2017 will see the beginning of a new presidential administration and holds the potential to be a year of action. With this in mind, I’d like to propose five New Year’s resolutions for federal IT leadership and the new administration that will enable real change in 2017.
Establish IT as central to agency missions and retire legacy systems
Federal agencies are beginning to understand the potential of digital transformation and how it supports their missions. Yet in order to power these technologies, IT modernization is critical. Just as a Lamborghini won’t run up to its full potential on a dirt road, the most cutting edge technologies will be limited by outdated infrastructure.
This coming year, agencies must resolve to retire all legacy systems that are more than ten years old. If IT infrastructure is older than your first cell phone, it can’t support digital transformation securely or effectively. For example, software-defined infrastructure and network solutions that offer visibility and automation allow agencies to adjust to unpredictable network traffic and the explosion of data caused by digital transformation. It’s time to prioritize these network options and serve citizens, taxpayers and our armed forces with the digital experience that they get everywhere else.
Harness the benefits of a hybrid cloud environment
Agencies also need to reconsider their approach to the cloud. Government has appropriately embraced cloud, but “cloud first” should not mean cloud only.
Federal IT leadership’s second resolution should be to prioritize a hybrid approach to cloud. Leaders like DOD CIO Terry Halvorsen have gone so far as to say, “We would be completely stupid if we didn’t take advantage of hybrid cloud environment.” The information agencies deal with on a regular basis can contain national security information or private citizen data. Hybrid cloud environments give agencies the flexibility to retain control and heightened security for sensitive information and workloads, while still enabling cloud’s benefits.
Drive industry/government IT collaboration and leverage COTS solutions
The federal IT budget remains tight, so agencies need creative ways to innovate. There is already great work in progress for agencies to take advantage of but only if they collaborate with and learn from industry.
Federal IT leaders should resolve to drive regular, direct collaboration between public and private sector. It’s no secret that when it comes to IT innovation, commercial entities are more nimble. Federal IT leaders can benefit by leveraging private sector innovation and COTS offerings, rather than creating a solution from scratch that will take years to test and implement.
Some organizations already have made steps in this direction. The Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) recently appealed to private sector to help develop solutions that could trigger government modernization. DIUx,a program first launched in Silicon Valley with the intention of bringing insights and technical expertise from industry back to the Pentagon, is another example that is just beginning to get off the ground.
Require outcome-based RFPs and drive competition
Currently many RFPs focus on the wrong details, looking at specific vendor offerings, rather than outcomes. Rather than identifying a mission need, like mobile access to information, the current procurement process specifies the need for an iPad or equivalent. This approach freezes out competition and potential innovation before it starts. Instead, government should resolve to define desired outcomes and work closely with industry as RFPs are developed, in order to keep an open mind to available options and emerging solutions that fit their desired outcome.
Standardize regulations across agencies
Currently there is a huge set of regulations and policies across agencies that overlap or contradict, despite seeking an identical deliverable. These redundant regulations cost taxpayers and act as roadblocks and excuses, preventing agencies from efficiently accessing what they need, even if the solution is right in front of them. No business would create completely different guidelines and policies for each internal department.
The new administration should resolve to start the New Year with a review that examines current regulations and policies, streamlining and eliminating duplicative efforts or clarifying those that stand at odds and prevent progress. By developing unified regulations, IT leaders can more easily work together and take advantage of solutions that work for their counterparts at other agencies. The federal IT community should all speak the same language.
The federal government has the power to accomplish great things in 2017. If federal IT leadership commits to these five resolutions, the coming year will be a year of action and accomplishment. Will you resolve to mandate these 5 resolutions to drive IT progress for your agency in 2017?