This page describes how environmental programs can practice the principles of E-Enterprise and the Digital Strategy to modernize their business processes, workflows, and information systems. It documents expectations from the E-Enterprise Leadership Council (EELC) that can help modernization teams establish fully collaborative projects that reimagine program operations, deliver better customer experiences, and improve environmental results.
The E-Enterprise Blueprint established a set of fundamental principles to guide modernization and continuous improvement of environmental programs. In 2019, the EELC adopted a Digital Strategy that sets strategic principles and actions to help agencies coordinate their technology investments and transform environmental protection. Now, it is time to put those principles and actions into practice and use the EELC’s leadership to support more responsive environmental programs and systems.
All environmental programs rely heavily on IT systems for collecting, managing, analyzing and sharing information. These systems enable the business processes and workflows that power the programs. Making mid-stream changes to those processes, workflows, and systems is extremely challenging. However, as many systems near the end of their lifecycle, programs have a rare but invaluable opportunity to rethink past practice, reimagine what’s possible, and introduce truly transformative change.
When programs are poised to modernize or replace major IT systems, the EELC can commit the leadership and resources necessary to apply the Digital Strategy and devise more flexible, adaptive approaches that support the needs of changing programs. States, tribes, and EPA can collaboratively reimagine our business and how we collect, manage, share, and use data to run our programs. The EELC can provide the leadership, inspiration, and direction to think and work differently.
Committing to a New Approach to Modernizing Environmental Programs and Systems
The EELC calls on program modernization teams to embrace a set of shared expectations that define characteristics of a transparent, structured, and fully collaborative approach to modernization. These expectations can help states, tribes, and EPA define their program’s emerging needs; reimagine operations, processes, and workflows; and design a new system infrastructure that best meets the business needs of today and lays the groundwork for the future.
For an example of how one modernization team is applying these shared expectations, visit the project page for the Safe Drinking Water Information System Modernization.
The EELC’s shared expectations include the following:
- Conduct the Program/System Modernization Under the Auspices of E-Enterprise: E-Enterprise can partner with program and system modernizations to ensure diverse participation, deploy and coordinate resources, and maintain collaboration and accountability among participants.
- Make User-Centered Design the Top Priority: Program and system modernization efforts must make user engagement the centerpiece of the process. States, tribes, EPA, the regulated community, and the public are all customers of the programs and their IT systems. All customer voices should drive the design of program processes and systems.
- Question the Status Quo and Keep an Open Mind: System modernizations create space to rethink the business and innovate. Programs need to have conversations without emotional attachment to existing processes, workflows, and software. The EELC expects stakeholders to be creative and enter conversations without preconceived notions or assumptions about the future state.
- Take the Time to Fully Understand Program Priorities and User Needs: Define a fully inclusive and jointly led process that:
- Identifies existing and emerging program business priorities and requirements.
- Prioritizes user-centered design and the voice of the customer.
- Considers what the program could/should look like in the future. How do we want it to operate? What workflows, data, and processes do we need to make it happen?
- Conducts a retrospective analysis of previous successes and failures.
- Document current business processes, workflows, and technology: Develop a clear picture of the as-is state. Identify any persistent barriers, pain points or obstacles that introduce inefficiency or detract from the user experience.
- Improve Business Processes and Workflows before Building IT Solutions: Apply Lean and other business process improvement techniques to streamline business processes and workflows. Identify opportunities to use technology to enable process improvements and transformative approaches to service delivery. Use the E-Enterprise Lean and IT Toolkit for guidance.
- Identify the Desired Future State of Business Processes and System: The modernization process must include development of a Concept of Operations that describes how the program will function in the future. What workflows, IT systems, data, and user functionality will be needed to accomplish the program’s goals? The Concept of Operations should draw heavily on the Digital Strategy’s principles for user-centric, platform-centric, and information-centric design.
- Default to Using Open Data and Shared Services in the Solution Design: The Concept of Operations should maximize the use of open data and shared services in the proposed solution. Participants in the process must maximize the use of open data and cloud technology to achieve new approaches to data sharing. Modernizations also offer opportunities to design new systems that take full advantage of shared services. For example, a modernization offers a chance to integrate a Master Facility record into the design of a system from the very beginning.
- Consider Alternative Approaches to Designing, Building, and Operating Systems: Participants in a modernization effort should not start with preconceived notions about how software will be designed, developed, and maintained. Typical practice has been that EPA programs build a national system for a particular program that states and tribes can choose to use. Advances in information technology have opened up new possibilities to source and fund user-driven efforts to develop and operate shared software.