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Top 10 tech trends for feds to watch

Shutterstock image: circuitry of a digital brain. 

Across government, career executives are assessing priorities for the year, with an eye to both the known challenges that must be addressed and the new priorities Trump administration officials want to champion.  The administration's newly released budget proposal will dominate the headlines, but there are IT and management issues that will be key regardless of the policies. So with apologies to David Letterman, here’s my “Dave’s Top 10 List” of tech issues that will be the focus of government time and attention in the months ahead.

10. Convergence in the marketplace: The convergence of hardware, software and services into integrated solutions, coupled with the move to consumption-based buying, commonly referred to as “everything as a service,” is changing everything. Agencies must identify requirements in terms of solutions and results, and contracting choices must recognize this new way of doing business to take advantage of the convergence benefits that industry can provide.

9. IT modernization: IT modernization is the top federal tech issue for the year, and more rapid migration to commercial cloud solutions is crucial to help reduce costs, improve outcomes and ensure speed and agility. Agencies currently spend as much as 80 percent of their IT budget sustaining aging legacy infrastructure and systems. While some agencies are making significant progress in migrating to the cloud, my organization's most recent CIO Survey reported that only 5 percent of federal IT leaders are satisfied with their agencies’ progress.

8. Cybersecurity: The aging federal IT infrastructure and the reactive nature of most ongoing cybersecurity efforts must be addressed. We must turn our attention from “security through denial of service” to proactive efforts that focus on risk management, continuous monitoring, secure information sharing and trusted computing from untrusted devices.

7. Mobility: Employees have expectations of being connected anywhere, anytime, with access to the information necessary to get the job done. CIOs can no longer “just say no” on issues like access to organizational information from personal devices.

6. Big data: Agencies must leverage the massive amount of data they hold to create entrepreneurial engines, improve transparency and ensure more effective data-driven decision making. Progress has been made, but more can be done.

5. It’s a digital world: Digital solutions will fundamentally change the way agencies deliver services -- if those agencies can accelerate digitization efforts, move off outdated legacy infrastructure and embrace mobile solutions and applications. However, digital solutions must address a more expansive set of the major programs that comprise the federal IT budget. The government also must grow a cadre of savvy digital buyers at agencies. While it’s fun to do the work yourself, the breadth and extent of federal IT requires the support of a broad array of private-sector firms.

4. Access to innovation -- looking through silicon-colored glasses: Access to innovation is a top priority for federal tech leaders, yet speed and innovation rank low as priorities for federal contracting officials. Government is far more hampered by how agencies are asking for things than by whom they ask. Innovative solutions are available from both new entrants and well-established government contractors, if the right contracting approaches are used.

3. Increasing speed and improving outcomes in IT contracting: Federal agencies take far too long to contract for needed solutions and often fail to use contracting practices that would deliver better results with more speed while fostering innovation. Flexibilities already exist within the Federal Acquisition Regulation to achieve this goal, to include the use of statements of objectives, alternative proposals, commercial contracting and managed services.

2. It’s a transition year: The transition to a new administration is happening whether you’re ready for it or not. The Professional Service Council put out a number of recommendations that could jumpstart your agency’s ability:

  • Harness technology and new business models to modernize government service delivery.
  • Improve government operations to better compete globally.
  • Build a better engagement model to bring the best ideas and solutions from industry into government.
  • Develop the government and industry workforces of the future.

1. Change happens: The federal government faces both a frenetic pace of technology change and a time of continuing financial uncertainty. Agency leaders must get ahead of the tech trends already here -- the internet of things, cognitive computing, augmented reality, mobile apps and other private-sector innovations. At the same time, plans must take into account the challenges from a lack of appropriations, constraints of continuing resolutions, limitations imposed by the Budget Control Act and the implications of ever-increasing interest payments on the national debt. Bold ideas and bold actions are needed. Recognizing and embracing the need for substantive change is a journey that government and industry must embark on together.

About the Author

David Wennergren is executive vice president for operations and technology at the Professional Services Council.

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