Breaking the mold for how federal agencies operate can be considered a tall order. With legacy systems in place that have dominated procedure for decades, it’s difficult to implement change, even if it’s in the best interest of both the agency staff as well as its constituents.
However, with the right approach to critical methodologies like DevOps, these agency changes don’t seem so intimidating. A recent webinar on i360Gov titled “Breaking Down the Walls in Government DevOps Initiatives” explored the benefits of adopting microservices as a cost-effective, more flexible way to address citizen needs and discussed how stronger DevOps programs support that effort.
Featured speakers for this webinar included:
- Sarah N Fahden, Associate Chief, Verification Program, DHS – U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS)
- Dustin Laun, Senior Advisor, Technology & Innovation, Federal Communications Commission
- Chris Borneman, Chief Technology Officer, Software AG Government Solutions
From a citizenship perspective, Fahden emphasized the noticeable results her agency is seeing by moving into the cloud. Their DevOps team rebuilt their whole system in the cloud and on top of saving a significant amount of money, the agency can more easily automate processes, program roll-out is much faster, and technical problems can be addressed quickly.
Fahden explained how these benefits applied to immigration programs like E-Verify or SAVE (Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlement). Starting in September 2015, the agency “started to modernize the system in AWS using completely agile processes and methodologies and a full-on DevOps approach automating our entire infrastructure and architecture,” according to Fahden.
She continued explaining how an agile DevOps focus is imperative to their agency goals and mission. “Our focus in the way that we manage our business from the IT side is by making the business priorities and providing immediate business value an integral part of our methodology.” That business value manifests as a more intuitive citizenship and immigration process for all parties involved.
Laun built on Fahden’s point about creating a more technologically advanced system to benefit both federal staff members as well as citizens. He went on to explain how the FCC is utilizing a COTS system called Zendesk to help modernize their consumer complaint center while saving them over $2.7 million dollars in the process.
With over 200 legacy systems in place at the FCC, modernizing the whole agency approach to DevOps is a long, laborious process, so streamlining efforts wherever possible is a must. “That [decision] kind of set off the model where we’re able to enable the business versus having IT control things,” he stated
“From a federal perspective with all legacy applications, if everybody doesn’t move forward quickly with a new methodology and modern stacks, etc., you’re going to get left behind,” noted Laun when explaining the reasoning behind the FCC’s shift towards a more pro-DevOps environment. “And you might not be supportable or you’re not going to be able to support your agency very well.”
As a representative from a third-party provider, Borneman shared an insightful take on how and why federal agencies need to be building out their DevOps efforts aggressively and how it positively affects team dynamics in a federal agency. He stated, “It [DevOps strategy] also approaches things not just from the technology standpoint but also from a team perspective, which is where a lot of our customers have provided us a lot of insight and a lot of feedback.”
Borneman acknowledges that a fully built-out DevOps approach is not something that happens over night, but agencies that recognize where they are at with regards to program maturity can jumpstart the process in a smart way. Below is a chart depicting the different levels of DevOps maturity that Borneman references in the webinar.
Borneman elaborated on the diverse DevOps approaches available to federal agencies and explained how these different approaches address varying priorities depending on both the agency and the task at hand.
“Some things may be high process automation and high integration and those are systems that don’t require a lot of human interaction for, or if they do, it’s very structured,” Borneman explained regarding a task ranging from process automation to case management. “We also get a lot of interested from our customer on the government side around case management…and they want to automate that but it’s really more of a system developer approach.”
While federal agencies may all have different goals and objectives for their respective DevOps strategies, they know building out a plan to modernize their approach is a necessity, not a luxury. With helpful case studies like these ones from the FCC and USCIS along with industry knowledge from thought leaders like Software AG Government Solutions, the age of fully integrated DevOps is upon us.
If you’re interested in learning about the changing view of DevOps in government agencies, you can listen to the full webinar on demand here.