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5 predictions for federal IT in 2017

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With a new administration moving into the White House, many of us in the federal IT community are wondering what the 2017 will bring.

Change can provoke anxiety, but it can also be viewed as an opportunity to reassess how we've conducted the business of government, to change our priorities to support new initiatives and to embrace new practices to meet new challenges.

While much remains to be seen with regard to what the new administration will do, I would like to offer the following predictions based on my observations and conversations with peers in our community.

  • The new administration will continue to accelerate the government's use of social media. President Donald Trump and many on his team have used social media quite effectively to speak directly to citizens before and after the elections. This trend will accelerate usage of social media by agencies to communicate and share more with citizens, resulting in obvious benefits. But this also will require government organizations to invest more and become savvier about how they use social media -- not just the technology but the appropriate messaging and ethics surrounding its use. As a result, agencies will be scrambling to hire social media experts and to obtain tools and analytics to measure the success of these efforts to connect with citizens and understand their concerns.
  • Expect a civilian workforce hiring freeze. Over the last few months, we saw a frenzy of hiring as civilian agencies prepared for an order from the new administration to freeze the number of federal employees. This could have a significant impact on areas like procurement, where the workforce already is overburdened. Of course, we'll have to wait and see what this freeze policy will entail. But we can assume that the federal IT community will need to adapt by prioritizing its most critical work and assigning resources accordingly.
  • Delivering IT on budget and on time will become the top metric used to assess the acquisition process. As exemplified by Trump's public comments related to some specific government programs, there will be a huge focus on delivering value to government without delays or cost overruns. We can expect a president who prizes his reputation as a tough negotiator to emphasize that with the federal IT community. Federal workers and contractors working on IT projects will be expected to proactively assess risks and to be quick to react and change course if things go wrong. Combined with the need to embrace new technologies, this will spur an uptick in agile management processes and an acceleration in the use of techniques like DevOps, agile development and real-time risk registers.
  • There will be greater activity related to economic growth. With a president who is promising to create broad-based economic prosperity, it's likely we'll see creative public-private models to spur new investments in infrastructure. Our community can play a vital role in providing the technology, systems and services that underpin this strategy for federal, state and local government agencies -- as well as for private entities. Our community also can focus on developing IT talent in diverse locations -- especially in rural America -- rather than concentrating it around the Beltway.
  • The U.S. will increase its focus on developing offensive cyberattack capabilities. With state actors grabbing headlines for launching cyberattacks against the U.S. and allies, we can expect the National Security Agency and parts of the Defense Department to increase efforts to develop more offensive cyber capabilities in response. These efforts will concentrate on protecting government information, activities related to government such as political campaigns, and the country's critical infrastructure.

As with any change in administration, we can also expect bumps in the road. Many of the new leaders will come from outside of traditional government circles and must get used to the unique challenges involved in government work -- while those who work in the agencies they lead must become acclimated to the new leadership.

But despite the challenges, I predict the federal IT community will come together -- as it always has -- and achieve great things throughout the year and beyond.

About the Author

Venkatapathi "PV" Puvvada was elected a senior vice president by the Board of Directors in February 2015. In addition, PV was named president of Unisys Federal in July 2014.

As president of Unisys Federal, Venkatapathi is responsible for driving the company's growth in the federal marketplace by providing innovative solutions in areas such as cloud computing, big data, unified communications, mobile applications and security.

Previously, Venkatapathi served as group vice president for the company's federal civilian agency business since 2010. From 2005 to 2010, he was managing partner and chief technology officer for Unisys Federal, overseeing the company's federal solutions portfolio and service delivery excellence. Venkatapathi joined Unisys in 1992.

A vocal advocate of using technology to help federal agencies serve U.S. citizens, Venkatapathi has served in leadership positions at several technology-related industry groups and has won numerous awards for his contributions. He currently serves on the board of directors of the Professional Services Council, a group that advocates on behalf of the federal professional and technical services industry. In 2007-2008, he served as chair of the Industry Advisory Council, a public-private partnership organization dedicated to advancing government through the application of information technology.

Venkatapathi's contributions have been recognized through numerous industry awards. He is a four-time winner of the Federal Computer Week Federal 100 Award, in 2015, 2008, 2005 and 2003. In 2013, media company Executive Mosaic inducted Venkatapathi into the Washington 100, a group of industry leaders "who drive growth at the intersection of the public and private sectors." In 2010, he was named Government Contractor CTO Innovator of the Year in the large business category by the Northern Virginia Technology Council and Washington Technology magazine.

Venkatapathi holds a master's in Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology.​​​​​​

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