Smarter Investments for IT Modernization

David Shive, CIO, GSA
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CIOs are faced with an environment that demands modernization of our foundational IT infrastructure while also improving customer satisfaction. As executives and purveyors of technology, we are obligated now more than ever to make better choices that will allow transformation of the business. Taking a hard look throughout the organization to identify ways to streamline the IT environment often creates opportunities to reduce duplication, simplify technology, and re-evaluate how services are provided.

The tools provided to an employee to perform their job has a direct relationship to the success of the business. Organizations should constantly be looking for ways to innovate, including in operational day-to-day duties, to help organizations work smarter and better putting modern and intuitive tools in the hands of all users, giving them the power to innovate and perform their work more effectively. Backoffice systems often provide a great landscape for modernization.

Modernizing and streamlining the foundational toolset an employee needs to perform their job allows them to focus their time on accomplishing the business of the organization instead of the technology that allows them to do their job. In addition, modernization of legacy systems by standardizing on best practice tools and capabilities, migrating to the cloud and leveraging the As a service model alleviates or reduces the operational and infrastructure cost of those backend systems and removes the burden of management of those core functions to the cloud provider. This allows for the opportunity to reinvest resources to support the core mission of the business. Modernizing these enterprise capabilities allows the system and its core components to be used as the building blocks to enable development of supporting applications. The Return on Investment (ROI) for the modernization of these backend infrastructures is far greater than just cost savings. Migrating the basic backend infrastructure functions such as email, collaboration, HR and financial systems to the cloud provides the basis for flexibility and mobility to the organization by enabling employees and customers to access the tools they need from anywhere, at anytime and on any device.

  Backoffice systems often provide a great landscape for modernization 

So the question that naturally comes to mind next is how do you migrate and implement such modernization efforts in a transformative and cost efficient way? The answer is agile delivery and leveraging the DevSecOps model where the developers, operations teams, and security teams are together in one chain to deliver quickly and securely from the beginning. This model signifies a shift away from the traditional waterfall delivery model where large systems are built over a span of multiple years, with increasingly stale requirements. The rapid pace of change in technology necessitates the need for incremental delivery to meet the changing needs of the customers. Agile delivery reduces risk by closely aligning business and IT expectations over the time scope of program delivery and allows for greater flexibility in technological implementations. Customers have a direct impact on the solutions that are continuously delivered to them. This approach creates a stronger partnership between an organization’s mission and IT by increasing collaboration, providing faster solution delivery, increasing transparency, and reducing risk.

An example of how a strong partnership between business and IT is imperative for cost-effective technology modernization is the management of expectations and Service Level Agreements (SLAs). To maintain cost, and ensure a successful cloud migration, the teams may need to re-evaluate the current support structure of the legacy system and re-establish SLAs. In recent experience, the IT organization partnered closely with the businesses to take steps to “freeze” an existing application to reduce O&M support and re-establish SLAs. By doing so, the teams were able to redirect resources to development activities to support the migration effort. This successful partnership between the business and IT helped foster the conscious decision made by leadership and ensured the success of the migration.

DevSecOps and Agile delivery provides the ability to push out solutions to users as quickly and securely as possible without building the same core IT components over and over again. It allows the business to refine established processes to capitalize on the strengths of the new platform so efficiencies are realized and the focus can shift to critical areas like improving data management. To have real success in modernization with cloud migration, for example, the focus should be less about a 1-for-1 transfer into a cloud environment, and more about rationalization and transformation as applications move into the cloud. But how do we maintain modernization and ensure cost-effective smart investments? It is increasingly critical to make data driven decisions, and focus on modernization by transforming and consolidating to the cloud. This leads to the ability to aggregate data and best act on that data as a true enterprise asset. Investment into a modern data analytics platform that provides the mechanism to collect, manage, and analyze complex data enables operational to executive decision making utilizing big data and predictive analytics.

In addition, adoption of cost transparency initiatives such as the Technology Business Management (TBM) framework, a standard taxonomy and cost model that uses detailed financial, technical, and business metrics, can improve the transparency and visibility into the organization’s IT spending and investments. This view of IT spending allows customers to understand the business value of the portfolio of IT systems, services, and tools they invest in, while enabling organizations to make data driven decisions. Smart investments and implementation enable the growing needs of any organization. While challenging, modernization offers opportunities to reconsider traditional ways of working.

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