Nov 03 2011

Agencies Can Boost IT System Performance by Implementing New Features

While finding the next big thing in technology can be a huge coup, victories can already be found in the works in progress.

Finding the next big thing — a great, new technology that can help your agency accomplish its mission — is a huge win for any IT shop. But victories can be found in boxes you've already opened as well.

Many agencies are finding new capabilities by adding on incrementally to systems they've already implemented. For them, IT is a work in progress, and adding features without adding a new system is a way to boost performance without breaking the budget.

The National Mediation Board dispatched with a tidal wave of paper by implementing a new document management system that was so successful it won an award from the Archivist of the United States. The agency wants to build on this success. "Now we're trying to use the underlying database to track cases," says Daniel Rainey, NMB's chief of staff. "We have all this case data regarding different parties and carriers. In the past, we've had ad hoc case management. We want to try and build a case management system on top of our e-records management database."

At the Dayton, Ohio, Veterans Affairs Medical Center, healthcare professionals have relied on a unified communications system for years. The unified messaging system lets staffers check e-mail and voicemail from any device, improving communication between employees. "It's increased the availability of staff throughout the medical center," says Supervisory IT Specialist William Frieler.

Now the Dayton VAMC is looking to add small, wireless, voice-activated VoIP devices that medical staff can clip onto their clothes, which Frieler says will make it even easier to track down doctors and nurses.

Read more about how Veterans Affairs and other agencies are "Taking UC to the Next Level." Learn more about how NMB and the Agriculture Department's Risk Management Agency overcame mountains of paper in "Achieving Document Management Success."

The Changing Security Landscape

The need for agencies to maintain an effective security posture remains critical, but the challenges constantly change and grow. In this issue, you can read about security efforts in numerous IT areas.

For example, the cloud provides a wide variety of benefits to federal IT, but it poses new security challenges as well. Former Justice Department CIO Vance Hitch, who played a key consulting role on several federal IT security initiatives, offers best practices to boost cloud security in "From the Ground Up."

Dickie George, who recently retired as technical director of the National Security Agency's Information Assurance Directorate, notes that in some national security cases, missiles have been replaced by notebook computers. He addresses how agencies can prepare for "The New Cyber Cold War."

The emergence of mobile computing has driven innovation and productivity at agencies across government, but this brings with it a host of security concerns. Read about how agencies are managing the risks rather than avoiding them altogether in "Defending Mobile IT."

More help for mobile security may be on the way. The National Institute of Standards and Technology, which develops IT security policies for government, has purchased 55 Apple iPads to explore how to secure them for use by NIST employees. Turn to "Advance of the Tablets" to learn more.

In "Making the Switch to IPv6," you'll find guidance on how to prepare for the switch to the new Internet protocol with a minimum of interruption and downtime. And as government use of social media such as Facebook and Twitter grows, agencies are trying to figure out how best to identify and manage records, protect personal information and ensure the security of federal information and systems. Turn to "Socially Secure" to find four tips for dealing with these challenges.

Ryan Petersen