By Jeremiah Sanders, Senior Transformation Strategist and Keith Nakasone, Federal Strategist
As much as we’re all seeking greater reflection in 2023, the Year of the Rabbit could inspire a big leap forward for government agencies and their use of technology.
Opportunities to do more for our country through improved cloud, data security, and AI services are increasing by the day (if not the hour) and could have profound impacts across the spectrum. Think public safety, think national defense, think climate.
In just over a year, three bills were proposed in Washington to invest hundreds of billions in advancements that could rewire the public sector’s role in “growing prosperity,” as MIT Technology Review details. Targeted areas run the gamut from infrastructure and jobs to clean energy and scientific innovation.
Refining our use of the latest technology has the potential to reshape how we live, work, and co-exist for the better. But many federal, state, and local government employees are still bogged down by red tape and data backlogs that affect their ability to get work done, surveys often show.
That means there are countless ways to improve government data and digital frameworks, as well as a real opportunity for cultural change. From unique skills tied to the multi-cloud and machine learning to more tech-enabled community services, the opportunity to help push agencies in the right direction is limitless. Political tensions are inevitable in virtually any climate, but smarter IT investments in federal, state, and local agencies are largely nonpartisan.
Our experienced team at VMware is involved in creating stronger digital foundations for public services and we are well equipped to help agencies and their partners get to the next level through technical and cultural transformation.
Here are five predictions for smarter government tech investments in the year ahead:
Turning the Citizen Experience into the Next Transformation
Agencies are in a unique position when considering their budgets and investments, which are largely funded by taxpayers and their voting choices. The IRS now collects upwards of $4 trillion in gross taxes annually and the federal government has already amassed $1 trillion this fiscal year to pay for goods and services for U.S. citizens. How do we ensure a chunk of that money is invested in smarter technology and better digital infrastructure going forward? The surest way is by voting for elected officials who have meaningful impacts on our experiences as citizens, from education and public safety to emergency response and transportation services. Creating a better citizen experience through smarter IT investment is key. Constituents are looking for leaders who can help create modern public services that directly improve our lives. With countless apps and online platforms for everyday services — as basic as mail delivery and waste management — citizens expect to see a level of digital competency from their administrations and agencies. Government officials who prioritize IT investments that align with our everyday lives are poised to become the most effective leaders in their jurisdictions.
Addressing the Public Cloud and its “Hotel California” Problem
Almost everyone can recite the lyrics to the song. But some might get triggered by the words, “you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave” when reviewing their cloud service bills. As the public cloud afforded many incredible advancements and unique services, the cloud first approach of moving everything to the public cloud may have been overzealous. Cloud consumption costs have spiraled out of control at some agencies that could have opted for a hybrid cloud model. Going forward, there is an opportunity for workload repatriation — a return to data centers and on-premise solutions where it makes sense. This year expect to see more agencies align on multi-cloud adoption as they find the right mix of solutions to meet their daily needs. The public cloud should be central to operations that demand high elasticity or a high rate of change during the initial development stages. But the cloud-smart approach agencies need for 2023 optimizes workload distribution in a multi cloud operating model, including on premises and edge, based on the specific attributes of each workload
Changing Course in Government’s Quest for Talent
The years of the big tech boom created an incredibly tight market for talent across the public sector — especially for workers skilled in the multi-cloud, AI, and machine learning. A San Francisco Department of Technology spokesperson recently told StateScoop that the agency’s IT vacancy rate is nearly 21 percent, as one of countless examples. While the government has long struggled to attract top tech talent, the tides may be turning as more agencies adopt hybrid work models, coupled with more advanced IT measures. At the same time, a growing number of private tech companies have been slimming down their workforces as they brace for a potential downturn. Government agencies also need to make careful decisions around recruitment, retention, and resources going forward. But with important issues like security and climate at the forefront of digital innovation in the public sector, the core jobs that need to be filled are by no means frivolous. As federal, state, and local leaders invest in training and upskilling their workforces, agencies will have an even greater opportunity to tap into some of the best talent and create a workplace of choice. Perhaps the most game-changing incentive for attracting and retaining digital talent in the government workforce is adopting the culture and competencies of modern software practices. As we’ve seen in various DoD ‘software factories’ in the past five years, empowering government and contractor software development teams to continuously deliver real value and citizenry outcomes vice being stuck as a cog in multi-year waterfall system development is an incredible boon for government workforce morale.
Building More Containerized Systems and Frameworks
Legacy IT systems in government are very manual, serialized, and cumbersome. They typically rely on linear progression through application lifecycle management (ALM) with little flexibility or room for error. Most private companies have moved on to far more agile practices like lean product management and user-friendly portals. Even in today’s environment, these can be seen as somewhat foreign concepts to public sector IT teams. Our prediction for 2023 is that it marks the year agencies ditch ALM and really begin to leverage modern software practices. Two steps in that direction are to lean on so-called containerization to scale operations across multiple clouds and to build modern applications that meet the digital demands of U.S. citizens. Closing the gap between development and operations has significant implications to the developer workforce by giving them more advanced techniques and ensuring stronger operational results. It also provides everyday users with some of the better applications on the market.
Taking a “Whole-of-Government” Approach to IT Adoption
IT procurement in the public sector is hard enough. Toss in disparate agencies, evolving rules and regulations, and different onboarding protocols, and the hurdles can seem insurmountable. Partly because the landscape is constantly changing. Take President Biden’s executive order to improve cybersecurity, which directly impacts federal software vendors and entire software supply chains that will need to adhere to stricter frameworks as agencies update their security practices. With similar measures taking place at the state and local level, it’s a good time to implement a “whole-of-government” approach to IT adoption. By doing so, federal, state, and local agencies could work together under more consistent guidelines and shared ‘as a service’ operational models, to tackle their most pressing needs, such as cybersecurity and data protection. While government-wide programs like FedRAMP and StateRAMP have the best intentions to bolster security and provide useful resources, they tend to interfere with daily operations and decision making. A more uniform approach to IT could energize entire staffs, bolster the public/private sector relationship, and help agencies achieve what they were designed for — supporting citizens.