From Executive Orders on improving cybersecurity to Technology Modernization Fund (TMF) project funding to the adoption of Zero Trust Architecture, IT modernization is in full swing for federal agencies. But with the technology side under control, agencies are now considering the business side to IT modernization and how they can modernize their capabilities as well.
Recently, government and IT industry leaders met to discuss strategies and implementation of IT modernization within the federal government. The panelists included:
- George Duchak, Chief Information Officer, Defense Logistics Agency
- Robert Leahy, Chief Information Officer, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
- Jim Watts, PMIS Program Manager, Program Management Branch, Transportation Security Administration
- Lamont Copeland, Director, Federal Solution Architecture, Verizon
- Stephen Moon, Data Platform Architect, Office of the Field CTO, Snowflake
- Katie Carty Tierney, AVP, Digital Service & Operations Management, Americas, BMC Software
Modernization is about more than expanding and improving technical abilities. Verizon’s Lamont Copeland commented that it’s important to start looking from “the end-user standpoint. It’s more than looking at how to do a technology refresh or technology upgrade, but how to start upgrading the network services in tandem.” The unity between technology and workers throughout the modernization process was a constant theme among the speakers. In fact, DLA’s Duchak added that the agency renamed IT modernization to digital-business transformation (DBX).
Duchak also added that agencies “need to…rethink their current business model. It has to be a partner with IT…[DBX] couples the business perspective with the digital perspective so that the business side is a primary stakeholder and has invested interest in successful modernization, rather than being on the sidelines and leaving it to IT.” This shift in perspective will create culture change within organizations.
Leahy, CIO at NASA Goddard, mentioned how it’s “not about technology; it’s having people think differently and focus on what they are doing and how they will do it. Culture trumps strategy.” The combined efforts of modernizing culture to match technology advancements will drive success not only for the modernization project but also the mission.
The importance of alignment between technology and business processes has been made all the more important by the COVID-19 pandemic. The need to set up and secure remote work environments puts connectivity at the forefront of the IT modernization agenda. Copeland commented that agencies had to “make sure they had connectivity to all the different types of information, whether it was mobile edge computing supporting end applications in real-time, or sensors backing traditional brick and mortar data centers, or cloud infrastructures” in order to support their workers and continue to deliver on the mission.
Beyond the network, one of the key business considerations with IT modernization is data availability. Data is at the center of these modernization efforts. Agencies have to ensure their data is secure and that it is accessible from any location. Jim Watts, PMIS Program Manager at TSA, emphasized how modernization is not only about rolling out new applications. Instead, agencies need to “take the time upfront to really look at the data and how it will be used, not from just an application standpoint but how the data will drive the operational activities.” With this collaborative effort between IT and business where each can explain how they use data and how they need to access it, each understands their own part of the solutions. They must work together to understand all of it.
While modernizing networks, applications, and solutions is vital to mission success, so too is supporting the people who use these networks, applications, and solutions. Agencies must prioritize collaboration between IT and business operations in order to deliver success. As federal agencies reach a new normal following the rapid-fire pivots affected by the pandemic, there will be more opportunities to bring both sides together to build a modern, IT infrastructure that works for all sides.
To learn more from the IT modernization panel, click here.