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Letting Go of Legacy Systems

The data that agencies hold literally has the power to save lives, support our military and deliver desperately needed government aid. It’s also a resource that’s increasingly vulnerable to attack by malicious actors, whether nation states or criminal organizations.

Cyber warfare can have dire consequences, so shielding sensitive data has jumped to the forefront of agency concerns, said Kevin Hansen, the Public Sector Chief Technology Officer for Micro Focus Government Solutions, a software company that helps agencies bridge the gap between legacy systems, and modern innovation and technology.

But organizations that upgrade their IT want more than just data protection.

“Unlike any opportunity we’ve had in the past,” Hansen explained, “we have the capabilities now from a technology standpoint to really drive better mission outcomes for agencies. Leveraging data is really the vehicle that’s going to get us there.”

Goodbye to Legacy Systems

Dealing with older IT systems — the kind that rely on manual inputs and Excel spreadsheets, for instance — is a big challenge for agencies. “Oftentimes, the capabilities of legacy systems limit what they can do with data,” Hansen said.

Old IT infrastructure is ill-equipped, in fact, to deal with new tools and formats — to collect, track, use, distribute and archive information in compliance with legal and regulatory rules. IT struggles to manage what Hansen calls the entire “life cycle of data.”

And, legacy systems perpetuate working with outdated information. “When you talk about nondigital data and manual spreadsheets and files,” Hansen said, “the information is stale the moment it’s entered into a system.”

So how can agencies create new IT futures for themselves? Hansen stressed the need for better analytics of mission-critical data and greater use of cloud-based artificial intelligence platforms.

Analytics Keeps the Air Force Flying High

When asked for case studies, Hansen immediately highlighted the 220,000 Air Force personnel (worldwide) who use what’s called the Integrated Maintenance Data System (IMDS) to track the maintenance of airborne assets. Those items include aircrafts and drones, among other high-tech platforms.

The problem was that the IMDS was earthbound, so to speak, and reactive rather than predictive.

“With assistance from our partners, we helped the Air Force move that application into the Azure cloud where they could take advantage of predictive analytics services,” Hansen said. “And what that allowed the Air Force to do was adjust its maintenance schedules to take assets out of service, long before they may traditionally experience a failure.”

Discovering Data Thieves Using Analytics

Hansen also pointed to how cloud-based analytics helped a government IT contractor finally identify who was stealing its sensitive data, after the contractor fruitlessly spent one year and $1 million on the effort. Two weeks after Micro Focus took over, it had identified two internal leaks, and found another eight cases a week later.

Three of the data thieves were based in China.

For Micro Focus Government Solutions, which helps organizations discover, secure, manage and analyze government data, it was a particularly rewarding achievement.

This article is an excerpt from GovLoop’s guide “Why (Zero) Trust Matters at Work: And How to Foster It.”

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