Speeding Modernization with help from ITES contracts
Federal agencies have gotten the message: IT modernization is critical. Without modern infrastructure and tools, it’s much more difficult to meet mission requirements and citizen demands. But in today’s world, it’s not enough. Agencies committed to innovation, cybersecurity and meeting the pace of change are moving to the next level, embracing technologies and processes that will allow them to meet changing mission requirements, better serve citizens, remain fully secure and keep costs under control.
A report from Accenture bears this out, finding that the most forward-thinking agencies invest in innovation, and that those agencies are most likely to see higher levels of citizen satisfaction with government services.
As agencies move ahead with modernization and innovation, many are turning to the Army’s
Information Technology Enterprise Solutions (ITES) family of contracts for both products and services. In FY 2020 alone, nearly three percent of Defense Department IT contract spending flowed through an ITES contract. That’s because its flexible terms and e-commerce capabilities make buying easy for users, said Christopher Cornillie, a federal market analyst with Bloomberg Government.
Forward march toward innovation
Innovation can take many forms. Here are some of the most important.
Adaptive security: Security is and always will be a top priority for federal agencies. An adaptive approach to security is one that provides the flexibility to change security responses and processes to keep pace with current threats. “Traditional security models run on a framework of preventing problems that we know exist and remediating things when they happen,” explained Matt Richbourg, a solutions architect and security expert at CDW·G. “Adaptive security looks at your security model not just as prophylactics and remediation of known threats, but as an ongoing process where you are monitoring the traffic moving across your network, what it’s doing and how it’s doing it. So instead of taking an aspirin when you get a headache, now someone is constantly monitoring your temperature to react as soon as you get sick.”
Treating risk, trust and security as a continuous and adaptive process requires continuous, pervasive monitoring and visibility at every layer of the stack: network, endpoints, applications, user activity and system interactions. It may require more advanced prevention, detection, response and prediction capabilities that can work together to protect against changing threats.
Citizen digital identity: More citizens than ever are digital natives, relying on technology to interact with government. One of the best ways to provide that experience securely is by providing a digital identity for each citizen based on validated credentials and attributes. Providing that digital identity and verification securely is a challenge that federal agencies are ready to take on. It’s a big priority in government today, with the pending bipartisan Improving Digital Identity Act of 2020, which would establish a government-wide approach to improving digital identity, expected to pass sometime this year. NIST also is expected to develop a standards framework for digital identity verification. An effective digital identity framework would be secure and trustworthy enough that agencies know that only authorized citizens are accessing services and information, and citizens trust that they are interacting with legitimate government resources, and that their personal information is fully protected.
Multichannel citizen engagement: Citizens increasingly want to access government services and sites on their own terms. For some, that might mean using a smart speaker to find a website. For others, it might be more comfortable to apply for a permit using a mobile device. Still others prefer chatbots or even an actual phone call. Federal leaders understand the importance of this change; the President’s Management Agenda, for example, stresses the importance: “meeting customer expectations, keeping sensitive data and systems secure, and ensuring responsive, multi-channel access to services are all critical parts of the vision for modern government.” The 21st Century Integrated Digital Experience Act (IDEA) breaks it down further, requiring all government-produced digital products and services to be consistent, modern and mobile-friendly. It also stresses the need for in-person services, forms, and paper-based services to be available in a digital format.
Meeting these expectations means providing a variety of ways for citizens to engage. It also means putting the right infrastructure in place—one that is secure and efficient, with the ability for citizens to serve themselves securely, and for agencies to analyze trends for continual improvement. It requires a modern customer engagement platform that optimizes all touchpoints and interactions with agencies, and often benefits from advanced technologies like artificial intelligence.
Agile by design: Instead of the traditional approach to program and application development, federal leaders are urging agencies to adopt a more agile approach—one that can adapt quickly to changing priorities and requirements. Like agile software development, an agile approach to government stresses innovation, speed, flexibility and collaboration.
Gartner considers agile by design a major tenet for government moving forward. “Digital government is not a ‘set and forget’ investment,” it noted in its report. “CIOs must create a nimble and responsive environment by adopting an agile-by-design approach, a set of principles and practices used to develop more agile systems and solutions that impact both the current and target states of the business, information and technical architecture.” Research from the Agile Government Center finds that agile government is the best pathway to more effective government, and will help agencies bring agencies together, build trust in government by improving outcomes for the public, and reducing the complexity of government.
Augmented intelligence: By now, most people are familiar with the concept of artificial intelligence, which applies advanced analysis and logic-based techniques to improve predictions, make forecasts and identify risk factors. Augmented intelligence is closely related, but a bit different. It combines the power of AI with human capabilities, machine learning algorithms and statistical models to supplement human intelligence. Making the most of augmented intelligence requires first defining the agency’s broad AI strategy and identifying challenges that AI technology can address. Next, build the AI talent within the agency and choose a few test cases to pilot, Deloitte recommends.
While embracing these trends and technologies will take time and effort, agencies clearly understand the need to move in the right direction. The key, Richbourg says, is to determine both the current and desired future state. “Every agency is in a different place on each of these issues,” he says. The ITES family of contracts is an ideal place to start. Through these contracts, CDW·G can evaluate what is needed and procure those products and services to get the job done.