In April, US President Joe Biden sent his first discretionary funding request to Congress, in which he granted another $500 million to the Technology Modernisation Fund. The request notes that in the wake of recent high-publicity cyber-attacks, as well as the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on government technology, there is an ‘urgent need to modernise Federal technology, with particular emphasis on mission-essential systems and citizen-facing digital services’.
Clearly, the benefits of modernising IT for organisations are substantial, and no government wants another situation similar to what happened in the US State of New Jersey. But the risks associated with migrating sensitive and often mission-critical data are still cited as the most significant barriers to considering full platform transformation. However, with a clear path, as well as selection of the right solution provider, rest assured that governments and public sector organisations will be fully equipped to conduct a successful modernisation project. Consider our four tips for success:
1. Shift views from merely accepting regulation to using it as a strategic lever
First, understand and accept that regulation and compliance changes are a constant, and embrace them.
All industries struggle with compliance and regulation, but for government entities this is of heightened concern. As a government organisation, you are not likely to easily hand over your databases, software code or other IP to a third party. Over in the US, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 was the precursor to many privacy and security regulations that have grown considerably due to security and privacy breaches that companies are facing quite frequently.
Additionally, there are a host of regulatory concerns that need to be considered, including (but not limited to) the UK Data Protection Act of 1988, the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and the US Modernising Government Technology Act of 2017.
These regulations have another side. They can also be viewed as opportunities, and government entities need to not lose sight of the fact that implementing consent requirements is an opportunity for your organisation to acquire flexible rights to use and share data, whilst maximising operational value.
In addition, as more Cloud solutions come into play, the options for migration become less scary since customers do not have to deliver their code.
2. Engage and educate staff
As with any big changes, legacy system migrations can make employees feel nervous and act in territorial ways. Will they be able to learn to use the new system? Could it end up making their job harder? Or worse, could it make their job so easy that they in fact become obsolete? Keeping staff regularly updated and proactively articulating to them the benefits of the new system — such as increased efficiencies, flexibility and ultimately a better end-user customer experience – can help to alleviate these fears.
Training is critical. If you decide to migrate your system to a private or public Cloud platform, for example, will the existing staff be ready to manage the new system? As Cloud services continue to flourish, this will continue to be important for training your staff.
Last, know who should be one of the key decision makers, and who needs to just be kept informed. The last thing you want to do is create a climate of ‘decision by committee’ when it comes to these critical IT projects.
3. Push for a culture of innovation
At times it might seem safer to take the path of least resistance, but a safer path can often drag down organisations and even put them at risk for efficiency and growth. Government organisations often choose to stick with legacy-based, incumbent tech vendors rather than looking critically at alternative players and solutions that might progress them on a path into a bright future.
In the worst-case scenario, organisations decide to do nothing. This can create many future problems as seasoned IT veterans trained on mainframes retire, and a new cast of IT leaders come into the organisation. Intellectual capital gets lost, and so does productivity.
4. Assess your current environment
At a minimum, know what you have in your IT environment and build a clear picture of which applications, operations and infrastructure are causing you risk. If you are worried about leaving your large IT system integrator, consider allowing a smaller firm with deep expertise to at least provide you with a complete assessment.
For example, at Advanced, irrespective of whether one of our customers intends to migrate their legacy systems, we always begin every engagement with an Automated Assessment. This alone can benefit customers by allowing redundant code to be eliminated, reducing the total cost of ownership and simplifying any future conversion / re-engineering initiative. With our approach, customers start saving money before the modernisation project even begins.
As with any industry, challenges and regulations will continue to persist for IT leaders. There are unique challenges ahead for the public sector, but leaders can also view these as opportunities. Taking these steps, as well as talking to your peers at industry events like CIO, can help ensure you aren’t caught flat-footed as the changing regulatory and technology environment moves at a speedy pace.
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