By Chip Daniels, Vice President, Government Affairs, SolarWinds
When the Biden administration asked Congress to approve $300 million of additional money for the Technology Modernization Fund (TMF) in fiscal year 2023 (FY2023), hopes were high that agencies would finally have the financial backing necessary to truly accelerate digital transformation. Yet, when Congress passed its $1.7 trillion government funding bill and allocated just $50 million for the TMF fund, agencies were forced to pivot.
The budget shortfall means agencies must continue to balance doing more with less while advancing mission-critical IT objectives. As they put these plans into practice, here are four strategies to help organizations move forward while keeping financial acumen top of mind.
- Ensure technology investments are delivering value by linking priorities to mission outcomes
The first step in any modernization strategy is to align technology priorities and goals with desired mission outcomes. This serves two purposes:
- It ensures agencies focus investments on solutions designed to yield results most important to their organizations and constituents, whether they are citizens, government employees, or mission partners.
- It helps weed out solutions failing to deliver value in relation to the spend allocated.
Agencies should assess their current technology ecosystem to see if the technologies they currently use meet their needs. The assessment should analyze who uses the solutions, what capabilities and limitations the technology has, and whether the technology still aligns with the mission. For example, legacy solutions implemented years or even decades ago may no longer garner the appropriate results or value.
- Automate wherever possible to deliver greater efficiency
Most agencies know about how automation can help save on IT costs, but there’s still a question of where to begin. After all, agencies are plagued by a large volume of tasks, many of which can only be managed through traditional manual processes.
Chances are, however, that a substantial number of those processes can be automated – it’s just a matter of discovering them. To do this, IT managers must carefully review existing processes and look for inefficiencies and automation opportunities.
IT monitoring is an appropriate example. Traditional monitoring usually involves multiple disparate tools, each looking for abnormalities in different areas of an agency’s digital environment. Managers must keep track of all these tools and continuously engage in context switching which can be labor-intensive and lead to errors. Additionally, this gets more cumbersome the bigger the ecosystem gets.
Automating the monitoring process significantly bolsters an agency’s security posture and ability to control the IT environment. Automation takes the onus of security and application management away from the IT team by automatically discovering and troubleshooting anomalies and initiating incident response protocols. When IT managers are not burdened with a cacophony of alerts, their teams can focus on top-priority initiatives and delivering value-added services to their agencies in a more efficient manner.
Automated monitoring is also beneficial in identifying rogue or shadow IT devices and applications and redundancies across the IT landscape.
- Avoid toolset creep
Toolset creep is one of the biggest threats to an agency’s bottom line and efficiency. Toolset creep results from the collection of dozens – if not hundreds – of point-monitoring products over the years. This can include multiple tools for monitoring the performance and security of the distributed network, cloud instances, on-premises infrastructure, applications, databases, and more. Over time, the ecosystem becomes unwieldy and costly to maintain.
One of the best ways to keep toolset creep in check is through full-network observability. Observability is different from network monitoring. Observability allows IT teams to move beyond siloed views and monitoring and gain a single pane of glass view into their entire hybrid, multi-cloud, and on-premises environments. With this multi-stack visibility, IT gets a single source of truth and consolidated insights into IT operations. Observability applies cross-domain correlation, machine learning, and AIOps to yield intelligence traditional monitoring tools can’t, such as anticipating network issues or security threats for rapid remediation – ahead of any performance impacts.
With observability, agencies can also weed out unnecessary or outdated monitoring tools, lower administration overhead, and improve staff productivity.
- Develop a strategically phased approach to modernization
While Congress’ decision to approve only a portion of the TMF funding proposed by the president creates budget challenges for agencies, a little planning and patience can help agencies stay within budget while forging ahead with their modernization efforts.
Rather than trying to do too much, too soon, agencies should adopt a strategically phased approach to modernization and break up their initiative into manageable chunks over the next few years. This will ensure costs stay in line while allowing agencies to stay on their digital transformation paths.