How can the EPA move from a paper to digital workflow?

The EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP) registers pesticides, insecticides and fungicides for safe use in the US and worldwide to protect he nation's food supply and the health of the public.  

I led a team of Presidential Innovation Fellows to help OPP move to a digital work environment. We engaged leadership across IT and business. We used a systems thinking and Human Centered Design-driven  (HCD) approach to understanding how 600 scientists and regulators worked together, their challenges and opportunities to move to a new way of working.

What we found was a dedicated group of scientists that struggled with information and cultural silos, a lack of key personnel, and an outdated approach to building modern tools to support their work. 

  • How can increase the federal team capability? A lack of federal team members with experience in modern product management practices, design, technology limit the ability to effectively break down business problems into effective technology solutions
     
  • How can we make the enterprise application architecture less brittle? Staff work with a patchwork of siloed technology systems which makes it hard to determine which data is accurate, collaborate internally or have visiblilty into what is going on across the organization.
     
  • How can we show the way forward? Can involve OPP staff in extended design teams, learning while doing? How do we change belief in how things could be done?
 

Impact

After 18 months we've had some impact.

 
 
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OPP Digital product team

Built federal capacity in modern product management and Experience Design (XD) through standing up an OPP Digital Product Team that is learning through doing. The team is working in design and product sprints, producing working software and changing how business and technology teams collaborate. 

 
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OPP-WIDE API

Drove adoption of OPP-wide API policy to abstract underlying databases and other data sources from application development;  Drove API-first philosophy to stableize how multiple contractor teams work together; Prototyped a JSON RESTful API layer over Oracle, Documentum, Lotus Notes and other underlying data sources.

 
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digital work USER experience

Prototyped the API and a lightweight web application front end to enable teams of scientists and regulators to share data and information and reduce errors, identify opportunities to collaborate and be more consistent in risk decisions.