While the IC’s research organization looks into adding security to cloud environments, in the here and now, intelligence agencies are sharing more data.
We are facing one of the largest technology transformations ever, with 500 billion devices expected to be connected by 2025. This “connect everything” Internet of Things (IoT) transformation means the amount of data that agencies collect, protect, analyze and refine to provide actionable insights is growing massively.
To keep up with this pace of change, agencies must have a network that is ready for this new data age and be open to incorporating the new IoT data throughout the workplace culture. They must have employees who can convey capability needs to agency heads, budgeting teams and industry partners. And agencies must focus even more on intra- and interagency collaboration and governance.
Across the country, IT agencies are increasingly interested in leveraging data to make faster decisions that enhance their missions, whether on a battlefield, in cyberspace, for a veteran or retiree, or for citizens everywhere. The power of mobile and IoT technologies, together with the data analytics that result, can help do just that.
Here are three areas agencies should focus on to draw the most insight and value from this data explosion.
The technologies needed for context-aware, secure networks are here. Agencies should ensure the investments they make take advantage of these technologies and provide a roadmap for future growth.
Just like the construction of a home, the foundation of any IT network needs to be secure, strong and designed appropriately for the “house” being built upon it. It must also be able to accommodate expansion or change over the years, including advanced automation, embedded security and a unified fabric to set or change policy with “one stroke,” driving updates pervasively across the network.
Additionally, the network foundation must include interoperability and open standards so that multivendor solutions can work together and scale.
The key is to choose network partners that meet agencies’ needs today and have the breadth to provide industry best practices and an innovation roadmap moving forward.
With a properly built intuitive network, agencies can handle change simply and capture IoT data in a way to gain real value from it and enhance the agency mission.
I recently hosted an event for city leaders to discuss how the world of IoT has changed their agencies. In each case, the daily IT operations changed at a core level.
City leaders recognize the need to change as “connected things” no longer fit into silos, but provide data that’s useful across city departments. Each department needs to understand not only where that data comes from, but also how to share it and create governance across agencies and the business community. Increasingly, city IT leaders see their role evolving from “tech experts” to “expert collaborators and communicators” who set joint policies, both internal and external, and provide budgetary needs to controllers and agency heads.
For example, city traffic flow data is not only valuable to the traffic division but also for the water department to gauge the volume of water likely consumed in high-traffic areas and for businesses considering locations along those corridors.
Similarly, the Department of Veterans Affairs partners with the Military Health System, the Social Security Administration and state health departments because it needs better-aligned ways to more quickly process health records for veterans’ disability services. Improvements in data analytics help to make this collaboration more tangible.
An agency can have the best network foundation and be open to evolving its data culture, but it may not have a workforce sized or skilled enough to keep pace. There is a known talent shortage in the federal government right now, as experienced workers retire, stable workers struggle to keep up with the accelerated pace of IoT change, and new technology experts spend a few years in public service then look for more innovative positions in the private sector.
Many agencies across federal, state and local markets are looking increasingly to the IT industry to help fill that talent gap.
Some agencies use technology to automatically gather and analyze data for users in ways that support the agencies’ business objectives. Others turn to technology partners that train existing staff to better understand the impact of data analytics and how to apply it to agency procedures.
Another rapidly growing trend is to use managed services, also called “IT as a Service” or “Network as a Service.” This approach can be useful when agencies move toward the hybrid cloud, because it offers modern, standardized networks that meet government security and classified requirements. Not only do agencies retain governance and control, they gain time to focus on mission priorities instead of IT needs, all while leveraging expertise and technology advances from the industry.
The influx of data will continue to explode as both mobile and IoT use expands over the next decade. If agencies invest in a strong network foundation, a collaborative culture and solid partnerships now, they can approach the next 10 years with confidence.