For government agencies, pilot programs are a great way to experiment with new technology. Frequently, there are questions around implementation, access and overall functionality. Implementing a pilot program allows an agency to identify these challenges early, develop synergy with their provider and define the service model that will be necessary for larger scale adoption. Our two-year contract with a major government agency (the “Agency”) is a useful example of how agencies can benefit from a pilot program as well as the best way to ensure its effectiveness. CDS was privileged to be awarded a contract to develop and implement a Relativity project to assist the Agency in responding to public requests for information, including requests under the FOIA and Privacy Act, as well as to assist in streamlining its workflow to reduce the backlog of overdue FOIA requests. To accomplish our mission statement, CDS leveraged Relativity as a SaaS in our FedRAMP authorized Cloud with great success.
Benefits of a Pilot Program
A pilot program enables agencies and providers to test the effectiveness of a planned solution on a smaller scale. In our agency engagement, we were able to work with a small team of stakeholders to develop effective workflows, identify inefficiencies early and smooth out any issues, technical or otherwise. This saved time and money as technology was deployed on a limited scale and user feedback was incorporated on a real-time basis.
In addition, in working with the Agency, employees who participated in the pilot had the chance to see first-hand the value of the software. These individuals became our internal advocates, helping spread the word on the pilot’s success, potentially train other end-users, answer questions and more. We felt that working so closely with the Agency made our team better and helped dial in our processes and workflows. In the process, we were able to provide them with the knowledge, training and wherewithal to accomplish their mission statement and expand on those objectives.
A pilot program is not right for every situation. Agencies should consider various issues, including:
- How immediate is the need for change and results? The Agency had a substantial backlog of FOIA requests, and the existing process was inefficient and often inaccurate. In addition, the government has a legal obligation to respond to FOIA requests within statutory deadlines, as well as meet federal archive requirements. Delays can lead to frequent and costly litigation so finding a solution was imperative.
- Do we have a budget for the pilot? There must be discussions internally and with prospective service providers about the amount needed to effectively test a solution and whether there are available funds.
- Do we have a long term need for the solution? An agency may only need a short-term fix until it is able to upgrade its system or it can meet the needs of a specific project. However, if the problem is likely to continue or worsen, it is important to invest in a real solution. For the Agency, the number of FOIA requests were rising every year and the existing technology was outdated. In addition, different departments had different systems so everyone’s would have to be updated and centralized before the problem would go away. A more cost-effective long-term option was needed.
- Do we have a team of people who are willing to test the new software? Staff can make or break any technology project. There must be knowledgeable people who are willing to test and provide feedback. This is true during the pilot phase as well as when it is ready for a wider rollout. Good participation will enable the provider to continually make improvements in real-time.
Choosing a Technology Provider
Obviously, providers must have the appropriate experience to handle the project. In addition, agencies should ask about the provider’s capacity limits. Where a pilot program is successful and the agency wants to expand it, the provider must be able to handle the increased demand on the systems.
In addition, federal agencies are required to use providers that meet certain security standards. At CDS, we provide the strictest levels of data security with FedRAMP Authority to Operate (ATO) for our Federal Cloud Discovery Services (CDS FCDS) platform. It is a time-consuming process to obtain this certification and as such, agencies must make sure that providers are capable of meeting FedRAMP requirements to avoid delays in launching the pilot.
Establishing and reviewing metrics is essential in gauging the effectiveness of the pilot program. With the government agency in our pilot, the necessary metrics were clear. Since we were brought in to speed up a process that was already in place, the results of our program could be compared to the existing traditional methods.
To date, the results of our work with the Agency have been readily apparent. In addition to clearing the backlog of FOIA requests, at a high level, CDS was able to leverage Relativity’s full suite of analytics to increase efficiency and cut down on review time. Along with input from the Agency, CDS developed a custom workflow to ensure savings on both cost and time. Since the successful completion of the pilot phase of our engagement, we were awarded a 5-year BPA to deploy Relativity in our FedRAMP cloud to additional Bureaus within the Agency. We are excited to be able to introduce our solution to a broader audience. By implementing our lessons learned from the pilot, we can ensure a fast deployment and instant cost savings with an increase in productivity.
Pilot programs offer many advantages to federal agencies seeking new technology solutions. CDS provides a full range of Advisory Services to the government. To discuss how we can assist you, contact us for a consultation.