Federal IT leaders estimate that agencies have advanced modernization efforts by four to five years in recent months, and all hope to continue the momentum. They say improved data sharing between new and legacy systems is the No. 1 opportunity to move modernization forward.

Agencies that provide critical services to the public are often faced with the challenge of maintaining legacy systems while continuing to meet modernization mandates that require rapid innovation. Many invest millions in becoming more data-driven, but most are still not getting the full value of their data.

To enhance the usability of data, create resiliency in the face of disruption, and accelerate digital transformation, agencies must first change their thinking. They must consider data assets a principal value for the agency, explained Dmitry Didovicher, transformation specialist at Red Hat, in a recent MeriTalk Tech Talk.

“It’s amazing what you can do, what problems you can solve, and what value you can extract out of your data if you’re treating it as an asset and not just a database,” he said.

Most agencies have taken steps to evolve infrastructure and experiment with DevOps to achieve modernization goals. For many agencies, DevOps enables faster results by merging development and operations processes.

But, “if there is a database on the other end [of that process], it is often only accessible through a particular interface – by a particular group,” he noted.

For Didovicher, the goal is not to have processes and products that rely on a database – the goal is to build infrastructure and processes on top of data assets to extract intelligence that will accelerate both application delivery and mission outcomes.

The 2020 Federal Data Strategy is focused on addressing gaps in data management and accelerating progress to enable teams to leverage advanced data analytics and power emerging technology that will inform decision-making.

Didovicher often works with agencies to expand their mindset around data management and introduces data-as-a-service, which enables teams to provision a compliant, secure database and extract, transform, and load data to inform current processes and future innovations – without requiring additional resources for maintenance and backups.

When evaluating technology, agencies should not only consider the ability to extract quality data but also the big-picture vision of agency data officers, Didovicher advised.

Agencies need to ensure data officers are providing clear guidance and vision to teams and individual team members. “Whenever someone is trying to push a different framework, ask ‘Will this help increase adaptive capacity? Will this help improve resiliency at scale?’” he noted.

The goal is to change the mindset around corporate assets. “It’s not about just moving to the cloud or accelerating development processes,” Didovicher said. “The real goal of a digital transformation project is to increase the adaptive capacity and resilience of an agency while still moving at the speed of the mission.”

In the end, successful modernization will take some trial and error, he said. Data transformation will be driven by leaders who embrace and learn from failures along the way.

“When you embark on a journey of digital transformation, start creating a culture where failure isn’t being held against you,” Didovicher said. “Celebrate your success, but celebrate your failures – you can learn a lot more.”

To learn more – including five essential elements of transformation – listen to the full conversation.

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MeriTalk Staff