The confluence of budget constraints and rapidly changing technology is pushing federal agencies into new models of service delivery that actually improve the quality the end user experiences and the agency’s ability to deliver its mission.
The Office of Management and Budget’s directive on utilizing shared services centers run by designated agencies started addressing IT infrastructure, “but now we’re looking at services on the business side,” said Param Soni, chief architect for the EPA, at CA Technologies’ Government Summit last month.
The first thing that EPA considers when looking at services is whether it helps drive efficiency – cost is second, he said.
Consolidating and sharing services this way has the potential for expanding applications beyond their original users. “If someone has developed an airflow monitoring [app], we could offer that as a service” to other federal, state, and tribal agencies that need it, Soni said.
Another way that government agencies can optimize their operations is by being able to deliver more services within the same budget, or for less.
“When we migrated from our nine legacy email systems to cloud-based email as a service, [we] collected the old costs and developed a model for the new email,” said Dawn Leaf, CIO for the Department of Labor. “The cost came out about even, but we get a lot more … User go from 200 megabytes [for email storage] to 50 gigabytes. DOL probably would not have invested what it needed to invest to provide that much storage to employees.”
Both agencies are confronting the issue of legacy apps, particularly those not originally envisioned for all the new environments.
“We have a lot of legacy apps not designed to be delivered on a mobile platform, not designed to leverage resources in the cloud,” Leaf said.
“A lot of [app] development is being done in-house by the programmers, either at a contractor site or someone’s desk. The challenge is when that moves from the desk to the office,” Soni said. “We are now encouraging programmers to do development and testing in the cloud.”
Making these changes ripples through to procurement, as well, Leaf said. “We had fixed-price contracts in place [so] the vendor couldn’t expand or ramp up. Going forward we’re using … performance-based contracting.”