Are We There Yet? The Future of Modernization

There's no shortage of mandates and guidance related to modernization-PMA, Technology Modernization Fund, FITARA, Cyber EO, CX EO-pushing the government to update how they deliver services online, but what does it really mean, and what is involved?

Modernization in government began with transforming data centers and integrating cloud computing into government IT architectures and moved on to improving customer experience. Agencies have made inroads in all areas. The recent FITARA scorecard showed that data center consolidation goals have been completed. Cloud efforts have moved from Cloud First to Cloud Smart in an effort to ensure cloud was just not a checkbox but was being used to transform how the government consumes and distributes IT services. Citizen Experience (CX) has been a priority across three administrations with the next generation of CX efforts outlined in an executive order. These modernization efforts have resulted in billions of dollars in cost savings and increased efficiency for a government workforce that is now telework friendly, but the work is not done.

Moving the Goalposts

In the case of modernization, moving the end goal is not only encouraged, it is necessary. The FITARA scorecard has been used for the past 12 years to measure agency progress against modernization goals. After the last release, lawmakers and stakeholders agreed it was time to re-examine the metrics being tracked. Suggested changes include new categorizations focusing on legacy information technology and the cyber supply chain.

GSA recently released a new version of the Federal IT Dashboard, a site that "enables agencies, OMB, Congress, GAO, and the public to understand the value of their federal IT portfolios, manage the health of their IT investments, and make better IT planning decisions." OMB collects data on modernization projects through this site and then provides visualizations to give a digestible view of IT performance health and management data. The new site includes a new user interface as well as a completely re-tooled back end that makes it easier for agencies to submit Capital Planning and Investment Control data.

People Need to Catch up to the Tech

The technology to modernize and offer a true consumer-grade digital experience is available today. The largest stumbling block is culture and process. A recent survey of federal IT decision makers found that digital transformation efforts are lagging in part due to cultural resistance to change and the inability of contractors to quickly implement initiatives. 51% say a culture resistant to change is the top reason for failed digital transformation plans.

This resistance has huge impacts. 73% of those surveyed say their agency lacks a clear vision for a digital transformation. If an agency does have a vision or plan, the survey found that 88% of respondents think their agencies have fallen behind on those modernization plans. Beyond impacting the work of government, 59% of respondents expressed concerns about how this slow implementation may impact customer experiences while accessing critical resources online. This change has to begin with agency leadership taking a new look at themselves as technology leaders and reset their expectations of people, process, and the technology vendors they partner with.

GovEvents and GovWhitePapers have resources that cover the wide variety of factors involved in public sector IT modernization.

  • Services Intelligence: Plans and Priorities Forum (April 20, 2022; virtual) - With increased funding from the NDAA, the Department of Defense and military service branches will be able to better leverage advanced technologies from industry partners to create the Internet of Military Things, flatten the data environment, combat the growing threat of cyber-attacks, accelerate progress on JADC2 initiatives, and retain the nation's competitive advantage over global adversaries. Distinguished military service branch officials and industry experts will discuss how modernization strategies, acquisition reforms and intelligence innovations will shape the future of U.S. military capabilities in alignment with the 2022 National Defense Strategy.
  • Why Transform State IT Operations: We've Always Done It This Way (April 20, 2022; webcast) - Learn from government and industry experts about how agencies can transform their core operations to be more digital and efficient. Topics discussed include how operational transformation could benefit the executive, the manager, and the employee; how to mitigate potential roadblocks and create opportunities for enhanced creativity and innovation; and how to finally address technical debt and reduce the myriad of disciplines required to support legacy solutions.
  • 3rd Annual CIO Summit (April 26, 2022; McLean, VA) - As CIOs work to advance modernization initiatives, merge into multi-cloud environments and replace outdated legacy infrastructures, they must leverage their industry partnerships to support federal agencies' constantly evolving missions. Chief Information Officers spanning government and private sector organizations will gather to exchange invaluable insights on the current challenges, as well as priorities and future goals they face as they continue to spearhead innovation strategies.
  • Infrastructure Series: Modernization (May 19, 2022; Washington, DC) - Sudden demands in agency services often require strategic infrastructure approaches to managing those surges. This event will draw insight from agencies and federal IT leaders at the cutting edge of IT modernization trends to transform how their teams are processing health and benefits claims, managing grants, financial systems and more.
  • Drive Innovative Enterprise Transforming Investment in Secure Digital Modernization (white paper) - Digital modernization in the public sector comes with many challenges, including constrained, often uncertain budgets; mission critical can't fail legacy systems; and the onslaught of new technologies. Where should your agency invest to accelerate improvement and mitigate security and other risks?
  • From Why to How: Government Leaders Use FedRAMP to Spark IT Modernization (eBook) - A survey of over 500 government technology leaders across federal, state, and local agencies found that many are utilizing FedRAMP-authorized solutions to drive their agency's IT modernization initiatives. In this eBook, experts share their perspectives on what the results say about the increased pressure that government leaders are facing in their IT modernization pursuits and how FedRAMP has become an integral component to their efforts.

For more resources on government modernization efforts check out GovEvents and GovWhitePapers.

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