January 20, 2015

New Accenture Study Identifies Ways to Improve Federal Innovation

Federal workers cite colleagues, new projects as inspiring new ideas

ARLINGTON, Va.; Jan. 20, 2015 New research conducted by Accenture Federal Services and the Government Business Council identifies three steps federal agencies can take to become more innovative: Implement more clearly defined processes with specific targets for innovation, better track performance of new initiatives and consider improving digital tools for collaboration.

A report on the research, “Is Government Making Inroads to Innovation?”, assesses the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of federal defense and civilian agency executives regarding their agencies support of innovation. Based on a survey of more than 300 federal employees, the report identified top agency drivers of federal innovation as reduced costs, improved mission delivery and increased efficiency. Respondents said they are individually motivated to innovate by their commitment to public service (60 percent), desire to improve job satisfaction (49 percent), and clear sense of purpose in their job function (46 percent.).

“When presented with an environment that encourages innovation, federal employees have been able to create a positive impact on their agencies,” said Tom Greiner, who leads Accenture’s federal technology business. “By taking concrete steps to foster increased collaboration and innovation in the federal workplace, agencies will be better equipped to address current and future challenges.”

However, more than half of survey respondents (53 percent) say their agency either has not yet taken concrete steps to encourage innovative thinking or are unaware of steps that may have been taken. A majority of respondents (64 percent) say their department/agency lacks clearly defined processes to develop new ideas, and that their department/agency does not set specific innovation targets (66 percent). Additionally, nearly half of respondents (49 percent) disagree that their department/agency tracks performance of new initiatives after implementation.

Survey respondents are divided over what agencies can do to more effectively facilitate innovation. A majority (48 percent), believe their agency should be making gradual adjustments to become more innovative, but another 42 percent say they believe total overhaul of the current system would be best. Almost half (44 percent) of respondents say their department/agency currently uses existing funding streams to fund innovation initiatives. Only 14 percent say their department/agency creates new funding streams or acquires outside funding to drive innovation.

Despite the challenges, respondents indicated that some agencies are making a noticeable effort to encourage innovative thinking, most commonly by giving employees opportunities to work on independent projects. Survey respondents said they draw inspiration for new, innovative ideas from coworkers (46 percent), private sector companies (43 percent), and other departments or agencies (40 percent).

When agencies do support innovation, the results can be impressive. One example is the Veterans Relationship Management initiative, which aims to transform interactions between veterans and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Using the web-based eBenefits service, veterans can submit claims electronically, check the status of their claim and strengthen personal information protections. According to Performance.gov, the number of eBenefits registered users increased by more than 1 million in 2012 alone.

Another example of federal innovation can be seen in BusinessUSA


a virtual solution launched in 2011 that facilitates the exchange of information between government and businesses. Led by the U.S. Department of Commerce and the Small Business Administration and connected to more than 20 agencies, BusinessUSA helps customers to identify and quickly access information and programs that best meet their needs for such things as starting and growing a business, accessing financing, exporting, promoting investment in the United States, hiring employees, resources for veterans, disaster assistance, and learning about taxes and credits and new healthcare changes.

“Agencies that encourage innovation, tolerate some false starts and create opportunities for employees to collaborate have the best potential to create new efficiencies and improve the quality of services they provide to their customers,” Greiner said.

Accenture Federal Services is a U.S. company, with offices in Arlington, Va., and is a wholly owned subsidiary of Accenture LLP. Accenture’s federal business has served every cabinet-level department and 30 of the largest federal organizations with clients at defense, intelligence, public safety, civilian and military health organizations.

Learn more about Accenture’s work with federal agencies and Delivering Public Service for the Future.

To assess the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of federal defense and civilian executives regarding their agency’s support for innovation, Government Business Council (GBC) surveyed a random sample of online and print subscribers in August 2014.The pool of 334 respondents includes those of GS-11 through Senior Executive Service (SES) grade levels in at least 30 defense and civilian agencies. Survey respondents work largely in program management and technical roles.

About Accenture
Accenture is a global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company, with approximately 319,000 people serving clients in more than 120 countries. Combining unparalleled experience, comprehensive capabilities across all industries and business functions, and extensive research on the world’s most successful companies, Accenture collaborates with clients to help them become high-performance businesses and governments. The company generated net revenues of US$30.0 billion for the fiscal year ended Aug. 31, 2014. Its home page is www.accenture.com.

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Joanne Veto
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