Top Federal Initiatives and Technology Trends for 2012

Nov 09, 2011

Last week I got an opportunity to attend the Deltek annual FedFocus 2012 conference. There was a panel discussion on the current outlook for federal IT moderated by Chris Dorobek and featuring three folks very familiar to fed IT market watchers: Ray Bjorklund, Chief Knowledge Officer from Deltek; Richard Spires, Chief Information Officer from the Department of Homeland Security; and David Wennergren, Assistant Deputy Chief Management Officer at the Department of Defense.

I captured some important nuggets of information from the panel discussion which  are timely and applicable to most of the agencies in the federal government.  From all the panelists, I heard there is a renewed interest in and fast adoption of agile and modular development, which breaks IT projects into shorter, more modular development cycles as a way to deliver new IT services faster and provide a better return on investment.  Government leaders and CIOs find agile development can provide a more efficient and more disciplined way to meet the needs of stakeholders compared to the alternative of delivering entire projects months or years after they were commissioned. David Wennergren mentioned that DoD is moving away from big monolithic legacy IT systems and increasingly adopting IT services in a modular, agile and incrementally phased approach to improve flexibility and efficiency. 

At its core, agile development is a technique for writing software that emphasizes iterative development, incremental releases of capabilities and close collaboration between developers and users.  Agile development is increasingly popular in the private sector, and although the government uses it much less frequently it’s catching on very fast.  Modular development and projects that run in six to 12 month incremental phases increase the need for agencies to build effective. strategic partnerships with IT solution providers.  Perhaps the biggest challenge of agile development is how to buy services to support it, since acquisition procedures often don’t lend themselves to rapid iteration cycles and short-term bursts of applied specialty skills.

Dave and Richard mentioned that open enterprise architecture, standardization and interoperability are extremely important to any IT solutions they roll out within their agencies. There is a move to establish shared criteria and approaches as well as shared systems and technologies.

The top five initiatives that will have the most potential for federal agencies in 2012 are Cloud Computing, Data Center Consolidation, Cybersecurity and Risk Management, Predictive Data Analytics, and Mobile Applications/Mobile Device Management.  Agencies are aggressively moving many of the workloads to cloud (some to private, some to public).  Many of the test and development environments within the agencies have already migrated to cloud and are being offered as a service.  IaaS for pre- and post-production environments is important.  Richard mentioned that the agency is looking at cloud computing to bring the SLA of turning on servers from the current two weeks or more to less than one day.  Budget constraints, policy priorities and other initiatives to reduce redundancy, inefficiencies and energy consumption are driving widespread IT consolidation efforts across the federal government.  Consolidation is happening not only at the infrastructure level but also at the application level.  For example, DHS currently has nine Learning Management Systems (LMS) which perform exactly the same function and they are looking at consolidating them to just two or three.

Are you seeing similar trends within your respective agencies?  Let me hear your thoughts.

To know more about federal technology trends, you can follow me on Twitter at @FedTrends

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