EPA launches 18F-like pilots on digital services

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The government IT maven who helped found the General Services Administration’s much-hyped digital services shop has been working to establish a similar group at his new agency.

Two months ago, former 18F Executive Director Greg Godbout started launching pilots that inject digital services into the Environmental Protection Agency, and he’ll be introducing the projects to agency staff in the next few weeks.

greg-godbout
Greg Godbout

At his EPA office, Godbout told FedScoop that the pilots aim to help the agency’s IT department serve program offices better.

“If I’m dealing with a program office and they’re mostly scientists or biologists, I wouldn’t expect them to know the latest and greatest of acquisition strategies and IT,” said Godbout, who has served as EPA’s chief technology officer since April. “We should provide more of a black-box service to get them where they need to be.”

The team is piloting services in five areas:

1. Business/product delivery consulting. These are people who would be at “the front lines,” helping programs figure out how to best take advantage of resources, like hiring, procurement and existing shared services.

2. Architecture consulting. These advisers would help offices collaborate as they’re building systems. “If we make some common rules, we should get a lot of reuse and efficiency out of it,” Godbout said.

3. Pilot and data visualization. Made up of software developers and user experience practitioners, these teams would help pilot smaller ideas that offices could expand on. “That team’s about getting started and learning,” he said.

4. Agile acquisitions consultants and support for agile acquisitions vehicles. He said this service is an effort to replicate the agile acquisition vehicle Godbout helped set up at 18F. As part of this offering, consultants would guide program offices buying through that vehicle. “They’re experts in letting you buy at the speed of need,” Godbout said.

5. A fellowship program. Godbout wants to create a Presidential Innovation Fellows-like program that would imbed technologists into the agency’s program offices for two-year sprints. A former PIF himself, Godbout said this point “may be the most important.”

The digital services program initially would involve more than 30 people, about 60 percent existing government staff and 40 percent new, Godbout said. He also said he’s getting some help from his former agency as he stands this new program up.

“With slight twists and chances, it’s building an 18F inside another agency and working it from within,” he said.

Officials elsewhere in government have taken notice, he said. Godbout has been in talks with leaders at other agencies (he wouldn’t divulge which ones) to start their own digital services programs.

As he’s launched the pilots, Godbout said that sometimes people are hesitant to try out new ways of doing things. But Godbout said he learned at 18F that people can warm to new ideas.

“It gets easier,” he said.

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18F, Agencies, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), General Services Administration (GSA)
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