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How Agile IT Is Guiding State Return-to-Office Plans

Since the pandemic began dimming the lights on offices across the country, government and business leaders and the people they employ have learned painful lessons about the constraints of dated technology. The traditional way of doing things, often involving manual data inputs and systems that say nothing to each other, just can’t handle surging demands for vast, data-driven results.

One option is to develop technological Frankensteins, of sorts, that internal IT teams feverishly put together when a new data demand comes their way. But why strain financial and HR resources when a more logical, adaptable answer could be in the cloud?

Both public and private entities now are adopting open source, scalable platforms they can tailor as needed when needed. It’s the kind of automated, departmentwide solution that can quickly adapt to COVID-related IT demands and to other current and future business challenges.

Sometimes it may be the only way forward.

A Call for Help

When the governor of one of the nation’s top 10 most populous states in the U.S. determined that employees should return to work, the state government agency created a plan to bring people back safely.

It was a bold policy that called for the rapid standup, testing and deployment of an entirely new system. The state needed a system with strong security capabilities that 60,000+ people could use to log in, validate their personal online information, generate an attestation of compliance (either through vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test), and upload supporting evidence like vaccination cards and weekly test results.

Like many workplace initiatives, though, envisioning the return-to-work plan was one thing — but implementing it was altogether more difficult.

HR teams in more than 15 individual executive agencies needed to track the status of all 60,000+ employees; regularly view, process, and approve or reject their attestations; send reminder emails; and generate reports, among other tasks.

Oh, and it had to be ready soon.

An Agile Solution

The state’s IT officials worked with design, workflow, security, integration and other technology experts at Red Hat to create an automated system. Using that system, officials implemented the governor’s return-to-work program while also anticipating future needs, which include tracking booster shots, inoculation, and other data points.

“Modern cloud-based applications require a set of skills that most organizations lack. Using the power of enterprise Open Source software, Red Hat is enabling our IT customers to become more flexible, adaptive and valuable as partners to the business. Change is not easy. However, change is necessary. Great partnerships are the key to driving outcomes,” said Kevin Tunks, SLED National Technical Advisor at Red Hat.

The new solution was up and running in just 30 days — yes, one month — from the state’s initial ask. Using Red Hat’s cloud-native COVID validation check-in system, the state was able to marry its existing technology, including email and identity management, with Red Hat’s tools designed to speed application development. According to Red Hat, the approach is minimalistic, intuitive, and meets the state’s security requirements. While implemented under emergency circumstances, the platform-based solution that Red Hat built out, paved the successful path, making it even easier for the customer to digitally transform other business applications over time.

“This is a great example of a constraint enabling an organization to move quickly and effectively,” said Bill Bensing, Managing Architect of Red Hat Consulting. “Standardizing seems to be a dirty word in people’s minds. We implemented our software factory, a well-designed standard approach to CI/CD as a service.  This allowed the teams to focus solely on building the software.”

There’s no magic mirror that shows what public and private sector entities should plan for, so the way to keep pace with shifting demands is to have IT that’s agile enough to respond whenever and to whatever.

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Photo courtesy of Glenn Carstons Peters

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