As agencies prepare to use working capital funds to update IT or apply for funds from a centralized Technology Modernization Fund managed by the General Services Administration, it bears repeating that upgrading IT is not just about technology.
Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation CIO Howard Whyte understands that and says that a crucial piece of the IT modernization puzzle is upgrading the government’s workforce at the same time.
President Donald Trump’s Management Agenda, which the administration released on March 20, hammers home the importance of modernizing the workforce. Along with IT modernization; and data, accountability and transparency; the agenda names creating the “workforce of the 21st century” as a key driver of transformation. Even within the IT modernization pillar, the agenda notes that a key element of IT modernization is “building a modern IT workforce by recruiting, reskilling, retaining professionals able to help drive modernization with up-to-date technology.”
Whyte says that is something the FDIC, as an independent agency, is going to keep in mind as it updates its IT. And it’s a lesson that all agencies, large and small, should heed. Without a modernized workforce, agencies will not be able to take advantage of the “bleeding edge” of technology: cloud, artificial intelligence and mobility, Whyte tells Federal News Radio.
IT Workforce Needs Training to Master New IT
Although some federal IT leaders would argue that the cloud is not a novel technology and is the way agencies can get out of managing data centers, some agencies are still cloud laggards.
Whyte tells Federal News Radio that if agencies are going to move to the cloud they need to ensure they have staff members who are trained in vendor management, the different cloud technologies and the application stack of cloud service providers such as Google and Microsoft. “How do we get that information that we would normally walk downstairs and just be able to touch and feel when you are hundreds and potentially thousands of miles away from the new data center?” Whyte says.
Agency IT departments need to create the correct human resources capabilities for these new IT environments, Whyte argues. Employees need to get more training to help them adapt to new technologies and ways of executing their mission, he says, and it is not fair to expect them to be able to make that transition without that training. That’s especially true for data center workers who now will need to manage data in the cloud.
FDIC Works to Upgrade Applications, Data Management
The FDIC is taking an inventory of its legacy IT systems and capabilities, as well as its applications and data, as it seeks to consolidate and save money, Federal News Radio reports.
The agency has long used several customized applications it has built and maintained itself. However, Whyte says the agency is moving to more agile development processes and wants to focus on delivering capabilities.
He says the FDIC wants to do so across multiple divisions in the agency rather than have each organization run its own system. Doing so will allow the agency to reduce duplication, so Whyte’s office has been looking at application upgrade cycles and when certain systems will reach their end of life. Whyte says he is preparing for discussions with system owners and may redirect resources to some systems so others can be retired.
The effort has revealed that the FDIC needs to get better at managing the life cycle of its IT systems and acknowledge that maintaining legacy systems drives up costs. “I would assume that there will be savings to be had,” Whyte says. “We are in a complex environment at the FDIC, like other federal organizations. As we look at retiring legacy applications or systems, there is bound to be savings. And we believe that we’ll be able to utilize those savings to invest in new technologies to better serve the corporation.”
The FDIC is also going to explore where its data is stored, how it is used and how the agency can improve its data management, Whyte says.