Following is one in an occasional series of interviews with “industry influencers” — executives in the private sector whose insights into California’s tech market may benefit their industry peers. Today’s subject is Gary Leikin, chief executive of SimpliGov. This Q&A email exchange has been edited lightly for style and brevity.
Techwire: What’s the biggest shift you’ve seen in government digital transformation over the past year?
Leikin: The largest shift I’ve seen over the past year with our customers has been the collapsing go-live timelines or time-to-value with business process automations. I remember when we celebrated several years ago the first California Secretary of State’s Office business process go-live in just a few months, which was groundbreaking at the time. In comparison, SimpliGov’s work with the California DMV Virtual Field Office was launched in a matter of weeks last year. We now have customers often achieving first time to market in just a matter of days. The acceleration in timelines has been dramatic and largely made possible by the move away from code-intensive solutions and the foundational shift created by the pandemic.
Our approach to government digital transformation is fairly unique because SimpliGov is a no-code platform, and our process automations span an unusually wide range of use cases. Our workflow automation processes can be internal- or external-facing and range from permitting and licensing to onboarding and procurement. We provide our public-sector customers with an expansive view into their business, which, in turn, gives me a great view into the state of government digital transformation.
Techwire: Do you see 2021 being a breakout year for emerging technologies — and if so, which ones? What’s your outlook for AI (artificial intelligence), ML (machine learning), blockchain?
Leikin: I absolutely do, and this ties in with some of our discussion around commercial and government looking more similar than different over time. AI, ML, blockchain and automation are seeing widespread growth, and adoption in commercial industries and government is next. In the short term, there is a more fundamental need in government to just automate and digitize all existing processes from legacy paper-based and outdated approaches to digital. We’ve seen a real interest from customers to integrate automation technologies to help accelerate this fundamental shift to digital in government. A great example of this is the combination of workflow automation and robotic process automation (RPA) with our partner UiPath at the California DMV. Now that you have workflow automation and RPA working together, adding AI is a natural extension for future as use cases, and you can see how this cycle will evolve through the integration of more emerging technologies.
Techwire: If a company is interested in partnering with SimpliGov, how should they go about that?
Leikin: UiPath is a great example of our partner network and the value partners can bring to our customers, such as the California DMV, through integrated solutions. Another example is our work with IBM, delivering whole person care integrated solutions. Please visit the SimpliGov partner page to learn more about our partner program.
Techwire: How has government business process automation strategy changed over the past year?
Leikin: The government’s move to the cloud is not new but it has certainly accelerated over the past year in a way no one could have imagined. Once in the cloud, the next differentiator becomes whether a solution can truly provide end-to-end digital transformation and create an intuitive user experience. If a solution doesn’t immediately become part of the connective tissue of the enterprise and can’t scale quickly, the value of the move to the cloud is diminished.
The next question becomes, especially for no-code software, is it an enterprise-grade tool that can not only automate a relatively straightforward use case, but also replace or support some of the largest, legacy on-prem applications in use today? Since no-code is a relatively new construct in software, it’s understandable that not everyone jumped at automating everything with a no-code approach immediately. But given the shift the pandemic has created and increasing adoption of no-code, SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) solutions, the growth in no-code has been nothing short of stunning, as evidenced by the growing number of high-profile deployments at some of the largest government agencies today. This was not the case just a few years ago, but given the maturity of no-code software and need for faster time to value, it’s now a reality.
Given this shift, government customers are also expecting a very different approach from vendors. Los Angeles County Chief Information Officer Bill Kehoe, San Jose CIO Rob Lloyd and San Francisco CIO Linda Gerull recently underscored some key themes at Beyond the Beltway which are timely. Take out the guesswork of how your software will work in each specific environment, show how it will solve specific business challenges and how you (vendor) will truly partner and drive innovation. We take this to heart and make it a point to demo each customer’s specific process in our platform before we start each new partnership. If we can’t show you a live view into how an existing business process is automated in our platform, why would you select us? That should be the ask of any vendor today, as is providing a complete digital transformation platform versus putting the onus on the customer to stitch together a complete solution. Same would apply to procurement, as the sea of SKUs and complicated pricing schemes is also quickly coming to an end. Variability in pricing and complex pricing structures don’t work for government, which is why SimpliGov is a single-SKU platform.
Techwire: What happens next?
Leikin: Certainly we’ll see increasing automation of everything paper-based in government, whether it’s citizen-focused or internal, administrative government functions. We are only scratching the surface today. I think it will become increasingly difficult for software that doesn’t immediately become part of the connective tissue to see success and widescale adoption in workflow automation or other sectors. Seamless integration, intuitive ease of use and very fast time to value is a minimum requirement now.
Multi-year efforts to build heavy, on-prem solutions will become less common just given practical financial and time considerations. Whereas before this was oftentimes the approach, the first question most in government are asking now is, ‘Can this be done with an off-the-shelf solution?’ That wasn’t always the case just a few years ago and is driven, in part, because of the increasing executive movement between government and commercial industry. Government and commercial operations will look more similar over time and not less.
When we look back at this time a few years from now, I think we will understand that we are in the midst of an unprecedented leap forward in technological innovation in government. There have been wholesale changes in government technology operations not only drawn up but executed in a very short time frame. I can’t think of a more important and exciting time to be delivering government digital transformation.