This blog post is an excerpt from GovLoop’s recent guide, "Your Roadmap to IT Modernization."
Modernizing agency IT systems is about more than just refreshing IT assets. It is an opportunity to rethink and update agency business processes, enable new capabilities and refresh technology with those process changes in mind. IT modernization is about how agencies will evolve into the government of the future.
To better understand the importance, steps, and benefits of IT modernization in the public sector, GovLoop interviewed Kapil Bakshi, a Distinguished Systems Engineer at Cisco, a FedRAMP-authorized cloud provider. He explained that the need to deliver new mission capabilities, improve cybersecurity and standardize platforms are three key drivers pushing agency IT modernization initiatives.
The customers of government agencies, whether that is the public or other organizations, are increasingly using technology platforms in everyday life and business, so constituents expect that their government will be similarly accessible. As agency leaders plan their IT modernization initiatives, the customer experience has to be top of mind.
Cybersecurity is another critical piece of IT modernization. The best protection will prevent as many cyberattacks as possible, detect and stop those that do get through a firewall, and gather data for later analysis. Bakshi emphasized that “cybersecurity can and should be incorporated into IT modernization strategy from the beginning of any project."
The third driver for IT modernization is the need to standardize platforms. According to Bakshi, this is important because, “If you standardize your infra- structure, applications and development methodologies, then you can easily share or consolidate them, and deliver them in a shared services model.” Having standardized, modern platforms makes it easier for organizations to migrate to the cloud and share data with internal or external stakeholders.
Once agencies decide to take on an IT modernization initiative, there are certain steps that Bakshi advised agencies to work through.
“First, agencies have to put together an ‘as is’ state, and have a crisp understanding of where things are,” he said. This baseline view informs IT buyers what their gaps and needs are, and provides a benchmark for measuring improvements.
Next, agencies should develop a roadmap and business plan to determine the agency’s desired end state. The roadmaps will establish timelines for completion and create clear objectives for the projects. Most importantly, the plan will map out what the agencies future mission capabilities will look like.
Lastly, agencies will need to determine which metrics to use to evaluate the progress of the IT modernization initiative. These performance metrics help leaders understand the status of the IT modernization project at any given point and they help leaders incorporate an IT maturity model. The maturity model gives agency leaders a way to benchmark successful completion of each stage of the project by comparing the actual outcomes to the expected outcomes of the end state.
Agencies that have modernized IT systems have seen benefits such as greater return on investment, an improved cybersecurity posture, optimized cloud systems, analytics and app development. “IT modernization creates greater return on investment for the taxpayer when the outcomes of the projects outweigh the investments,” Bakshi said. “The return on investment needs to be continuously evaluated as agencies progress along the maturity model to ensure that a project is completed with end state in mind,” he added.
Another benefit of IT modernization is that it helps agencies migrate to the cloud more easily. If agencies update their IT systems, then they will be able to optimize seamless cloud platforms in their new infrastructures. “Cisco has been on the forefront of developing cloud infrastructures and products for cloud models,” Bakshi noted.
Migrating to the cloud model will also allow agencies to modernize their applications and transform legacy applications into cloud native platforms. By modernizing IT systems, agencies will be able to easily migrate platforms and applications to the cloud consumption model, and as a result, a wider range of innovations will be available for improved efficiency and effectiveness.
A key tenet of IT modernization is analytics-based insights. Agencies use data analytics to evaluate their missions, service delivery outcomes, and business processes. By gaining insight from increased analytics and performance metrics, government leaders can better target reform efforts, create more efficient organizations and determine how to best serve their citizens.
IT modernization is important for the public sector because it will allow agencies to expand their mission capabilities, improve cybersecurity, and create standardized platforms. By evaluating the current state, determining the desired state and measuring progress during projects, agencies can reap the benefits of IT modernization. These benefits include increased return on investment, data analytics and the power of cloud computing and analytics. In turn new IT capabilities will help government better serve citizens and deliver on their missions.