Technology and Trends: What Your Agency Needs to Know Now

Author: James Farley, Vice President of Enterprise Solutions

Emerging capabilities and trends lead to digital transformation – the process of using digital technologies to solve changing requirements. As our work continues to change, as our people change and become more comfortable with technology, and as policy and regulation change in the government sector, emerging technology and trends will help to scope transformation initiatives as we modernize the Federal Government’s solutions to large-scale problems that affect the public.

The most recent President’s Management Agenda states:

“In the 21st Century, most Government agencies rely on technology to deliver services to the American people and support the work of the Federal workforce in delivering those services. The Information Technology Modernization framework provides an integrated view of addressing IT challenges that leverages common capabilities to ensure that, going forward, strategic IT projects are better positioned for success.”

These transformation priorities in the Information Technology Modernization framework are very much rooted and reflected in technical trends we’re seeing right now. Let’s look at some of those trends.

All the data, all the time

The President’s Management Agenda says, “The use of data is transforming society, business, and the economy. If the Federal Government does not maintain its role as a preeminent supplier and sophisticated user of data, it will no longer be able to fulfill the trust placed in it by the American people. The Federal Government lacks a robust, integrated approach to using data to deliver on mission, serve customers, and steward resources.”

At all levels of government, agencies are beginning to understand the many ways they might leverage data to manage their operations, shape policies, and drive decisions. Data is going to increasingly become a core enabler to fulfill missions and operate more efficiently.

Given that motivation, agencies must improve their ability to manage data as a strategic asset; improve accessing, sharing, and maintaining quality data; ensure secure, efficient, and cost-effective solutions for storing data; learn how to drive more value from data; and reduce unnecessary duplication, waste, or excessive requirements.

In order to manage data and operate more efficiently, agencies will have to answer these questions:

  1. What data do we have available?
  2. Where is that data kept?
  3. What data do we need?
  4. Which data is a priority?

By answering those four questions, we ensure the quality and availability of data needed to analyze information, stay on top of trends, and make informed decisions.

Boosting productivity with emerging technologies

Cross-Agency Priority (CAP) Goals are a tool used by leadership to accelerate progress on a limited number of Presidential priority areas where implementation requires active collaboration among multiple agencies. One of the stated CAP goals in the President’s Management Agenda is to modernize IT to increase productivity. The Agenda further mandates agencies are consistently meeting missions while “improving the quality and efficiency of critical citizen-facing services.” These goals are being met in part through the development of artificial intelligence (AI), including machine learning (ML) and robotic process automation (RPA).

AI, ML, and RPA are not new technologies, but they have been given a boost by new products and methods of implementation that make it easier to understand and deploy. Organizations are developing AI capabilities to expedite solutions to long-standing problems, develop new services, personalize human machine interactions, reduce human bias in decision making, and increase productivity by reducing the amount of effort expended on routine and mundane tasks.

In order to ensure success, AI, ML, and RPA deployments will depend on the answers to these questions:

  1. Do we have the necessary APIs that expose the data?
  2. Who can contribute to the data?
  3. Is there a method that ensures data quality?

Early adopters are quickly learning that the value of AI tools is dependent upon the data they are fed (“Garbage In/Garbage Out”). Data management and established governance processes will become prerequisites to deploying AI programs.

Zero Trust cybersecurity

Guiding the administration’s efforts to modernize federal IT are three priorities, one of which is “Reducing cybersecurity risks to the Federal Mission by leveraging current commercial capabilities and implementing cutting edge cybersecurity capabilities.”

The network perimeter has grown porous and less defined due to increased utilization of cloud, mobility, and the internet of things. Rather than simply defending that network perimeter, agencies need to assume their networks are open and look at securing the individual assets – data, applications, and systems. Traditional perimeter-centric security is a failed approach. Zero Trust transforms the approach to one that is data-centric. Given the exponential rise in connected devices, security, and network analysts struggle with alert fatigue and often ignore security alerts. Insider attacks are becoming more prevalent, and accidental release of data is often more damaging. Instead of trusting users, we must now trust no one. Zero Trust demands that an organization be able to answer:

  1. Where is the data?
  2. What is the data?
  3. Who has access to the data?
  4. Why do they have access to it?

Being able to answer those four questions will ensure an accurate accounting of sensitive data and critical resources that require authentication before granting access.

Poly cloud and hybrid environments

Part of “improving the quality and efficiency of critical citizen-facing services,” according to The President’s Management Agenda, includes “the increased utilization of cloud-based solutions such as email and collaboration tools.”

Agencies today are exploring a number of cloud delivery options for their enterprises – dedicated on-premise deployments, public cloud, private cloud, poly cloud, or some combination thereof. But managing multiple environments is complicated, specifically when it comes to meeting security controls and moving application workloads between environments. API-first application development and containerization are two potential solutions to this problem. API-first development focuses on the data – identifying the data and making it available. Containerization standardizes cloud deployments, offering a portable approach to multiple environments.

As we can see, these trends are progressing rapidly as agencies embrace emerging technologies, more efficient ways of serving the public, and new ways of thinking. Your agency cannot afford to be left behind if you are to meet your mission and the goals of the Presidential Agenda. When your organization is ready to modernize, reach out to an Octo team member to discuss the right approach and options.