Dec 14 2021

4 Federal Government IT Trends to Watch in 2022

The shift to zero trust, the evolution of hybrid work, network modernization, and the power of predictive analytics and artificial intelligence will be key areas of focus next year.

Looking back on 2021, it’s appropriate to view the year in federal IT as one of transition. After all, a new administration took office in January, with its own priorities and programs.

However, beyond the initiatives introduced by the Biden administration, most noticeably the shift in cybersecurity priorities via a May executive order (which came following the SolarWinds attack of late 2020), several other trends already underway have evolved this year.

The executive order has mandated that federal agencies move to zero-trust architectures for cybersecurity, a multiyear effort that will kick off in earnest in 2022. Federal agencies also navigated how and when to bring employees back to offices amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, even as they have made expanded telework access a more permanent part of their operations. Next year will see agencies continue to fine-tune their approach to hybrid work.

Meanwhile, agencies are racing to upgrade their network infrastructure to meet deadlines set by the General Services Administration. Agencies are expected to make expanded use of predictive analytics and artificial intelligence technologies in 2022 to gain efficiencies and deliver more impactful insights to human workers.

All of this points to a need for IT leaders to be more proactive in how they help their agencies make the best use of technology.

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“Agency leaders can no longer afford to be merely business or mission leaders — they must also be technology leaders, fully versed on how technology intersects with and advances their mission ambitions,” Accenture Federal Services notes in its “Federal Technology Vision 2021” report. “A digital-first approach must be fostered by the entire C-suite and manifested across all areas of the organization. This is how agencies can pivot from being reactive to proactive to predictive, how they can thrive in an era of unprecedented variability and complexity, and how they remove blind spots as they chart a bold course ahead.”

As we look ahead to 2022, FedTech asked government IT experts for their thoughts on the key technology trends to watch for. Many of the trends that took shape in 2021 are expected to morph and develop further next year. The key trends are zero-trust cybersecurity, the evolution of hybrid work at agencies, government modernization of network technology, and the advancement of predictive analytics and artificial intelligence.

Here’s a quick look at each of these topics, followed by links to articles with more in-depth insights.

EXPLORE: Find out how CDW can help your federal agency modernize its technology.

1. Agencies Will Lay the Groundwork for Zero Trust

In September, the Office of Management and Budget released a draft for zero-trust strategy that outlines a process for agencies to shift to the new model. It lays out five specific pillars and has a goal of agencies achieving them by the end of September 2024. The OMB has targeted five key areas for improvement, including user identity, device management, network monitoring, application security and data control.

Agencies have been working on plans to turn those goals into practical realities. It will take time for agencies to make significant progress, and 2022 is expected to be the year when agencies lay the foundation for the shift to zero trust.

It’s important to note that zero trust doesn’t exist in isolation. “You need to come up with new cyber response playbooks, and you need to start looking at endpoint detection,” says Christopher Copeland, CTO for Accenture Federal Services.

“You’re going to touch everything from your physical devices to your network to your infrastructure, your data, your applications, and your authentication and access controls,” he adds.

Click here for more insights on how agencies will adopt zero trust.

2. Federal IT Leaders Will Aim to Make Hybrid Work the New Norm

The Biden administration has laid out its plan for government agencies to safely increase the number of federal employees working onsite while ensuring “maximum telework flexibilities” for staff eligible to work from home. Essentially, for 2022 and beyond, the government is doubling down on hybrid work, in which employees split their time between teleworking and working in a government office.

Experts say that to make hybrid work successful, IT leaders need to get executive sponsorship, meet staff expectations around technology, make it easy to access work and productivity tools, meet compliance requirements, and deliver equitable and accessible technology solutions.

Gretchen Brainard, offering portfolio leader for government and public services customer and marketing at Deloitte, says personalization and flexibility will be key to success as well.

“There is no one-size-fits-all solution,” she says. “Some people want to stay in their homes for the full work week, while others are begging us to open up all our offices because they’re suffering from a social perspective and a mental health perspective.”

Click here for a deeper analysis on the evolution of hybrid work at agencies.

3. Agencies Will Make Strides to Modernize Their Networks

Agencies are moving to upgrade their network architecture and adopt newer technologies, but the clock is ticking. The General Services Administration’s $50 billion Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions contract, or EIS, replaces the existing Networx contract and is designed to let agencies modernize their networks, especially via technologies such as software-defined networking and 5G.

Christopher Copeland, CTO, Accenture Federal Services
You’re going to touch everything from your physical devices to your network to your infrastructure, your data, your applications, and your authentication and access controls.”

Christopher Copeland CTO, Accenture Federal Services

Agencies had been required to transition away from the Networx contracting vehicle to EIS by spring 2020. However, in December 2018, the GSA extended the deadline to 2023 to give agencies more time to switch.

According to the GSA, by March 31, 2022, 90 percent of agencies’ telecom inventory must be off current contracts and moved to EIS, and 100 percent must be moved to EIS by Sept. 30, 2022. Current Networx, WITS and Local Service Agreement telecom contracts expire on May 31, 2023. The GSA has said it will not extend those deadlines, and right now some agencies are behind schedule.

Meeting those deadlines will likely involve a flurry of activity and coordination between agencies and the GSA as agencies look to get their networks firmly into the 21st century. Meanwhile, civilian agencies and the Defense Department are expected to expand their use of 5G.

Click here to explore how federal agencies will continue to modernize their networks.

4. Agencies Will Make Strides on Using AI and Predictive Analytics

Predictive analytics and artificial intelligence are poised to transform how the government operates, but experts say that won’t happen if federal IT leaders don’t take steps now to pave the way.

The federal government will need to foster a policy environment that promotes innovation and provides sustained investment in this space. To win the AI/ML race and be prepared to defend against AI-enabled threats, the government will need to invest more heavily than it does today.

Bill Wright, director of federal government affairs at Splunk, says that to remain competitive economically and militarily, the federal government will need to foster a policy environment that promotes innovation and provides sustained investment.

These technologies have the potential to reduce the risk of fraud in federal benefits programs; predict citizen demand for services; anticipate supply and demand flows; and predict failures in data centers, machines and vehicles.

Agencies will likely continue to make progress in testing these technologies and deploying them in small-scale initiatives next year, but it will take sustained investment to scale those up across the government.

Click here to learn how predictive analytics and AI will evolve in government.

Illustration by Ryan Olbrysh

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