A Look Ahead to Federal IT in 2017
With a new administration arriving in Washington this year, many of us in the federal IT community are wondering what the New Year will bring.
Change can provoke anxiety, but it can also be viewed as an opportunity to reassess how we’ve conducted the business of government, to change our priorities to support new initiatives, and to embrace new practices to meet new challenges.
While much remains to be seen with regard to what the new administration will do, I would like to offer the following predictions based on my observations and conversations with peers in our community.
- The new administration will continue to accelerate the government’s use of social media. President-Elect Trump and many on his team have used social media quite effectively to speak directly to citizens before and after the elections. This trend will accelerate usage of social media by agencies to communicate and share more with citizens, resulting in obvious benefits. But this also will require government organizations to invest more and become savvier about how they use social media – not just the technology but the appropriate messaging and ethics surrounding its use. As a result, agencies will be scrambling to hire social media experts and to obtain tools and analytics to measure the success of these efforts to connect with citizens and understand their concerns.
- Expect a civilian workforce hiring freeze. Around the end of last year, we saw a frenzy of hiring as civilian agencies prepared for an order from the new administration to freeze the number of federal employees. This could have a significant impact on areas like procurement, where the workforce already is overburdened. Of course, we’ll have to wait and see what this freeze policy will entail. But we can assume that the federal IT community will need to deal with this by prioritizing its most critical work and assigning resources accordingly.
- Delivering IT on budget and on time will become the top metric used to assess the acquisition process. As exemplified by President-Elect Trump’s public comments related to some specific government programs, there will be a huge focus on delivering value to government without delays or cost overruns. We can expect a President who has staked his reputation as a tough negotiator to emphasize that with the federal IT community. Federal workers and contractors working on IT projects will be expected to proactively assess risks and to be quick to react and change course if things go wrong. Combined with the need to embrace new technologies, this will spur an uptick in agile management processes and an acceleration in the use of techniques like DevOps, agile development and real time risk registers.
- There will be greater activity related to economic growth. With a President who is known as a savvy businessman focused on creating broad based economic prosperity, it’s likely we’ll see creative public-private models to spur new investments in infrastructure. The federal IT community can play a vital role in providing the technology, systems and services that underpin this strategy for federal, state and local government agencies – as well as private entities. Capabilities in integration of intelligent sensors, autonomic computing, machine learning as well as coordinated approaches to bring together supply chains and financial and communications networks for building out next generation infrastructure for our country. Our community also can focus on developing IT talent in diverse locations – especially in rural America – rather than concentrating it around the Beltway.
- The US will increase its focus on developing offensive cyberattack capabilities. With state actors grabbing headlines for launching cyberattacks against the US and allies, we can expect the National Security Agency and parts of the Defense Department to increase efforts to develop more offensive cyber capabilities in response. These efforts will concentrate on protecting government information, activities related to government such as political campaigns, and the country’s critical infrastructure.
As with any change in administration, we can also expect bumps in the road. Many of the new leaders will come from outside of traditional government circles and will have to get used to the unique challenges involved in government work – while those who work in the agencies they lead must become acclimated to their new leadership.
But in spite of the challenges, I predict the federal IT community will come together – as it always has– and achieve more of the great things we’ll be reading in the pages of Federal Computer Week throughout the year and beyond.
Happy New Year, everyone!
Venkatapathi “PV” Puvvada, president of Unisys Federal, was the industry recipient of the 2015 Federal Computer Week Eagle Award.