Insight by Leidos and Amazon Web Services

Ignore the Shiny Object. Focus on Outcomes.

This content is provided by Leidos and Amazon Web Services.

So your data is in the cloud. It’s secure. It’s ready to be put to use. What now?

Keith Johnson, chief technology officer of Leidos’ defense and intelligence business areas, said that when it comes to leveraging the cloud, agencies should focus on mission outcomes. What does the customer want to achieve? Start with the data at one end, the outcomes at the other. Everything in between is just a tool in the toolbox.

But it’s not always the shiny new tool that’s going to be the most effective.

“There will always be that next new technology,” said Brett McMillen, director of Federal Government at Amazon Web Services (AWS). “But what happens so often is the solution that’s going to have the biggest impact for the federal government, and the biggest impact for the citizens, sometimes is not that latest greatest technology, not that latest greatest shiny object.”

For example, veterans were having issues with the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) website. To access benefits, they had to have a certain version of Adobe and Internet Explorer. The problem was, that version wasn’t the most current version. But the automated error message told them to upgrade when the actual solution was a downgrade. Eventually, the VA realized that using Adobe wasn’t the best solution, and instead implemented a web form, a decades-old tried-and-true method.

“Sometimes we bring some of the latest and greatest technologies, and sometimes you can just use something that’s been around for a long time,” McMillen said.

The beauty of these solutions is that they’re often easy for agencies to implement. But other times, the government can turn to tools offered by their cloud service providers to solve their problems.

For example, Congress had a challenge with its phone systems. The number of calls they get isn’t linear. So when a lawmaker is facing a particularly big or controversial issue, more constituents call and leave messages. However, the same number of support staff are handling the phones, so the messages can pile up.

Congress turned to AWS for a solution. By putting its phone systems in the cloud, it can now scale up or down to meet its fluctuating demand. And using the same speech-to-text technology as the Echo, it can turn 5.5 minutes of speech into a transcript in 30 seconds.

“For decades, IT organizations within the federal government have been limited as to the problems they were willing to solve by what was available in their data center, or limited by their budget, or limited by time to deploy,” McMillen said. “Today, when they can move into a cloud environment and get near instant access to best in breed solutions, what we’re finding is these federal government agencies are tackling problems they never really tried to in the past. So today, when organizations move into and leverage all the tools in the cloud, their ability to solve problems is only limited by their imaginations.”

And, the cloud can help free people up from the undifferentiated heavy lifting of common problems like compliance or intrusion detection. Agencies can save hundreds of staff hours by utilizing automation tools offered by cloud service providers.

“Innovation happens when people rise above the daily grind and ask themselves ‘what else is out there,’” Leidos’ Johnson said. “What else can I leverage? Who can answer the questions I have right now?”

One example is how the Agriculture Department and U.S. Geological Survey began working with machinery manufacturer John Deere to leverage internet of things (IoT) sensors to build datasets around farming. They then combined this IoT data with geospatial and weather data to develop strategies designed to make farms more productive.

“This is going to sound audacious, but if you have government agencies sharing data, you apply some machine learning and artificial intelligence, can you solve world hunger? Well, maybe,” McMillen said.

 

TECH TIP:  Plan ahead because you can’t use today’s applications for tomorrow’s data. 

According to IDC, worldwide data will grow to 175 zettabytes by 2025. This data explosion requires that you have a well-architected data management layer, otherwise no tool or application will be effective.  Right now, the most inflexible piece is the application layer, and that needs to be the most flexible going forward.

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