At the start of COVID-19, Federal IT leaders not only had to enable Federal telework overnight, but also accelerate their modernization efforts to minimize disruptions, deliver access to needed applications and data, and at the same time increase network and data security.
Before the pandemic, agencies were working to meet a range of modernization mandates from FITARA to DCOI to the priorities in the President’s Management Agenda (PMA). Today, teams need to maintain modernization momentum while meeting new mission objectives, and continuing to provide critical public services – quickly, securely, and affordably.
In a recent interview, Rick Kryger, Deputy CIO, Operations & Acting Director, U.S. Department of Labor, said the PMA is core to agency planning. The priority of the initiative is to improve agencies’ ability to deliver mission outcomes, provide quality services, and effectively manage taxpayer dollars. “It’s a structure of accountability,” Kryger said.
Many agencies are looking to cloud-based services to achieve these objectives, as well as localized priorities. In the Federal government, 63 percent say Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) are keys to meeting agency IT needs. In fiscal 2020, agencies planned to invest a combined $3.2 billion in IaaS/PaaS and $3.3 billion in SaaS.
The growth of an expanding distributed workforce – and expanding attack surface from a cybersecurity perspective – elevates the importance of consolidating the application ecosystem, managing application performance across a more diverse network, and always keeping data secure.
Agencies not only need modern systems but also modern procurement to accelerate modernization. Teams need the flexibility to add or scale technologies to meet mission partner requirements, and the ability to manage those platforms and applications remotely.
IT-as-a-Service streamlines these functions by minimizing the labor and costs agencies spend implementing and upgrading many different tools to achieve the same outcomes. Agencies can acquire and provision a range of IT hardware and software suited to their needs, including technology delivered on-premise or in a Federal co-located facility.
Kryger explained that IT as-a-Service helps agencies realize the most value. “Companies provide the capability to acquire all of it, as-a-Service. So the labor and costs that go into managing the overall service might be more efficiently procured as a single package instead of a series of pieces,” he said.
Over the past few years, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) implemented enterprise-wide shared services and moved toward a hybrid-cloud model, closing more than 60 data centers, consolidating software licenses, and more. These changes led to massive savings in time and resources across DOL’s agencies – including $119 million in cost savings for the Office of the Chief Information Officer from IT consolidation and centralization alone.
Kryger noted, “effectively the IT work that has been traditionally held within each agency is going through a reorganization to gain those exact benefits that we’ve seen happen elsewhere in other layers of government and in the private sector to bring that together.”
A recent MeriTalk study noted that while 73 percent of Feds say their agency has a defined IT modernization roadmap, just 24 percent rate their efforts to date as excellent. When it comes to leveraging the full potential of technology, many agencies still have work to do and IT-as-a-Service can help accelerate their efforts.
Rob Davies, EVP of Operations for ViON said agencies historically have over-bought technology without the ability to forecast IT needs when consolidating operational capabilities, during an exclusive Q&A. ViON has been able to help agencies leverage the speed and agility of cloud to improve effectiveness and reduce technical debt – whether from over-purchasing or simply maintaining legacy tech.
“They had to change how they bought technology. I think the public cloud has challenged everyone’s perception about what’s possible,” Davies said, explaining cloud leads to service innovation.
DOL has started to build new technology instead of just managing technical debt associated with operations and maintenance of dated commodity technology—with the end goal being mission success.
When it comes to using as-a-Service capabilities, Kryger noted the benefits of outsourcing. “You can simply spin up any type of database and get support. All you have to do is put your schema and data in so you can offload all the infrastructure management and service management around that database capability,” he said.
Sandy Krawchuk, GVP, North America Public Sector, Cloud Infrastructure, Oracle Corporation, says she has seen several government customers choosing as-a-Service models to free up resources, increase cyber hygiene, and enhance their IT environments.
Agencies don’t have to do all the heavy lifting, she explained, “[as-a-Service] provides a ‘container’ so that the services for compute, storage, back-up, recovery are delivered in a very flexible model and the underlying infrastructure can be moved in and out. In this way, the customers don’t really have to worry about that on a day-to-day basis, and they can focus on other priorities like delivering the applications to the end-users.”
Teams can leverage IT as-a-Service not only to accelerate modernization but also to improve performance in remote environments, quickly and affordably. Krawchuk noted, “Keep the lights on and deliver what you need to as you figure out how to get to the next level.”
 Bloomberg Government, The State of Federal Cloud: Market Briefing, 2020
 MeriTalk, Modernizing the Monolith: Unlocking the Legacy Data Dilemma, 2020