It is clear that the pace of IT modernization has accelerated during the pandemic. But what is it about this event that has helped agencies like the State Department and Department of Labor push the pace of IT modernization over the last seven months?
Recently, Lou Charlier, Deputy Chief Information Officer Department of Labor, Michael Mestrovich, Principal Deputy Chief Information Officer Department of State, Dovarius Peoples, Chief Information Officer/G-6, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Bridget Scanlan, Solution Consulting Manager, Federal, ServiceNow, Kelsey Nelson, Senior Solutions Manager, Okta, and Fred Ferares, Sales Director, Department of Defense at Verizon, came together for a discussion on the Federal News Network to discuss IT modernization in the federal government during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mestrovich commented that the Department of State has made great strides in supporting remote work. He shared that “the Department of State started an IT modernization effort [by] moving specifically to the Cloud with Office 365.” This gave the organization the opportunity to be flexible when it came time for telework. This was especially the case when the agency was “able to successfully make a pivot through the use of people’s personal devices or through mobile devices [for] their access to cloud resources. The lynch pin in that effort was moving the entire organization over to multi-factor authentication,” said Mestrovich.
Similar to the Department of State, Peoples stated how his department and the Department of Defense have “rolled out many capabilities, such as the commercial virtual remote (CVR) environment. That is a Microsoft Office 365 team-based communication and collaboration tool, which allows us to collaborate effectively across all departments, not just within the department of the army. It has enhanced how we collaborate and how we have the ability to be able to do the mission.”
Another effort from the Department of State to drive IT modernization was the creation of a hotel pilot for workspaces within their offices. Mestrovich explained how “people can now reserve cube space in the office, [which] helps from a densification perspective. People are able to adjust their shifts or times when they come into the office according to the requirements of the job and they can balance that with any of the requirements they have at home.”
Ferares shared how Verizon has reacted to the remote work environment by saying that their “focus has been on improving the application performance and the network performance itself as we have transitioned to this telework environment over the last five months. We have partnered with many of our customers and agencies to improve network and application performance, so that [people] can continue to support their critical missions from home.”
Working remotely has, however, also introduced several challenges. At the top of that list is how to ensure the security of devices and information. Charlier shared how the Department of Labor intertwines security in their IT modernization. He remarked on how to “leverage the mobile platform [by using it] for the basis of authentication enabling that for one-time passwords, push notifications to ensure [people] that they’re safe, [and] for reporting information. We’ve now seen new ways of doing business through this mobile and remote work environment. We’ve just got to continuously iterate on that and leverage that in order to make the department more effective in delivery of diplomacy.”
But this pandemic-driven change is just the beginning of this part of the federal government’s IT modernization journey. Ferares stated that 5G is “going to improve the citizen experience, it’s going to improve the federal government’s ability to operate and do their mission, and on the DoD side, it’s going to make war fighters more lethal and more efficient.” With widespread roll-out and adoption of 5G technology on the horizon, the ability to work from almost anywhere – even for diplomats on hardship postings – with similar connectivity speeds as in they would have at headquarters in Washington, D.C. is tantalizingly close. The only question that remains is just how quickly federal agencies will be able to modernize?
Click here to hear more from the panel.