North Carolina seeks to fail ‘quickly and inexpensively,’ official says

Of the three components in the oft-cited “people, processes and technology” trio, “people” is the most important and most challenging for an organization to master, according to Glenn Poplawski, North Carolina’s chief solutions officer.

In a recent video interview from the Red Hat Government Symposium with StateScoop, Poplawski explains that while it may be challenging route, cultural change is the best way to enact “digital transformation” efforts.

In North Carolina, he says, the state’s Department of Information Technology is striving for a culture that encourages lightweight and flexible planning. Failure doesn’t have to be a bad word, he says.

“You want to make sure the staff understand you can learn through failure and we can also move forward faster through experimentation,” he says. “Some of the things we’re looking at also is failing quickly and inexpensively, incorporating techniques such as proof of concepts, proof of technologies, as well as some of the agile and devops methodologies.”

The state government’s Innovation Center in Raleigh, he says, is an example of the experimental mindset he wants staff to adapt. There, officials can invite vendors to demonstrate their technologies, a risk-free way for agencies to test products without being first hampered by a lengthy procurement process.

“[We’re] taking a look at certain technology domains, solutions and then testing out those capabilities to find is there a fit or not?” Poplawski says of the Innovation Center. “And in some cases we don’t find a fit, but the key aspect is we’re learning from it as we go along. That’s what we kind of want to imbue in terms of our staff: ‘Hey, what we want you to do is start to learn how these capabilities and testing capabilities and proof of concepts can help you move forward and learn how to achieve those better outcomes for the citizens going forward.’”

Improving communication and encouraging staff to think about the customer’s point of view are also key goals amid the state’s cultural shift, he says.

“One of the things we’re doing is implementing training — customer journey training — for as many as our staff as possible, so they can see: ‘I’m working on this server, but it actually impacts social services to our citizens.’ So they know that by taking that customer’s journey in terms of using that service going forward.”

Poplawski on “open transforms”:

“‘Open transforms’ really means enabling all our staff and our partners, inviting and welcoming them to really present ideas to move us forward in terms of achieving better outcomes for our customers.

Poplawski on open source:

“Our digital services team is one of the best uses of open source technologies and methodologies thus far. They’ve been using open source technologies and methodologies since they moved to the cloud several years ago with our … website platform.”

Poplawski on best practices for DevSecOps:

“A key aspect of that is automated testing. We’ve had automated testing capabilities in the state since about 2007, so we’re moving to adopt those more through the teams.”

These videos were filmed at the Red Hat Government Symposium, produced by FedScoop, on November 12, 2019.