This statement was made by a senior attendee at a client event where several CIOs met to discuss about government 2.0 and other innovations when he was asked what is needed to trigger innovation in government.
He said that most of the stuff he is hearing about government 2.0, transparency, citizen engagement, cloud computing does makes sense, but there is nothing really new. Most of those who have been looking into how technology will shape government going forward have come up with scenarios where socialization and commoditization play a key role. But his contention was that to turn vision into execution, to actually embrace some of the disruptive transformation that such a vision implies, the only way is to close the tap, to force agencies to exercise their imagination, to apply creativity to the very basic problem of how to keep the lights on.
Whether 50 percent makes sense or not, I do agree that without dramatic changes in how resources are allocated, government organizations have no incentive to pursue radical transformation. It is not by chance that some of the most interesting and courageous initiatives take place at the more local level, where budget constraints have already manifested themselves in all their severity, and less so at the national or federal level.
Does this mean that tightening budgets and cutting the air supply to CIOs and their business colleagues will necessarily lead to innovation? I do not think so. Organizations need to have mechanisms and capabilities in place to seize that opportunity, to reward radical innovation, to determine what can deliver immediate and sustainable value versus what is desirable but not essential. They need to have a certain degree of maturity when it comes to sourcing strategies, vendor and contract management, ability to assess and employ emerging technologies, risk management, scenario planning, portfolio management. They need to have capable managers who have found themselves in similar situations, preferably in other industries, and who have the ability to adapt and lead people in difficult times.
Therefore cutting budget may be a necessary condition to trigger radical innovation, but by no means a sufficient one.