Having Tom Cochran, the White House Digital Leader during the Obama presidency, kick off the first annual Etion Digital Transformation Congress was an early indication that this was not going to be just another digital talk shop.
Cochran’s talk was entitled “Yes we did. Yes we can”, throughout which he drove home the message that by reducing levels of bureaucracy, efficiencies are significantly improved. “Governing is difficult, because you have processes stopping you from doing things. Bureaucracy loves forms. I had to fill in a form to move my desk from one side of my office to the other side.” By reducing the number of processes, which Cochran explains, is prolific in governments and large organisations, results are more easily and readily produced.
Cochran spoke bluntly about the digital revolution that had to happen in the Oval office. “When President Obama was inaugurated and moved into the White House, the technology was outdated by eight years. Desktop computers with disk drives, no Wi-Fi, no bluetooth, and an email system that didn’t work 25% of the time,” says Cochran. It was up to Cochran to figure a way to digitally transform these systems, without impacting the work of President Obama. The philosophy of “Yes we can” was more than just a campaign slogan. Through reducing the levels of bureaucracy and embracing digital transformation, this was turned into “Yes we did”.
The Obama administration firmly believed that government needed to be operated in three ways: through transparency, participation of those being governed, and through collaboration. This brought about a system through which the American people could change legislation. The First Amendment of the United States Constitution is the right to be heard, so under the Obama administration a digital system was developed, named “We The People”.
Through this system, ordinary Americans could voice their opinions and views and actually make a change to legislation. If a petition received 100 000 signatures, it would be taken to the Oval Office, and would have to be investigated and a response given. One of the funnier petitions was for the United States to build a Death Star, as depicted in Star Wars. As this petition reached the 100 000 signature mark, the US Government was obligated to investigate and respond. For reasons of time and cost, this was obviously not brought into legislation, but a response, aptly entitled: ‘This isn’t the answer you were looking for’ was released. This is evidence of the dedication the US has to the people. By digitally transforming the White House, the American people could have a greater say in government, and Cochran believes that every government should be doing this, to allow greater participation in Democracy.
Teddy Daka, Group CEO of Etion Limited, took the conversation forward, by speaking about the digitisation of legacy systems, and why this is important. Daka used the example of a public sector organisation where the focus was to digitise legacy documents. Although necessary, the exercise proved costly, and created a backlog, because new documents were coming in at the same time. It’s easy for companies or governments to scrap such upgrades as result, but this could come at greater costs further down the line.
Research that shows 71% of IT budgets are spent on this exact problem. Daka’s advice was not to scrap these systems, especially if huge investments have already gone into them. Instead, much like Cochran, he spoke about having a strategic vision in place before you start the project, and then investing in the right sort of technology to ultimately reduce costs and down-time further down the road.
This is one of Etion’s specialities. Through the digital value chain, Daka and his team are able to assist in a seamless integration advising customers on the steps required. Daka explained that through the newly developed: Create, Digitise, Connect, and Secure digital value chain, legacy systems are brought into the future with the lowest pain possible.
The themes of the day that stood out were simplification, and oi creating a user experience that will enhance the reputation of one’s company. Cochran cleverly summarised this by showing a picture of his two young children, and asking “Is your business ready for them to be your customers?” If not, you need to ensure that by the time they are indeed your customers, you have strategically planned and implemented systems which are easy to update and which keep them happy.