Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Deputy CIO Beth Cappello, whose agency snagged a $50 million Technology Modernization Fund (TMF) award earlier this year, this week urged Federal agency IT and financial organizations to align their expectations and resources in order to achieve better IT modernization results.

Speaking at MeriTalk’s TMF Forward virtual event on Dec. 16, Cappello talked about the $50 million TMF award that DHS received in September for its Southwest Border Technology Integration proposal, and the importance of aligning internal agency interests.

“First and foremost, the IT community has to work very closely with their chief financial officer and that budget community to make sure that everything is in alignment,” Capello said at the event. “Especially for [DHS], we were looking at multiple components that have their own appropriated dollars, and making sure that we’re in alignment with the goals that we’re setting for the TMF funding and the goals that those component agencies have already set for themselves.”

Cappello said DHS’s Southwest Border Technology Integration program has been in the works since February. The program aims to digitize the processing of non-citizens in partnership with Customs and Border Patrol, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, the Office of Policy, Science, and Technology, and additional DHS components.

Cappello said since the program launched, DHS has processed more than 11,000 cases and reduced the processing time to enroll noncitizens by 60 percent. Overall, she said the program aims “to ensure more efficient, more effective and frankly more humane immigration processing.”

Mike Nappi, Chief Product Officer for Product Logic, said during the same discussion that getting over the cultural resistance to change is a major key to modernizing technology.

“One challenge with any modernization effort is getting over that resistance to change,” Nappi said. Steps along the way, he said, include, “coming up with a plan for reskilling your labor force on whatever the new platform and new technology need to be, and really understanding what is the cost-benefit [and] what’s the pot of gold at the end of the modernization program?”

“We’re not just going after technology for technology’s sake, and the new bright, shiny whistle of the day in the technology realm,” he added. “But instead, we’re trying to solve a discrete set of problems, and enumerating what those problems are and how technology can serve to deliver that to the company is an important thing to getting over that, that sort of very human resistance to change.”

Capello agreed that people are a major part of the process, and so is collaboration. She encouraged agencies to continue to use the TMF as a vehicle for modernization, but also to focus on the people.

“I would encourage Federal agencies to leverage the fund, but I really want to highlight the point that Michael just made around …  the fact that this is about people, and I think as we go forward, the TMF is just one mechanism for modernizing,” Capello said. “But if we’re looking at this as a whole, I agree wholeheartedly that collaboration and the people part of this is incredibly important.”

To hear the entire panel discussion, and others from the TMF Forward event, register here.

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Lamar Johnson
Lamar Johnson
Lamar Johnson is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.