On EDGE360 we’ve been asking our experts about the biggest trends they expect to see in 2017. There is no doubt that many of our experts see that the demand for digital and data is going to make a significant impact on how business is conducted, decisions are made, IT systems are upgraded and managed and so much more.

With this significant shift to digital, how will federal agencies keep up and embrace flexible and agile IT systems, while protecting themselves from potential cyber risks? Larry Payne, Senior Vice President of U.S. Public Sector at Cisco, offers five recommendations to federal IT leaders in his latest article on NextGov. His first piece of advice is to get buy in – upfront – from the agency CIO so that everyone is on the same page when it comes to the overarching IT strategy. According to Payne, this requires a two-way dialogue at the leadership level to build a strategy that can operate and evolve based on the agency’s mission.

We’ve highlighted three other tips from Payne below:

Simplify the IT System

Government IT can be extremely complex with multiple vendors and protocols. For example, an average enterprise has about 40 different vendors for security alone, which not only makes for a convoluted environment, but also one that isn’t operating smoothly at all.

This is a great time to apply the “less is more” criteria. Try narrowing down the number of your technology vendors—noting which systems are working effectively with each other and determining which vendors align with the organization’s current and (importantly) future IT needs.

When you begin the process of reviewing and choosing these vendors, consider asking questions like, “What does your solution roadmap look like?” and “How agnostic is your solution?” If vendors don’t have answers that align with your agency’s technology vision, they likely won’t be a good fit.

Don’t Wait for a Crisis to Modernize

Why else is simplifying important? Managing potential IT issues. The bad news with your IT system is that it doesn’t get better with time. In fact, it gets much worse.

For instance, take a legacy IT system not receiving software updates, because the hardware is at end of life. Also, it isn’t receiving security patches, which is driving vulnerability through the roof. The software must be updated immediately to be compliant and to avoid major security issues, but the system isn’t set up to flag the software update until it’s almost too late.

It’s the CIO’s job to flag potential IT issues in real-time and mitigate risk, which is difficult with an aging IT system and no investment in future technologies.

Invest in Your Agency’s IT Future

Investing in the future of your IT infrastructure is critical if you want it to be agile, efficient and smart. By investing in future technologies, including the cloud, the CIO can better innovate and support the agency. However, continuing to invest in legacy IT tools prevents the CIO from building a modern, digital system.

One way to support the CIO’s investment in new digital technologies is to double down on FedRAMP, which includes compliance measures that enable technology vendors to work with federal agencies while ensuring security.

Another important investment is one in your IT organization’s expertise. Many successful companies focus on college students or young professionals, providing them proper IT education and training early in their career. Also, you can recruit talent from military personnel transitioning out of active service. The former military cohort typically has a strong foundation of knowledge and experience around IT and IT systems, which easily can be nurtured to support your IT strategy.

While the IT landscape continues to evolve at a rapid pace, these tips can help prepare your agency for what 2017 will bring.  To read Larry Payne’s other tips, click here for the full article.

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