Why are Federal Agencies so Afraid to Jettison Old IT?

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“It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change.”  – Charles Darwin

The U.S. Federal government and its agencies all agree on the need to modernize IT infrastructure, though they continue to struggle with just how to do it. Industry analysts have said over and over again that an organization can actually reduce their costs for maintenance, increase agility by automating processes, and get more compute performance per square foot. Budgets are always constrained, and they have been for many years. But by spending a little bit now your agency can begin to see an actual return on its investment in as little as 18 months.

The term “digital transformation” is used in this context, but it’s so much more than simply digitizing IT. Digital transformation is changing human society. “Transformation” in an organization occurs when digital technologies and innovation are applied to traditional methods, or replace them altogether.

So beyond the obvious reasons, why do Federal agencies continue to hang on to old, underperforming, manually managed technology? It seems crazy, right? In today’s digital world, you and your agency can either change or be changed. And it’s the laggards that experience significant–and sometimes fatal–consequences.

The conversation starts with this question: Does your agency view IT as something that runs things or a tool that changes things? Laggards usually see IT as a tool and a cost center that runs mission-critical functions. But future-ready agencies view IT as an engine of value creation. They see the opportunity to run processes more efficiently so they can become leaner and faster. Federal CIOs give their organization the insights necessary to make better decisions and engage with their constituents not only more efficiently but also more deeply.

So why are Federal agencies so afraid to jettison old IT?

Fear of disruption or change: Let’s face it, any change involves some risk. But the reward can be more than worth it. McKinsey & Company recently reported that digital transformation can boost an organization’s bottom line by more than 50 percent over five years if they pull all levers.

 Perceived lack of budget/resources: If IT is perceived as a cost center then you’ll never get enough budget and resources. Once IT becomes a value center–an engine of efficiency and agility–modernization will pay for itself. In March 2016, for example, a Government Accountability Office report revealed that the Departments of Commerce, Defense, Homeland Security, and Treasury saved $2.8 billion by participating in the Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative.

 Not empowered to lead change: The success of an organization is everyone’s job. But there is good news and bad news here. A recent study by Red Hat and Harvard University showed that CIOs believe CEOs for the most part “get it.” Sixty-nine percent of those surveyed said their CEO understands digital opportunities and threats. The bad news is that less than one quarter of business leaders believe the CIO is adequately preparing their organization for a digital technology-driven future. On the Federal side, efforts like the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA), the CIO is officially empowered to lead an agency’s digital transformation. It is job No. 1 for IT leaders to change that perception and take bold action by aligning the priorities of IT with those of the organization.

Difficulty of selling the concept and cost of change: IT leaders haven’t traditionally been salespeople. But change requires some serious selling skills to show the direct connection between agency efficiency and technology, and to drive agreement on a mission and vision for IT infrastructure. Everyone’s goal is to propel their agency into the future, to thrive, not just survive. So take advantage of the resources provided by your IT vendor to sell cost savings to agency leadership.

Take action and drive change. Learn about cloud-based solutions that drive innovation, and endpoint strategies that can increase productivity. Register today for the Federal sessions at Dell EMC World Oct. 18-20 in Austin, Texas. Registration is free for U.S. government employees.

So the question is, are you future ready?