Sometimes it takes a cataclysmic event to inspire change in how Federal agencies collaborate across departments, with other agencies, and with other outside partners. After the ferocity of the COVID-19 pandemic – which forced the Federal workforce to operate from different places – the government has increasingly adopted modern technologies to drive better connectivity and information sharing.

During MeriTalk’s Centralize and Secure Your Agency’s Digital Workspace webinar yesterday, industry and government experts said that in a fast-moving digital world, Federal agencies must be able to collaborate across departments, with other agencies, and other outside partners without the headaches of disjointed email chains and lack of access to important context and documentation.

“There are two big impacts whenever you can’t communicate either across an agency … or if you’re not able to communicate across organizations,” said Ross Foard, a senior engineer at the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). “What it tends to do is to create a lot of silos and communication … and you tend not to be able to utilize modern technology because modern technologies are all about sharing.”

“Modern technologies are all about sharing, using common patterns of sharing of information, web-based patterns of sharing, and I think not utilizing modern technology could impede agencies from offering better customer experience,” Foard said.

Breaking down silos to create frictionless digital work environments is vital for agencies to modernize and achieve mission success, he explained.

“We’re collectively in the public and private sector moving towards this connectivity. This kind of connective tissue is propelled by all these different technologies like the cloud, and it enables everyone to kind of be able to share information,” said Sean Frazier, Federal CISO at Okta.

However, agencies often need help finding scalable solutions that offer the level of security required for government work.

Foard and his team have provided Federal agencies with guidance on what modern technologies they can adapt to better serve their customers and meet their mission needs. For example, in the last few years, his team has tried to help agencies move to the cloud and understand how to take their business applications into the cloud and access them securely.

Recently, CISA released a draft Secure Cloud Business Applications (SCuBA) Hybrid Identity Solutions Architecture guidance document for public comment. The comment period closed on April 17.

CISA’s SCuBA project aims to develop consistent, effective, modern, and manageable security that will help secure agency information assets stored within cloud operations. This guidance will help Federal civilian departments and agencies securely and efficiently integrate their traditional on-premises enterprise networks with cloud-based solutions.

“The hybrid identity solution architecture is really helpful and talks a lot about the importance of using standards and all the capabilities that you can get when you’re accessing cloud security capabilities,” Foard said.

Frazier explained that guidance like the SCuBA Hybrid Identity Solutions Architecture document is vital because “it’s important to have that kind of roadmap” to guide agencies on what “makes sense to keep on-prem because … there are certain things where it makes sense to modernize” and guide agencies on how to bridge the gap between the on-prem and cloud environments.

“I think that it’s important to give folks guidance and information to help them articulate what that journey looks like for them. I can’t just boil the ocean and do all this stuff at once. It’d be nice if I could, but no one can do that,” Frazier said.

Please click through to hear the entire conversation.

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