Three perspectives on network modernization: ‘fail fast, fail small, and succeed’

The day-to-day efforts at federal agencies to evolve and improve on their digital transformation, means things like innovation and reimagining can’t just be b...

The day-to-day efforts at federal agencies to evolve and improve on their digital transformation, means things like innovation and reimagining can’t just be buzzwords. An organization’s culture, people, and customer experience all play a role.

“It’s not just about the technology,” said Jamie Holcombe, CIO for the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office, on Federal Monthly Insights – Network and Application Modernization. “What the USPTO did was we moved from a project-oriented IT department into a product- oriented IT department. In other words, we mapped the 158 separate unique projects that had start and stops and fits and stops. And you know, all this chaos.”

Holcombe also said that an organization does not always succeed, that the federal government sometimes finds itself with “sunk cost.”

“You fail fast and you fail small, such that you succeed,” Holcombe said during a recent panel discussion sponsored by ATARC and moderated by Federal News Network’s Jason Miller. “If you don’t show results in 90 days, then stop doing what you’re doing. You have to understand, don’t feed the beast. Don’t keep investing. Don’t throw good money after bad. Stop and adjust. That’s the whole thing. I love the fact we can get it out there that government can fail. Just don’t fail over and over and over again.”

Holcombe was joined on the panel by Nagesh Rao, CIO for the Bureau of Industry and Security within the Department of Commerce.

“I walked into a situation in June 2020, where our systems dated back to the 2004 to 2008 era, like Windows 7 devices,” Rao said. “So within the last year-and-a-half, we transformed it all.”

Rao said they are up to current technology standards, and it’s not just product ownership and mapping out the business-line requirements. It’s a 360 perspective.

“The customer is a myriad when it comes to the federal products and offerings,” Rao said. “You’ve got your government folks, you’ve got your non-government folks, and you’ve got your private citizens.”

Rao described his drive toward a better customer experience as “CX 360.” He wants to assure the voice of the customer is heard, which comes with a better, stronger and up-to-date hardware stance. “Data, data, data. And not just data, but being smart about the data and the use of data, in conjunction with the cloud.

Rao also credits the pandemic with one silver lining. “The fact that you saw this burst of energy in IT maturity across the globe.”

The third member of the panel was Thomas Santucci, Director of IT Modernization at the General Services Administration. He said when you work for an agency, the closer one is to the mission, the more impact can be delivered. And, a bigger budget is always helpful.

“We’ve got nobody for the small agencies. So I really need some help there and having some incidental support. I can train them to learn how to use the cloud, but if they’re not comfortable, if they run into a jam, they need an 800 number to call to get them out and I’d like to provide that for them, first and foremost,” Santucci said.

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