OPEXUS Annual Summit 2023: Empowering Government Changemakers   

December 11, 2023 / #Unstuck Government

In early November, OPEXUS welcomed more than 200 government changemakers to the company’s 2023 Annual Summit in Washington, D.C., to learn, share, and collaborate. This gathering was a melting pot of ideas, from change management and leadership to FOIA best practices and the future of work, aimed at reshaping and enhancing government efficiency and effectiveness. 

Leadership Insights: Succeeding as a Changemaker in Government 

Our opening keynote by Carmen Medina, Senior Executive, CIA (Retired), offered critical lessons in what it takes to succeed as a changemaker in government. Her talk was a masterclass in transformative leadership, emphasizing the power of authenticity and strategic thinking. 

  • Speaking Your Truth: Carmen encouraged a culture where unique perspectives are not just voiced but valued. She argued that true innovation springs from diverse viewpoints challenging the status quo, urging leaders to foster an environment where new ideas are met with curiosity, not resistance. 
  • The Art of Prioritization: She highlighted the importance of pacing and prioritizing in leadership. Recognizing that while the floodgates of creativity may be open, not all ideas can be pursued simultaneously. Effective leadership, she posited, lies in discerning which ideas promise the most significant impact and aligning resources accordingly. 
  • Empathy and Trust – The Cornerstones of Collaboration: Carmen’s emphasis on empathy and trust was particularly poignant. She described leadership as an exercise in building relationships, understanding team dynamics, and encouraging a culture of mutual trust and respect. 

Carmen’s decades of experience in government demonstrated just how different the culture, power dynamics, and challenges are in the bureaucratic system. This makes “changemaking” in government unique to government.  

While many of her leadership lessons can be applied to the private sector, another lesson Carmen delivered is that the inverse is not always true. Because government is unique, government will always require a unique approach to everything from how ideas are communicated and morale building approaches to navigating procurement and being empathetic as we all struggle with the slow pace of the bureaucracy.  

Government is essential, unique, and offers incredible opportunities inside of myriad challenges – making it one of the most interesting and complex workplaces in the world.

This is part of why OPEXUS is committed to a 100% focus on government customers. 

Govification: Crafting a New Paradigm 

At OPEXUS, we’re redefining “good enough for government.” This phrase, once a mark of mediocrity, is being transformed back into a symbol of pride and excellence. In his keynote address, Howard Langsam, CEO of OPEXUS, reiterated that the company’s ambition is far-reaching. We not only provide the software tools government needs, but we are also empowering government changemakers to become directly involved in how those tools are tailored to meet the unique needs of FOIA management, audit, investigation, and workforce management teams.  

We are on a journey of automating the mundane to elevate the strategic, integrating AI for nimble document processing, revolutionizing reporting standards, and breaking down silos. Our commitment is to propel government entities into a realm of high performance and efficacy – and we can’t do it alone. 

Collaborative Dynamics: An Insider’s Perspective 

Gorka Garcia-Malene from NIH’s FOIA Office, took the stage in one of the 12 educational sessions offered the event, reinforcing our commitment to community and collaboration.

He delved into the intricacies of FOIA management, stressing the need for open engagement and effective communication, and spoke of the balance between transparency and operational efficiency, but his underlying message was about how each and every person should understand the critical nature of continuous learning and collaboration across government.  

Gorka’s message resonated beyond the specific domain of FOIA, underscoring the universal truth that human engagement and collaboration are the bedrock of progress. 

The Technological Imperative: Confronting Legacy System Risks  

At OPEXUS, we know that people cannot take the time to learn new things, collaborate on new initiatives, or mentor the next generation of changemakers if they are drowning in a sea of administrative paperwork and mundane tasks. We are not only supporting government changemakers, but also advocating for the systemic changes and modern tools needed across government as workloads get heavier.  

The session, “The 5 Risks Embedded in Your Legacy System,” featured a panel of private sector and public sector collaborators as they talked about the pressing need for technological evolution in government, outlining the perils of clinging to outdated systems: 

  • Security Vulnerabilities: Legacy systems, often lacking updates and patches, are sitting ducks for cyber threats, posing significant security risks. 
  • Efficiency and Productivity Roadblocks: Outdated technology acts like an anchor, dragging down operational speed and hindering employee performance. 
  • Compliance Challenges: As regulatory landscapes evolve, older systems struggle to keep pace, exposing organizations to legal and financial pitfalls. 
  • Integration Hurdles: The inability of legacy systems to integrate smoothly with modern technologies leads to data silos and operational hiccups. 
  • Budget Bloat: The cost of maintaining old technology can be exorbitant, diverting funds from more mission-critical projects.  

The session underscored the urgency for government teams to modernize, not just for efficiency’s sake but to free up human capital for higher-order tasks like mentoring, learning, and leadership development. 

Charting the Course Forward 

The OPEXUS summit highlighted the undeniable truth that while technology is a critical enabler, the real power lies in human collaboration, empathy, and strategic innovation.  

As we forge ahead into 2024, we will carry the lessons and insights from this year’s summit as we continue to serve government customers. We are focused on improving the software suite’s performance as well providing as opportunities for changemakers to come together more frequently to shape the tools to work best for them and renewing our shared commitment to serving the public with a commitment to operational excellence. 

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