Members of Congress have used alarming phrases to describe today’s federal IT infrastructure, expressing mounting fears about the ability of outdated systems to deal with cybersecurity breaches. While some agencies have embraced moving to the cloud, most lag behind, and it’s the latter group that will need help in transitioning their systems to a Next-Generation IT environment. That said, it is encouraging to observe Rep. Steny Hoyer’s, (D-Md.) commitment to federal IT modernization. He introduced the $3 billion IT Modernization Fund (ITMF), which passed unanimously in the House last week, and will surely be the quickest and most effective fix for agency tech woes. The fund will also prepare the way for agencies to push forward with IT modernization and enable agencies to build on the “successes of FITARA.”
Hoyer’s efforts have been reinforced by the recent release of GSA’s M3 – Modernization and Migration Management – Framework. With an emphasis on collaboration between agencies, GSA’s plan provides organizations with the tools they need – including a six-phase approach to modernization and migrations, an investment review protocol, and a playbook – to successfully retire legacy systems and migrate to new services and infrastructure.
It’s clear that while all the funding needed for IT modernization might not be in place right now, agencies are being encouraged to start the process and leverage the funding they do have to initiate legacy systems retirement. But where should agency CIOs begin their IT modernization process? CSRA’s process provides some interesting perspectives.
In my role as Chief Information Officer at CSRA, I’ve been responsible for leading our organization on an IT modernization journey; one that rivals those experienced by many of our customers in terms of complexity. While we might not have to run the gauntlet of Congress to achieve our goals, as a recently merged, forward-looking company with our priorities squarely focused on serving our public sector customers, we have had our own technical and transformational challenges to overcome, and we have had to meet our objectives without missing a beat when it comes to customer service and delivery.
So, when I sat down with my team, we followed a model that is uncannily similar to the one laid out in the M3 playbook. We identified our starting point as cloud migration to help us achieve our most critical business and customer-facing objectives. From there it was a whirlwind five-month period from initial assessment to discovery, migration, and finally our transition to a new state of normalcy operating on the AWS GovCloud (US). The story of the transition is best told in person, but the video below shares insight into the process we followed to transition our own system to a cloud environment.
While migration to the cloud was our first step, we didn’t stop there. In order to fully realize the value of a next-generation IT environment we needed to make certain we deployed a software defined network within a hybrid IT environment. Of course we were mindful to balance the convenience and efficiencies of these virtual environments with concerns about information and infrastructure security and integrity. One step was to use a FedRAMP certified cloud and the other was to maintain our own on-premise cloud for data that required a higher degree of security. In creating this cloud-based IT environment, we are able to take full advantage of enterprise-class SaaS platforms such as Salesforce, Workday, and ServiceNow. While that’s a lot of new IT for our team to work with and integrate into their daily activities, what it means in the end is that the team can work more collaboratively and more efficiently, which makes team members as individuals and us as a company more productive.
The lessons gleaned from this transformative journey have proven to be extremely valuable as we guide some of our customers through their own IT transformation. There is still a lot of convincing and transitioning to be done, but I think we’ve been successful. Moreover we have strengthened our cyber posture and continue to make great progress towards maturing our defenses.