Transforming Networks to Meet Government’s Mission Needs

This article is an excerpt from GovLoop’s recent guide, “Your Government Digital Transformation Playbook: Managing the People, Processes and Technologies.” Download the full guide here

For federal government, digital transformation is driving creation of new business models and designs, resulting in better outcomes. It’s doing this by merging digital and physical environments while enabling leaders to empower their teams through automation, analytics and machine learning. And digital transformation is being driven by securing high volumes of data, and using that data for improved decision-making.

But legacy IT infrastructure and a growing skills gap within government is making it difficult for agencies to digitally transform. There is a way, however, to enable your network to constantly learn, adapt and protect. It’s called intent-based networking and it’s ushering in a new era of government. With these networks, agencies can build in security and analytics to digitally transform the way they work, meet business needs and enable their workforce — all while delivering better citizen services.

In an interview with GovLoop, Shannon Leininger, U.S. Public Sector Area Vice President, SLED East at Cisco, discussed how intent-based networks are accelerating digital transformation for government and going beyond improving people, processes and technologies.

According to Leininger, agencies have several challenges to overcome, including legacy infrastructures, securing networks/ technologies, and eliminating the skills gap. “You can’t start to transform business with legacy infrastructures,” she said. “You’re not going to have the capability to get there. Because security is a foundation, it has to be architected upfront. One of the biggest challenges is finding skilled people to actually implement new technologies and capabilities.”

But there is hope. In addition to leveraging intent-based networks, Leininger suggested focusing on three areas to build on for your digital transformation:

1. Transform business models to create leaner operations. “The administration’s budget cutbacks are around people, not technology or infrastructure and doing more with less. This is the perfect scenario to deploy automation, orchestration and infrastructure in support of government missions.”

2. Empower employees to do more with less. “Help employees find ways to innovate. Sometimes we need to help them step back from their day jobs and look at how to innovate. Plus, if you can create a culture of empowerment, it can help you to retain talent.”

3. Incorporate the customer experience to transform lives. “The primary focus should be on the outcome and the endgame for the citizen experience. Ask what’s most needed for citizens moving forward.”

Technologies like Cisco’s Intuitive Network can help agencies leverage security, analytics and intelligent networks for digital transformation. “You can gather all of the different data, at all the different endpoints, across the infrastructure to provide intelligence to make better decisions,” Leininger said. “We have the unique capability of leveraging a technology platform and then building a security and cyber posture on top of that.”

Intent-based networks can also help agencies transform their business models and leverage automation. They enable agencies to meet citizen needs faster and more efficiently. According to Leininger, “the network becomes the platform for digital acceleration,” and is powered by three key forces to meet those needs. These include intent, context and intuition.

“Intent-based networking allows IT to move from tedious, traditional processes to automation,” Leininger said. “This makes it possible to manage millions of devices in minutes, which addresses the skills gap piece.”

Second is context. “Providing context by interpreting data enables the network to provide new insights,” Leininger said. “The context of that data surrounds the who, what, when, where and how.”

Lastly is intuition. “With machine learning built into your platform, it allows you to use data to provide actionable and predictive insights based on intuition,” Leininger said. “This helps you lean forward with regards to innovating.”

In addition to intent-based networks, government can overcome skills gaps in their workforce by outsourcing some services, including:

  • Advisory to improve design and validation of your networks.
  • Implementation tools to help migrate and deploy network resources.
  • Optimization approaches to simplify, reduce OpEx, and speed transitions.
  • Letting services partners do the heavy lifting of managing IT.
  • Offload technical support for business continuity, efficiency and security.
  • Team training to drive more successful outcomes.

Government will continue to rely on people, processes and technologies to drive the new era of government. But taking digital transformation to the next level will require innovative networks that can help improve decision-making and enable government’s IT workforce to better address not only the needs of federal employees but also those of the citizens they serve.

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