Federal agencies need to think about IT modernization as a continuous process rather than as an isolated strategy, said Federal IT experts during a virtual webinar hosted by Federal News Network on August 18.

Adoption of a continuous modernization mindset will allow Federal agencies to become more future-proof by thinking about emerging technology and capabilities, and then addressing their modernization strategies accordingly. Kevin Walsh, director of IT and Cybersecurity at the Government Accountability Office, talked about various modernization efforts across the Federal government, and said that modernization should move forward even if agency mission objectives do not change.

“While agency objectives like [those of] the IRS or Social Security Administration might not change, the technology they utilize should change to accomplish their mission more efficiently and effectively,” said Walsh.

A continuous modernization mindset also requires planning and strategizing from both a technology and financial viewpoint, and Walsh said that four universal criteria need to be considered when agencies undertake IT modernization. “We want them to consider the risks associated with modernization, the costs, whether the mission of the system is critical, and the performance of the system,” Walsh said.

Sukhvinder Singh, Chief Technology Officer at the U.S. Agency for International Development, discussed IT modernization efforts that the agency has worked on for the past decade-plus, and further projects that it plans down the road.

That continuous modernization journey, he said, has included streamlining data center assets and migrating IT resources to the cloud. In 2010 USAID moved to cloud-based email, messaging, and collaboration tools. In 2012, the agency consolidated to a single enterprise data center as part of the Data Center Optimization Initiative. And more recently, in 2018, USAID successfully migrated the enterprise data center to a hybrid cloud solution with full disaster recovery capabilities.

Singh said that serverless computing, containerization, machine learning, and artificial intelligence are among the next round of capabilities the agency is looking at to accomplish its mission more efficiently and effectively.

“It is a journey,” he explained. “It’s not like you are done with a few projects, and you can claim, ‘Okay, I’m done with my modernization.’ Every day, we hear of new technologies, of new, better ways to do things. For us, it’s a continuous process, and we look at how we can further improve.”

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Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.