Federal IT pros are experts at using quick fixes to keep costs down and save time, often because there’s no other option. They essentially leap from crisis to crisis instead of future-proofing the agency’s IT environment. This loop often leads to increasing technical debt, meaning IT pros are making do with what they have.
Paying down technical debt is neither easy nor glamorous, but it’s critically important. Why? Without this paydown, you’re creating a cyclical panic. For example, when you’re in technical debt, you run with what you’ve got until it breaks; when it breaks, you panic. So you find a stopgap—but the stopgap is placed on the top of several other stopgaps because you haven’t been paying down your technical debt. Eventually, you’ll experience another breakage, another panic, another stopgap. You’re in a cyclical panic.
How can federal IT pros break out of this orbit and future-proof their agency’s IT environment?
The answer is a three-pronged strategy:
Unleash the Chaos Monkey
Let’s start with the chaos monkey. A “chaos monkey” is a program designed to randomly turn things off or delete them so teams can identify weaknesses in their infrastructure and train to quickly remediate. In other words, it messes things up on purpose. It tests your software, your equipment, and the internal processes in your organization.
Unleashing the chaos monkey will also bring to light products not running well, not performing as promised, or not communicating with other products.
Buy the Right Technology, Not the Newest
Remember, future-proofing requires each product within the agency environment to play well with every other product running alongside it. The people and equipment in accounting must work with the IT security team, who must work with the network team and the developers. Everything must work together to get a holistic perspective.
The takeaway here is to be sure the toolset your team uses is the right choice for the job and not simply the one with the loudest bells and whistles. The “right tool” is often capable of providing a comprehensive view across the enterprise. How else can you get a complete picture?
Break the “Institutional Knowledge” Cycle
Finally, nearly every agency has institutional knowledge, and it exists for a variety of reasons and comes to life in numerous forms. As a process, it can mean logging data into a spreadsheet and printing out those sheets. With technology, it can mean using hardware or software well past the end of its life.
Yes, the agency has spent so much money on IT equipment; you want to maintain it and get as much use out of it as possible, even if the equipment has long outlived its usefulness. It’s unrealistic to have something new and fancy all the time. However, future-proofing calls for a delicate balance. It’s about finding the best technology to solve bona fide technology problems. It’s about getting the most future bang for your buck.
Future-proofing is about knowing products die. It’s also about making sure those products and programs work as far into the future as possible. It’s about paying down technical debt. It’s about unleashing the chaos monkey. But it’s also about removing barriers and allowing the federal IT team—as well as the agency mission—to move forward.