Three Key Skillsets Federal IT Managers Must Master in 2017

As the roles and responsibilities of government IT professionals continue to evolve in 2017, these professionals will want to focus on investing in new skills in several key areas to better their chances for success. Some of these are likely to take federal IT administrators out of their comfort zones, so it’s important for them to be prepared.

Much of this evolution is being driven by agencies’ increasing predilection for hybrid IT environments. Many agencies have elected to host at least some of their IT infrastructure on the cloud while keeping a number of sensitive applications in-house, satisfying the need to balance greater efficiencies with lock-down security.

Recently my employer, SolarWinds, released an IT trends report that tackles the issue of hybrid IT and its impact on the roles and responsibilities of network administrators. While not exclusively focused on the government arena, the findings are reflective of what we’re seeing among federal IT professionals.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the more noteworthy “outside the box” skills that the IT administrators surveyed for the report feel will be worthwhile to pursue in 2017.

Vendor management

Today, being a federal IT manager means more than simply managing the tools needed to run the network—it also includes managing the vendors behind those tools. Administrators are being asked to identify potential vendor partners and manage SLAs, costs, and the entire vendor/agency relationship, from start to finish.

It’s important for IT managers to gain valuable business management skills that will help them throughout this process. They must receive training on how to effectively work with vendors and manage partner relationships. They’ll also need greater insight into the overall goals of their agencies—not just from a technology standpoint, but also from a cost and efficiency perspective. Gaining this insight will require working closely with agency leadership so that IT managers can deliver an effective hybrid IT strategy in line with their agency’s objectives.


Many agencies are adopting DevOps strategies to enhance the speed at which they are able to deliver solutions. However, old habits die hard, and many IT administrators may be having a hard time letting go of government’s traditionally siloed approach to IT management.

The walls between developers, engineers, and IT operations managers are quickly crumbling, though, and it’s important for all of these groups to lay the groundwork for working together. This will require a framework for collaboration. It starts with internal training that simultaneously outlines individual roles and responsibilities and establishes an agency-endorsed approach to how these formally disparate teams will work together.

Technology can then be used as an underlying foundation for DevOps success. In particular, teams can use network monitoring solutions to gain a single and shared point of visibility into the performance of their entire hybrid IT environment.

Hybrid monitoring/management tools and metrics

Don’t forget, it was only a couple of years ago that we were all wondering if and when we should migrate workloads to the cloud. While that question’s been answered, hybrid IT is still a relatively new concept that federal IT administrators are trying to get their arms around. As such, they must learn how to effectively monitor their new hybrid environments.

The toughest part is gaining visibility into everything in that environment. How do you know if the applications being hosted offsite are secure or operating appropriately? How do you maintain application performance as apps are migrated from on-premises to the cloud? There are solutions available that address these questions, but administrators must be trained on these solutions in order to effectively and continuously monitor every aspect of their hybrid IT deployments.

The bottom line: learning will be a key element to agencies’ success in 2017. Federal IT professionals will need to take the time to learn new skillsets, and their agencies will need to prioritize the institution of training programs that help these professionals gain those skillsets. This will lead to greater innovation—and more opportunities—for both agencies and their IT teams.

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