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Trust Over Uncertainty: How Federal Agencies Can Demystify AI

Artificial intelligence (AI) has been a hot topic among federal agencies as government IT leaders look to modernize their systems to help solve complex challenges.

Indeed, according to research from Deloitte, 92 percent of U.S. government leaders perceive AI as “important” for mission outcomes.

In our own research, Dynatrace found that two-thirds of federal IT managers consider AI a valuable component of their modernization efforts, and nearly half said AI is a “high/essential” investment priority.

Despite the technology’s positive reputation, government IT leaders are encountering significant obstacles that hinder the expansion of AI deployments and IT automation overall. More than half of participants (60%) cited a lack of staff knowledge about AI as a roadblock. Meanwhile, 36% of participants reported a lack of understanding of AI benefits and 32% reported a lack of trust in AI.

Our findings arrive at a critical time for implementation. Several agencies are struggling to understand what AI really is and the extent of its potential for positive impact. I was eager to take part in a recent Digital Government Institute workshop, “Demystifying Artificial Intelligence.” During this workshop, I offered the following recommendations to clear up uncertainty around AI and replace it with trust:

Focus on the mission

First, we must dispense with the notion that AI is a murky, mysterious technology. AI has become a part of daily life, as ubiquitous as your phone’s voice assistant or the support chatbot you interact with on a website. AI routinely serves a useful purpose in our day-to-day.

At the federal level, however, it’s key to connect these advancements to mission strategies every step of the way. Government professionals must ask each other, “What strategies or goals could we achieve with IT automation and AI? How will it help the mission?”

Start small

Trying to conquer the universe with your first AI effort will increase the risks of failure. It will also create a sense of agency-wide distrust that may inhibit future investment. As such, IT teams must start with smaller projects – such as the chatbot – to demonstrate AI’s ease of implementation and its practical value. As employees become more comfortable with the technology, you can advance toward more ambitious and complex initiatives.

Get the right people on board

In addition to the lack of staff knowledge about AI, our research identified a need for training as an obstacle for 32% of participants. Evidently, there are skills gaps to overcome.

Effective recruitment and training will address the issues within time. But for both an immediate and long-term fix, government leaders should also consider hiring outside teams to collaborate on AI projects. They should also consider leveraging – and learning from – proven industry experts to ensure successful execution and results-based outcomes for now and the future.

Debunk myths and dispel fears around IT automation

The potential for AI to replace workers emerged from our research as another potential obstacle. In reality, AI and IT automation promise to remove the burden of tedious, manual duties from federal teams. AI does not replace IT professionals; rather, it frees teams up for high-value, strategic tasks. For example, an AI-enabled observability platform could detect a performance issue late at night and fix it automatically. IT staffers would no longer dread that midnight phone call to do the same.

Adopting AI and leaning into its potential for positive impact is about overcoming uncertainty with trust. The more you can demonstrate AI’s ease of use and benefits, the more likely you will demystify it for the decision-makers and key influencers who will champion these solutions as great mission enablers. They will see that AI and IT automation allow agencies to get the most out of their tech and people (and, thus, the taxpayer’s dollar), and they will open the doors to unleash AI’s full potential.

At Dynatrace, we partner with our government customers every day to reach this level of trust. If you would like to find out how we can help you get there, contact us.