Digital modernization is considered a critical priority in today’s government IT systems. While progress is being made, there are still challenges that are being faced by the government to overcome this obstacle. According to a recent report by McKinsey
, the US government will put more priority on digital modernization in five years’ time.
The federal government spends more than $100 billion on IT and cyber-related investments
. Most of this budget, however, is spent on maintaining existing IT investments, including legacy infrastructure. Many government agencies still rely on outdated legacy systems
In June 2019, the US Government Accountability Office reported that 7 out of the 10 agencies responsible for these legacy systems had plans for modernizing the systems
. Of the 7, only the Departments of the Interior’s and Defense modernization plans included all the essential elements identified in best practices. The other five agencies — the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Treasury, the Office of Personnel Management, Small Business Administration, and Social Security Administration — do not have complete modernization plans.
The high cost of maintaining legacy systems
Government agencies face multiple obstacles to modernization since most still rely heavily on legacy systems, which cause a sizeable number of problems:
- Inability to compete – The inability of legacy systems to adapt to changes and new technologies in the age of cloud services, virtualization, and software-defined everything means it cannot meet the new demands for faster responses and solutions. It hampers the overall mission of an agency.
- High maintenance costs – Maintaining a legacy system is often more expensive than buying a new system. Legacy systems do not support new applications; therefore, modifications are needed to suit new requirements which can add additional costs.
- Data trapped in silos – A data silo is a collection of data that is held by one group and is not easily accessible to other groups even if they are in the same agency. Data silos inhibit collaborative work between departments since they create a barrier to information sharing, which can have dire consequences in high-stakes situations.
- Compromised security against newer threats – Legacy systems often do not support the latest security updates. This puts any sensitive information at risk since it will make the agency vulnerable to ever-evolving cyber threats. Decreased security is most often the biggest reason why a software upgrade is needed. A data breach or hacking can pose serious threats to agencies.
Cyber threats are a real and present danger
Cyber threats have evolved into many forms from ransomware that locks up a system until a ransom is paid, to data exfiltration malware that targets sensitive information.
Back in 2015, The Defense Contract Management Agency, which manages outside contracts for the Department of Defense, investigated a possible cyber-attack. Suspicious activities were detected on January 28, 2015
, and subsequent investigation revealed that the attack attempted to gain insight into specific contracts within the Department of Defense. This type of hack happened again in 2021
when a group of sophisticated Chinese government hackers was able to compromise dozens of U.S government agencies.
Infrastructure modernization should be Priority No. 1
Government agencies should prioritize modernizing their IT infrastructure to counter the ever-evolving landscape of cyber threats.
Upgrading their IT infrastructure not only provides a strong security solution, but also increases agility, productivity, and operational efficiency. Government agencies should also keep in mind that modernization will enable them to provide better services to citizens.
These are the benefits government agencies will get when they embrace IT modernization:
- Cost savings free up the budget for other resources — Lower costs of IT maintenance means additional budget that can be used for other resources.
- Increased agility and collaboration — Communication and collaboration is improved since information can be securely shared across the entire agency.
- Leverage commercially available technology – It will be easier for government agencies to utilize off-the-shelf software and services that can help process routine low-risk activities, freeing up workers to focus on more strategic and value-adding tasks. This tech also decreases the chances of fraud and waste and provides better cybersecurity.
- Improved roles of government CIOs – As demand on their systems increases, the responsibilities of government tech leaders also increase. Government CIOs should be able to help other agency chiefs to decide, develop, and execute strategies to make better modernization choices for key applications.
- Improved efficiency and user experience — A modern IT infrastructure is designed for ease of use, which translates to a better employee experience. Eliminating unnecessary manual processes and paperwork also saves time and minimizes errors.
A solid implementation strategy combined with support from trusted service providers is crucial to any IT modernization initiative. While modernization does not happen overnight, it is important that government CIOs and IT heads recognize both the need and urgency. When agencies are equipped with the best tools to do their job, every citizen will benefit.
If you would like to explore accelerating your agency’s Modernization efforts, contact us at Alpha Omega Integration.