A new operating model for state and local governments


For those who have said that governments cannot act quickly, our recent experience has shown otherwise. But it’s more than working from home – the public sector must be able to legislate, educate and deliver virtually all kinds of services to citizens. When you see what agencies and localities have done with collaboration tools like WebExconnectivity capabilities such as software-defined wide area networks and applications that sit where they need them for accessibility and security, it’s clear they’re well on their way to creating real connected communities and produce positive results for citizens. Post-pandemic, some 86% of government leaders agree that these hybrid shifts are permanent in some form. This digitization effort quickly accelerated. The context that begins to emerge is:

  • the cloud is the new data center,
  • Software as a a service is the new app,
  • Internet is the new network that gives us connectivity,
  • The edge is where the person or device is.


For the next generation of government employees, the need for flexibility is the new norm (see our latest survey). As a result, governments will need to rethink their approach to work by broadening the view of how and where work is done.

The new generation is driven by the desire for a better work-life balance. Engaging employees and ensuring their well-being must be a top priority for government leaders as they look to the future. After the pandemic, the public sector must:

  • Put in place solutions to avoid the burnout syndrome,
  • Finding ways to keep employees connected,
  • Develop processes and programs to help ensure the mental health of every employee,
  • Work proactively to attract the right new talent and adopt methods to retain them by helping them develop their leadership skills.


The digital and physical world are converging, citizens no longer want to have everything face to face, they expect to receive services digitally. Additionally, with over $350 billion in federal funding going to states and localities, now is the time to accelerate modernization and provide security to enable a superior citizen experience. With the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) in mind, governments will begin to focus on services that compete with private industry so citizens can have that equal experience. To do this, it is essential that the public and private sectors work together as partners, sharing ideas and technologies that can break down the silos that exist in government agencies, increasing efficiency for everyone. For example, when a citizen accesses a state portal (say to pay taxes), they may receive a pop-up message reminding them that their driver’s license has expired. This would immediately link them to the state’s DMV site, providing the citizen with a hassle-free renewal experience.

When we put all of these things together, we make the concept of the digital citizen possible. At Cisco, we are already partnering with state and local governments to drive cross-agency collaboration that can power applications centered on what citizens want versus how government traditionally operates. During the pandemic, we have seen bureaucracy take a back seat, creating opportunities to implement some of these approaches.


As state and local governments transition to a new, more resilient and responsive operating model, a high level of leadership will be paramount (read more in our latest survey of government IT managers). Government IT leaders must stay close to their employees, stay connected, and lead with empathy and compassion.

To successfully serve the next generation workforce, we must also remember that technology is just the enabler. It’s the people and processes that are – and will be – the “secret sauce” for leveraging this full stack to deliver quality citizen and workforce experiences.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, governments quickly discovered how to cut red tape to get things done. The pandemic has proven that government can act quickly, especially when backed by a reliable and experienced private sector IT partner like Cisco.

At Cisco, we work with the public sector to actively develop and implement innovative, secure solutions that can scale with government needs and improve resilience in times of stress. And with our partner Government Technology, we explore strategies for building the next generation of government (learn more here). We invite you to join us.


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