How agile and APIs drive state digital services to the next level

Technologies like agile development are fundamentally changing how states do business, says an executive of digital transformation company CA Technologies.

Jake Williams
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Jake Williams Associate Publisher & Director of Strategic Initiatives

Jake Williams is currently the Associate Publisher & Director of Strategic Initiatives for StateScoop, based in Washington, D.C., where h...

In state governments across the country, the way information technology agencies do business is changing.

With monolithic development approaches powered by legacy technology beginning to enter the rearview mirror for state governments, IT leaders are now turning to agile development to transform the way they build new platforms, apps and services.

“[States are] moving away from the monolithic programs and getting back to something much more modular,” Mary Lou Prevost, the vice president of state, local government and and education for CA Technologies, told StateScoop.

Through agile development, IT agencies build apps and platforms in short sprints and deliver releases often, rather than building an entire project over several years. In addition, during that development process, agencies are including application programming interfaces, or APIs, to enable more sharing around open data and other services.

“[APIs] create an opportunity for more public-private sector sharing,” Prevost said. “By using API gateways and breaking down [data] silos, we can become a far more efficient government.”

Data sharing and collaboration across government remains a major challenge, Prevost said. The lack of sharing of data across departments prohibits the growth and development of efficient digital services, especially with social services that reach the citizen.

“I think as you get to the back office, you start to see it’s no longer the department’s data, it’s the state’s data,” Prevost said. “These silos are really an inhibitor to progress.”

With social services in particular, a lack of data sharing can cause great strain on the citizen.

“When you have an individual that’s going in to access the situation of a foster child, they should have at their fingertips, ‘What’s their truancy report? Is there a warrant out for the arrest of the foster parent?’ Prevost said. “They need to have that at their fingertips. That data happens to be held by a lot of different departments.”

By breaking down those silos and channeling the results into digital services, states can look to expand in areas like mobility and build a more inclusive workforce for technologists across generations, she said.

“[Transformation] is opening up an opportunity for more millennials and the exact people they want to attract to create these more modern services,” Prevost said. “They’re going to have cooler stuff to work on, which makes it far more interesting and makes state a little more sexy again.”

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