Is Your Agency IDEA Act Compliant? Four Ways to Get There Before it’s Too Late.

By Brad NunnallyMeag Doherty  |

Can you believe this month marks the halfway point of 2019? Not only does it mean 2020 is a handful of weeks away, but July also represents an important milestone in U.S. federal modernization efforts. It’s been six months since the 21st Century IDEA Act went into effect, propelling agencies towards a modern approach to digital product development and mandating updates to those that are outdated. The result has been a government-wide commitment to delivering public services in a way that is more accessible and user-centered. But six months in, have agencies taken appropriate action? 

IDEA Act Compliance: Change Isn’t Easy 

New policy requires a lot of work after a bill is passed to get it implemented government-wide. This is especially true for the IDEA Act. Modernization efforts often assume that teams will easily adopt new approaches to doing their work. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. More often than not, agency teams have been using the same tools and processes for years—if not decades. Learning a new approach takes time, patience, and care as people let go of the past and move towards something new and different.   

This stuff is hard! It can be challenging to get an implementation plan into place—but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done. Try starting by taking a look at your team’s current state and defining what the desired future state needs to be (I.e., compliance). How can you get there?  

Four Actions You Can Take to Manage IDEA Act Implementation 

1) Assemble a team and develop a plan.  

First, gather together a team that’s focused on responding to new requirements in the IDEA Act. Their work could include drafting up various contracts and request for proposals, hosting industry days, and so on. Once you have a team, you need an action plan. Conduct compliance reviews, baseline assessments, and audits to determine what needs to be done to comply with the new policy. If you’re struggling to determine your next steps, gathering stakeholders together for strategic planning can go a long way in getting the beginnings of a plan in place.  

2) Prioritize strategically.   

The full scope of the IDEA Act is too big to accomplish all at once, so start small. Gather information on your current state so you can pin point areas of high impact and low effort. Beginning with these high-impact areas not only show progress, but intent to comply with the new legislation. Sometimes, just having a well-defined current state could be enough at this stage—it gives you and your team a shared understanding of where your product is not compliant and where you may be better-off than you thought.  

3) Make the rest manageable.  

Again, because of the large scope of the IDEA Act, it’s best to tackle it requirement by requirement. For example, you could start by getting your site to work on mobile devices. Then, the team can focus on getting 508 Compliant before inventorying the forms associated with your product and prioritizing which need to be made available digitally. Define the milestones you hope to reach in manageable chunks. Then, start chipping away at them one-by-one.  

4) Work with others.   

While your teams are going through this exercise, remember you don’t have to reinvent the wheel—there are other teams going through the same struggles you are both inside and outside your agency. New policies like the IDEA Act are great opportunities to begin establishing working groups and communities-of-practice that can share expertise and lessons learned. Efforts like this also invite others to better understand the scope and level of effort necessary for implementing new policy requirements.  

As the work continues and improvements are made, capitalize on the opportunity further by socializing the team’s accomplishments. Sharing your team’s successes may encourage others to raise their hand and ask for help and advice as they pursue their own IDEA Act related work. This request for help should be seen as a sign of strength as we all work towards the same goal—a more modern, user-centered government.  

At U.Group, we are continuously evolving our types of services to meet the growing demands of new and existing policies—finding ways to jump in and help you and other digital product teams meet new requirements.

Want help getting the IDEA act implemented? Contact us here.  

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