Jun 07 2021

The Key Challenges to Digital Transformation in Federal IT

Security concerns, workforce skills gaps and inflexible legacy networks are inhibiting innovation, according to a recent survey.

The Biden administration is convening CIOs from across the federal government to reassess key priorities around IT modernization, according to Federal CIO Clare Martorana. The Federal CIO Council, she said in mid-May, is in discussions and its work could result in an update to the Trump administration’s IT modernization plan or a new document.

No matter what, it seems likely there will be a new vision coming on what it means for the federal government to deliver modern digital government services. “We’re all trying to solve the same problems; we all understand what the risks are and the opportunities for us to both travel together as an enterprise but, also, uniquely look at each agency’s maturity level,” Martorana said during an Association for Federal Information Resources Management event, according to Nextgov. “But we are working together.”

With that as a backdrop, recently released research on federal IT leaders’ views on digital transformation indicates that collaboration to drive IT modernization forward cannot come soon enough.

DIVE DEEPER: These are the federal IT trends to keep up with in 2021.

According to a recent infographic from MeriTalk, produced in partnership with Amazon Web Services, 79 percent of federal civilian IT leaders say they’ve accelerated digital transformation efforts in response to the surge in telework and urgency to adapt citizen services.

Yet despite progress and urgency, just 39 percent say digital transformation is a top priority at their agencies, and 83 percent say their agencies’ digital transformation strategies are “not adapting fast enough to keep pace with rapidly evolving environments.”

The infographic, titled “Migration to Transformation: Delivering on Federal Missions Using Technology,” illustrates agencies’ digital transformation progress, drawing on results from a November 2020 survey of 150 federal civilian IT managers.

How Can Agencies Accelerate Digital Transformation?

The largest challenges to digital transformation efforts, according to the survey, are security concerns (47 percent), time constraints/length of the migration process (34 percent), workforce skills gaps (33 percent), too many competing priorities (33 percent) and inflexible legacy networks (33 percent).

Aside from funding, the survey respondents identified several elements needed to overcome digital transformation barriers. According to the survey, 45 percent say it is a culture that supports innovation, 43 percent cite training for the IT workforce, 41 percent point to user groups to share best practices and 41 percent say collaboration with the private sector.

Agencies have come to recognize that cloud computing is an essential component to supporting digital transformation efforts. According to the infographic, 85 percent say they are adopting a more holistic view of cloud migration to support digital transformation. Additionally, 88 percent say they feel prior cloud investments helped them deliver on their missions throughout the pandemic.

Going forward, 91 percent of respondents say they feel digital transformation is “essential to offering a seamless citizen experience.” Agencies are accelerating digital transformation efforts with investments in several key areas, including cloud (59 percent), machine learning (43 percent), open-source technology (37 percent), the Internet of Things (33 percent) and artificial intelligence (31 percent).

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