It’s all about the data!

Kevin Youngquist, the senior director of federal civilian for Veritas Technologies, details how agencies can begin preparing for IT modernization efforts by und...

Everyone is talking about IT modernization and its impact on legacy systems but it’s really all about the discovery and management of your data within those systems you seek to modernize. Successful data discovery and policy governance, migration, management and security are vital best practices for agencies who want to discover their information’s true value, and these are also determining factors in whether an IT modernization effort is a success or failure. Poor data management is one of the reasons most often cited for driving up the costs of modernization projects. Yet, most of the discussion in government today is about modernizing legacy systems. It is time to change the debate.

As agencies consider what systems to modernize, they must also consider how those modernization efforts will be impacted by data-related issues. Data governance and management must be built into the modernization enterprise roadmaps—but from a different perspective: leveraging data for its value, not by its volume.

Furthermore, agencies must evaluate the tools necessary to enable the optimization of legacy systems or migration of applications, systems and data to new platforms including multi-cloud environments, free from any platform dependency. In this context, being able to intelligently move the data from the legacy to modernized systems becomes essential and without it, modernization becomes a bigger challenge.

We are pleased to see President Donald Trump’s fiscal 2018 budget proposed $228 million for IT modernization as part of the Technology Modernization Fund (TMF) to be housed at the General Services Administration — a good down payment that will help jumpstart the effort.

These funds are meant to kick start the move from legacy to modernized systems which will make agencies much more agile and prepared for future technology challenges. This proposal, combined with the Modernizing Government Technology (MGT) Act of 2017, lays the groundwork for more effective IT modernization.

Under the MGT Act, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is charged with developing guidelines for implementation of the TMF. To get a head start, OMB is reportedly in the process of developing the implementing guidelines to include the criteria that makes a project eligible for TMF funding, as well as a shark tank-like board to review agency business cases and requests for funding. This guidance is a critical next step in ensuring the success of the IT modernization effort. Federal agencies that have good relationships with their technology partners in industry will have a leg up in establishing solid business cases to secure the funding.

OMB is developing guidelines for agency project eligibility for TMF funding while agencies begin to consider their business cases.

As agencies evaluate their current data and application inventory for migration, industry can help them answer these critical questions:

  1. What is my current data inventory and how will that data be categorized and prioritized before optimization?
  2. How will the data be optimized, utilized and stored in a secure fashion meeting NIST security standards?
  3. How can the data and applications be safely and effectively transported to new systems?
  4. Will the data support the implementation of big data analytics and forensic tools?
  5. Can the agency retrieve the data from any specific vendor without incurring significant additional cost?
  6. How will the various data directives regarding privacy, transparency and open access be accommodated?

By answering these questions, agencies will be able to show that they have a solid understanding of their existing inventory of data, a clear vision of their prioritization needs, and a credible plan for data management that will help ensure an IT modernization effort based on credible intelligence. We encourage agencies to consider their data management as front and center in the government’s IT modernization efforts.

Kevin Youngquist is the senior director of federal civilian for Veritas Technologies.

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