delivering their services as they would be expected nowadays. Therefore, the Federal government has been moving along to present projects and initiatives towards modernization in their overall infrastructure and best practices that would include new technologies. In this article, two of these initiatives will be highlighted: General Services Administration’s Centers of Excellence and Federal Electronic Records Modernization Initiative (FERMI).

General Services Administration (GSA) Centers of ExcellenceThe creation of GSA Centers of Excellence (CoEs) is the result of a need of updating the overall IT systems and infrastructure of Federal agencies. Despite being funded enough through each yearly budget, Federal workforce has stated that their IT systems are outdated. There has been an inheritance of decades-old IT infrastructure which perform vital functions for the agencies’ mission, which has absorbed much of the assigned budget for IT systems just to keep them operational, leaving little room for modernization. This issue is believed to have its roots in fragmented management systems, which leads to each agency component controlling their own IT systems. This issue was supported by the State of Federal Information Technology (SOFIT) report, released by the federal Chief Information Office Council (CIOC).

The first initiative towards the creation of the GSA CoEs started from the Office of American Innovation, which was formed to make recommendations to the President on policies and plans that enhance Federal operations and services, improve the quality of life for Americans, and spur job creation. The end result and final recommendation was the creation of the Centers of Excellence.

Five Functional Areas of TransformationThe mission statement of the CoEs is to “accelerate IT modernization to improve the citizen experience, improve outcomes, and reduce legacy IT spending across the government.” Knowing the need and mission of the Centers of Excellence, the next step towards initiative was the establishment of functional areas that work on five distinct but interconnected areas of transformation:

  • Cloud of Adoption analyzes current systems and applications to provide recommendations for planning cloud migration. Within the services, they offer:
    • Portfolio/Architecture Analysis
    • Application and System Analysis
    • Cloud Migration Planning
    • Solution Architecture Support
    • Cloud Governance Implementation
    • Cloud Security Assessment
    • FedRAMP advancement
  • Contact Center helps improve contact center delivery services and customer interactions. Within their services, they offer:
    • Workflow Documentation Support
    • Future State Visioning Support
    • Tailored Best Practice Research
    • knowledge Management Strategy Development
    • Contact Center Maturity Assessment
  • Customer Experience work to develop a better understating of customer needs and help translate those findings into actions. Within their services, they offer:
    • Agency Delivery Models
    • Application of Human Centered Design
    • Customer Experience Strategy
    • Customer Journey Mapping
    • Stakeholder and Customer Interviews
  • Data Analytics help make more efficient use of data management, analysis, and reporting capabilities. Within their services, they offer:
    • Data Driven Process Implementation
    • Metric Definition and Measurement
    • Data Analysis and Reporting
    • Interactive Dashboard Creation
    • Continuous Process Improvement
    • Embedding Mechanisms for Rapid Feedback and Analysis
  • Infrastructure Optimization assist in optimizing data centers and reducing infrastructure costs. Within their services, they offer:
    • Architecture Assessments
    • Network Consolidation
    • Business Models (co-locations)
    • Data Center Consolidation
    • Optimization Planning

Federal Electronic Records Modernization Initiative (FERMI) This initiative comes from the efforts of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) to provide a government-wide, cost-effective, modern, standardized, and interoperable set of records management solutions and services to Federal agencies. In august 2012, the Archivist of the United States and the acting director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released the Managing Government Records Directive. The two goals of the directive were:

  • Federal Agencies will require electronic recordkeeping to ensure efficiency, accountability, and transparency.
  • Agencies are required to demonstrate compliance with Federal records management status and regulations.

In addition, the Directive states that by the end of 2019, Federal agencies will manage all permanent electronic records in an electronic format. The Directive encourages NARA, stakeholders, and agencies to automate records management. Therefore, in September 19, 2014, the Office of the Chief Records Office for the U.S Government published the Automated Electronic Records Management Report/Plan. This document is divided into two sections. Section I is the Report that identifies suitable approaches for Federal agencies to pursue when automating electronic records management (ERM) and discusses the benefits, risks, and outcomes of these approaches. Section II is the Plan, which describes a framework to assist agencies to reach the objectives and states activities that will help NARA, stakeholders, and agencies to implement ERM.

Although NARA does not mandate any tool in particular for the automation of records management, NARA does work with the community to identify and share information about tools that support ERM, and provide information on how agencies can achieve compliance. It is important to note that, scanned images is a priority electronics records format identified by NARA and partner agencies as part of the Electronic Records Management initiative. For more information about transfer requirements for scanned images of textual records, please visit the following link: https://www.aphis.usda.gov/library/records/downloads/imagerecords.pdf . Moreover, this full Requirement Spreadsheet gives all requirements for each phase of the lifecycle of electronic record management

To conclude, it is important to reiterate that modernization of technology is an ongoing trend in Government. Both GSA’s Centers of Excellence and FERMI support this trend, as the Government has been moving towards using new technologies to help support its agencies’ missions as well as having a better use of budget towards modernization.



Roberto Calderon is an associate consultant at The Center for Organizational Excellence, Inc., a management consulting firm based out of Rockville, MD specializing in organizational effectiveness, human capital, data management and information technology solutions. He has authored numerous insights on topics such as data standards and technology audits.