Combating outdated perceptions with modern tools
Government is often stereotyped as a slow-moving machine, stuck in the past using outdated systems and tools. Commonwealth IT workers are definitely aware of this perception, and are working hard to reverse it and bring State agencies into the modern day.
Jesse Newberry’s career with the Commonwealth began at the Department of Revenue (DOR), where he was tasked with digitizing the department’s timesheet process. The department was ahead of their contemporaries: they saw a need, had the resources, and were set on flipping perceptions. “After interviewing with their CFO, I could tell they were serious,” said Newberry. He joined on a six-month contract, which eventually developed into a two-year project.
That was 12 years ago. Today, Newberry is still working with the Commonwealth. Now with the Department of Transportation (DOT), he’s tasked with similar big picture projects. His team’s goal is to provide engineers with cutting edge tools, to bring the agency’s processes into the present, and to make DOT a driver of e-commerce. From digitizing records to changing business processes, “we’re making it easier for engineers to do their jobs,” he says.
“We want our engineers to have the same tools as the private sector.”
One of the first projects Newberry worked on was reimagining how contractors submit proposals to the Department. Previously, this proposal process was entirely physical: firms had to create and deliver proposal packages, and then come to Boston HQ offices in person – sometimes having to travel across the state - to learn whether their project bids had been selected. Today, the bid process has shifted entirely online, making it easier and more efficient for everyone.
This project was met with a lot of angst at the beginning – “engineers are very set in their ways,” said Newberry. By listening to workers and bidding contractors, addressing their feedback and concerns throughout the life cycle of the project, and demonstrating value, Newberry’s team bought a lot of goodwill. “We needed buy-in from long-time staff, contractors, and the private sector,” he said, “our new systems have to work for everybody.”
Newberry is now focused on providing DOT with platform as a service, making project and product development more agile, and keeping up with workflows as employees retire. “Really, we’re trying to create an ecosystem of impact, where we’re able to jump ahead of stuff,” he said, adding “we’re never sure how the day will go – we are problem solving all day long.”