Digital Transformation: How to Take IT Infrastructure to the Next Level

Considering how often it’s discussed, digital transformation is still a difficult term to pin down. What does it mean for a government agency to transform to fit the changing digital landscape? Is that change largely technology-based? How do people factor into it?

These questions took center stage during a February 2018 webinar titled “Digital Transformation: How to Take IT Infrastructure to the Next Level.”

Recently, the Small Business Administration (SBA) underwent significant digital transformation in its move to the cloud. After moving through eight CIOs in 10 years, the agency found itself in need of a significant recapitalization to address its aging technology infrastructure.

SBA CIO Guy Cavallo, who’s spent his career going back and forth between the public and private sectors, set out to change the IT business model from an asset-based culture to a services-based, customer-centric delivery model.

To help facilitate these changes through cloud computing, SBA set up five tiger teams for service management, service engineering, service automation, migration and cloud operations. And they completed everything in 82 business days.

“You need to look [for changes] from Day One,” Cavallo said. “Do not wait until you’re done to start looking at your processes. Our change control board, for example, meets once a week here to do on-prem[ises] decisions.

“You also want to look at the current processes. Don’t go to the cloud and then tie down the agility of the cloud by still using your on-premise processes.”

In terms of concrete goals, SBA is hoping to close five data centers this year by migrating servers to Microsoft Azure. As a result, the agency would be able to implement cloud security capabilities for the entire enterprise.

The transformation has altered SBA’s hiring process, too. For example, the agency has a new CISO and IT operations director. In addition, all position descriptions are being rewritten so that new hires will be required to have cloud expertise. It’s not just about the technologies — it’s about the people and teams, too.

“When we meet with other agencies to go into detail on all of this, it usually takes us three to four hours, which obviously we don’t have time for today,” Cavallo said. “But I really wanted to simplify this by keeping security and management models constant across our environment. Then it’s much easier to support.”

Likewise, agencies looking to stay current need more than the latest technology, said Charles Townsend, Senior Solutions Architect at Black Box Network Solutions. Officials must rethink processes holistically if they want to take full advantage of digital transformation, he said.

“Digital transformation is more than a matter of IT modernization,” Townsend said. “Rather than simply upgrading outdated technology, agencies need to develop an infrastructure that actually improves the capabilities of the workforce and performance of the workforce.”


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