Data center consolidation has been a mandated goal in the federal government for a number of years. The introduction of cloud, virtualization, and shared services means the government can run more efficiently with less hardware that no longer requires huge, physical servers to sit in buildings. Many of which were built for the sole purpose of housing servers. Consolidation saves money on technology, the support of that technology and also reduces agency real estate footprints and needs. While agencies have made some strides, the OMB sees the progress to date as going after low hanging fruit and is now challenging agencies to think bigger.
According to a drafted policy issued in November, OMB stated, "Agencies have seen little real savings from the consolidation of non-tiered facilities, small server closets, telecom closets, individual print and file servers, and single computers acting as servers." The push now should be in moving to the cloud and shared services, and looking to commercial third parties to host government data.
More than moving servers and workloads, data center consolidation relies on changing the way agencies manage data. The Data Accountability and Transparency Act was enacted to make information on government spending more transparent. Doing so requires agencies to agree to and implement data standards so that information can be shared across government and openly with the public. This implementation of standards has been a stumbling block for compliance. Continue reading
Citizen Experience is a focus of the President's Management Agenda and the resulting IT Modernization Centers of Excellence. This focal point is a result of government receiving poor customer service marks (ranking them on par or below cable companies) year after year. Agencies have evolved from requiring citizens to visit a government office to fill out sheets of paperwork to online portals that provide much of that same paperwork online. It quickly became clear, however, that simply moving paperwork online was not the answer to improving citizen experience with government. Today the technology exists to take that online interaction to the next level.
Social media, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), video chat, text, and chatbots are being used throughout government to give citizens a more direct and personalized digital line to the agencies that serve them. Cities are using IoT to better communicate the whereabouts and schedule of public transport as well as air quality levels. AI is powering website chatbots and search functions allowing for more self-service of citizens looking to conduct business with the government 24/7.
But technology alone will not improve the government's customer service scores. The culture and morale of the government workforce also plays a huge role in the service that is delivered to citizens. Service representatives in government should be trained on new systems and shown how technologies will enhance, rather than replace, their jobs. Continue reading
The last time we wrote about FITARA, the news was pretty grim. The 6th check-in since the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA) was enacted in December 2014 found that many agencies were backsliding regarding their ability to show progress against FITARA goals of Data Center Consolidation, IT Portfolio Review Savings, Incremental Development, and Risk Assessment Transparency. This was a bit surprising given that the introduction of the Modernizing Government Technology (MGT) Act was expected to help improve FITARA scores. While compliance with MGT is still slow, some other areas picked up momentum helping propel the FITARA scores upward.
The seventh version of the FITARA scorecard showed progress at many agencies over the six months between reports. No agencies saw their grades drop. Additionally, for the first time, there were no Fs on the report. Now, getting excited about no Fs may be setting the bar a bit low, but the DoD, due in part to sheer size and complexity, has struggled with the scorecard, and this cycle earned a D+. Other agencies making notable progress were the VA moving from a C+ to a B+, HHS from C- to B+, and Small Business Administration moving from a D+ to a B+. Continue reading
The Federal Risk and Automation Management Program, commonly known as FedRAMP, was introduced in 2010 and signed into policy at the end of 2011 as a "standardized approach to security assessment, authorization, and continuous monitoring for cloud products and services." In plain English, it provides a baseline for agencies to determine if a cloud solution is secure enough for them to use. Vendors get FedRAMP certified as a way to prove their solution is ready to plug and play into federal systems.
In recent years, cloud has moved from a curiosity for most agencies to a key part of IT infrastructure. With this change in cloud acceptance and use, FedRAMP has also started to evolve to meet today's needs. Last summer, Rep. Gerry Connolly introduced the FedRAMP Reform Act of 2018 as a more stringent enforcement of the use of FedRAMP guidance. Continue reading
The Modernizing Government Technology (MGT) Act was passed in late 2017 as part of the National Defense Authorization Act. MGT creates working capital funds for IT projects that will "improve service delivery to the public, secure sensitive systems and data, and save taxpayer dollars."
This $228 million fund allows agencies to borrow money to transition to new technologies. It can also serve as the start-up for working capital funds for ongoing IT projects. Agencies must submit proposals to an interagency board in order to receive money from the general fund. This Technology Modernization Board will be responsible for approving certain projects and making funding recommendations to the General Services Administration, which administers the funds.
This money is intended to fund critical efforts including replacing infrastructure and applications that pose a high cybersecurity risk, legacy systems that are costly to operate, and IT that can support citizen service goals as laid out in the President's Management Agenda. The goal of MGT is to jump start projects that will generate future savings for agencies, but repayment is not contingent upon agencies actually seeing those savings, the loan must be repaid regardless of project results or savings.
MGT is really a proof of concept, or a new way of funding IT within government. As OMB and GSA work to provide guidance and administer the funds, agencies are looking for ways to present their projects in the best light to not only receive funding but also achieve efficiency goals. Luckily, there are a number of events where agencies can share modernization experiences and best practices as well as discuss how best to use MGT funds. Here are a few events that will focus on modernization as a key goal within government.
- Defense Systems Summit (July 11; Arlington, VA) - With a theme of IT Everywhere: Technology's Role in Tomorrow's Military, this 1105 Media event will bring together the DoD community to discuss how IT teams manage operations by maintaining legacy systems alongside emerging technology. With a focus on weaving in modern technologies, the event will include discussion on AI, defense cyber tools, IoT, and more.
- Beyond Telework. IT Modernization Strategies for Competing in the Full Employment Era (July 24; Washington, DC) - This event is focused on how the federal government can compete to secure the best and brightest talent. With enthusiasm for teleworking tempering within government (and it being so widely used in the private sector), agencies need to look to other IT modernization strategies to create a flexible, next-gen workplace.
- Cyber Excellence: Modern, Secure, Resilient (August 2; Washington. DC) - Looking at modernization through the reality of MGT funding, this event looks to explain how to use the guidance and funding coming from the executive branch to accelerate progress. Discussion will focus on key cyber strategies that will improve security postures today while paving the road to a more dynamic, high performance government.
- IT Modernization Conference @930gov (August 28; Washington, DC) - This event will look at the current state of the Executive Office's 'Comprehensive Plan for Reforming the Federal Government' initiative and address what lies ahead for FY'19 and beyond. Sessions will address the strategies, tactics and policies around the modernization efforts.
- 2018 Public Sector Innovation Summit (December 4; Washington, DC) - Attendees will explore how technology-driven innovation is advancing government. Top technology innovators and influencers across the public and private sectors will converge to discuss what's shaping the future of digital government.
We'd love to hear from you. Where are you learning about how best to apply for and use MGT funds? Share your thoughts in the comments.