The IT Budget for federal agencies in the President’s Budget for FY20 is estimated to be $88 billion, according to the White House. Assuming Congress adopts the President’s Budget proposal in December, it will be used “to deliver critical citizen services, keep sensitive data and systems secure, and to further the vision for modern Government.”
This substantial spend is reflective of the urgent need for digital transformation in federal agencies. The modernization of legacy systems and outdated processes is necessary to yield efficiencies, improve effectiveness, and ultimately enhance the lives of the American public.
To that end, the FY20 IT Budget provides some sage advice on IT modernization and cloud adoption, but it is hard to know how to put these recommendations into action. Read on for advice on how you can turn the White House’s counsel into meaningful initiatives.
Select a platform that can evolve with your needs
Complex IT landscapes pose a problem for agencies. The Budget highlights this particular inefficiency, which is costly for the federal government to maintain and secure: “This is due to legacy and homegrown, non-standards-based systems designed to perform only one function rather than leveraging new commercial off-the-shelf technologies that allow efficient use of resources.”
If you’re going to the time and the expense of sourcing technology to suit your needs and address these inefficient ecosystems, you’ll want to know that it’s going to stand the test of time — an essential trait when you’re attempting to keep pace in the digital age.
As such, agencies need technology partners that understand the nuances associated with this problem. Partners need to bring to the table unified adaptable platforms that are continually moving forward and enable the government to stick with a single platform for an extended period, avoiding messy migrations and reinvestment when changes occur.
Take an agile approach to IT projects.
A cultural pre-disposition for “Big Bang” solutions that are perfect upon release continues to be a significant hurdle for the government. Often acquisitions are still predicated on a waterfall approach accompanied by a substantial upfront investment, with results months or years away. Upon delivery, the solution is often outdated or unsuitable. This approach is in stark contrast to the agile experimentation approach that is becoming prevalent in privately-held companies who are evolving to keep up with digitally-native start-ups.
To be agile, agencies need adaptable technologies that are in-line with commercial models, encouraging experimentation. This approach would enable them to start small, innovate quickly and then expand use. An agile approach controls the risk, ensures mistakes are minimal, and delivers capability quickly, maximizing the return on investment.
It seems that the agile approach to IT projects is catching on in the acquisition world as well. The White House’s FY20 Budget establishes the Technology Modernization Fund (TMF). The TMF is a funding vehicle that will help agencies to deliver services in a more timely and cost-efficient manner, essentially making the procurement process more responsive to the digital age.
“The mission of the TMF is to enable agencies to reimagine and transform the way [federal agencies] use technology to deliver their mission and services to the American public in an effective, efficient, and secure manner,” reports the Budget.
Making the move to the cloud
A vital part of being agile is making the move to the cloud. The FY20 IT Budget highlights the need for agencies to adopt cloud services. Just two years ago, the 2018 IT Budget stated that “The lack of proactive adoption of cloud and shared services has resulted in agencies accumulating billions of dollars in technical debt.” So, it’s more important than ever to drive the move away from legacy architectures.
To aid this, the Administration is normalizing Federal security requirements as part of FedRAMP. This action will help support “a more rapid, efficient, and effective program in order to securely deploy commercial cloud technology.” Combined with the new Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) and NIST 171, cloud providers will be able to obtain further reciprocity for their platforms in the near future.
The new certification approach obviates the current concerns about whether cloud security is adequate to house sensitive or classified data. Indeed, individual data centers who use the prescribed security measures are usually beyond the affordability of most organizations; therefore, securing your data in the cloud is more affordable and just as effective today.
Of course, in the cloud, you have the usual scaling flexibility, lower energy consumption, no hardware buys, or maintenance, and in some application instances, like Bizagi, there are no up-front costs, and you only pay for what you use. Make the move to cloud services, and you’ll be better positioned to keep up with digital innovation, no problem.
Establish an end-to-end view of the customer journey
“Americans expect and deserve their interactions with the Federal Government to be simple, fast, and helpful,” reports the FY20 IT Budget. “The United States Digital Service (USDS) is among those leading the charge to enhance the Federal Government’s most critical public-facing digital services through design and technology expertise.” As we illustrated earlier, the problem with enhancing these public-facing services is the complexity of federal IT landscapes, which has grown up organically over the last decade.
These technology silos have narrowed the perspective of individual functions and customer touchpoints. As different silos, it is unlikely instantaneous omnichannel responses will be achieved unless a unifying element is added.
Agencies need to take an end-to-end process view of the customer journey and install a digital conveyer belt to carry the information wherever it needs to go. You may well still need to break this down into its parts, but a wrap-around solution that orchestrates the whole customer journey is essential if you want to present a winning constituent experience.
It’s time to act on the government’s advice and transform your agency’s legacy systems. If you would like to learn more about how to embrace digital transformation, get in touch with our federal team, who can offer you tailored advice on how to modernize your IT services.