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USAID shifting modernization focus from remote to hybrid

The United States Agency for International Development is focused on its modernization efforts for employees.

The U.S. Agency for International Development, like many other agencies, is focused on its modernization efforts for employees to have the best experience in the hybrid environment and the workforce.

Still new to the agency, but with experience in IT leadership, USAID’s Chief Information Officer Jason Gray said it was refreshing to see the agency embrace technology and modernization.

“The ability to transition during the pandemic to a fully remote workforce, I think was evidenced by their prior planning for their modernization efforts to be remote. So I walked into a really good situation, which was pleasantly surprising” he said during an interview for Federal Monthly Insights – Feature Management – Cyber Perspective.

USAID has a couple of efforts going on in the agency, one primarily focusing on modernizing their conference room to give the best experience for their employees, whether working remote or in the office. The idea, Gray said, is to provide “fair and equitable services” to the entire workforce.

“We’re also working on an enterprise customer relationship management program and tool, which we just received some funding from the Technology Modernization Fund for,” Gray said. “That’s going to be looking globally across all of our agency and our implementing partners. The administrator also has a focus on burden reduction. So we’re looking specifically on the types of burdens that we can reduce from a technology standpoint across the agency as well.”

Burden reduction can help understand and identify opportunities reducing the unnecessary burdens that doesn’t need to be there and improving processes.

When you have a bunch of administrative processes where you could actually have just a few,” Gray told the Federal Drive with Tom Temin. “We’re looking at, just to give some tangible examples, coming in looking at the frequency of meetings. Just coming in and because of the pandemic, there was certainly a lot of change to the frequency of meetings to make sure that you are engaging with your employees frequently and on a recurring basis. But now that some of the employees are coming back and we’re in this hybrid environment, we’re reevaluating that to reduce the number of meetings, which frees up time and allows people to focus on doing the work that needs to be done.”

Gray said that USAID was the first agency to transition fully to cloud.

“We are 100% cloud. The focus is primarily on software versus the infrastructure. That doesn’t mean that we’re not looking at infrastructure modernization efforts that can happen, but they’re primarily software focused” he said.

Keeping software secured will always be an ongoing challenge because of the continuous attempts of malicious attackers, he said. That’s why it is important for agencies take the proper steps to successfully secure your software.

“So there’s a lot that we do there. A lot of it has to do with how we develop and test” Gray said. We go through the process to make sure that we’re testing things appropriately. We do role-based security so that if we have individuals who are as an example, there’s the back end technical stuff, but there’s also the front end stuff and more like role-based security training to make sure that we are ensuring that our privileged users have the appropriate training and reminders, if you will, because security is a constant thing on my mind all the time. From a security standpoint, we have, of course, a very close relationship with the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and invite them to test our environments.”

Prior to deployment, for development testing, Gray wants to make sure that his team is testing across the different mission space so that they can ensure that the level of operations and the ability for those employees and customers to use the services meets — and ideally exceeds — their needs.

We’re not going to catch everything. But I will say certainly in that seven plus months I’ve been here, the development testing has gone very, very well and I haven’t had any significant disruptions or issues as it relates to the way that we deploy software at all,” Gray said.



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