As the New Year approaches, IT leaders in the federal government can anticipate the usual challenges related to budgets, acquisition and other obstacles. But I expect 2016 also to be a year of progress in key areas such as shared services, implementation of the Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA), and cybersecurity. Here are some developments that I predict will have increased momentum next year:
Prediction: Shared services will gain traction in 2016 as a core strategy for federal agencies to modernize and economize.
Shared services have been around for years, including notable successes such as Grants.gov and Federal Asset Sales, which channeled similar functions across agencies into a single site. Now there is an increasing realization that agencies can share common functions and free up resources to better focus on their core missions. OMB and GSA just announced the first-ever governmentwide program to drive shared services in acquisitions, financial management, human resources and information technology services.
Agencies have been slow to embrace shared services for a lot of good reasons, and the tide is not going to turn significantly in 2016. However, the Obama Administration is putting a sensible foundation in place that can be picked up by the incoming team following next year’s election. With tight budgets and ever-increasing demands on federal agencies, the case for shared services is growing more compelling and I believe momentum will only increase next year and beyond.
Prediction: Agencies will start putting rubber to the road with regard to FITARA implementation.
Earlier this year, OMB provided guidance to federal agencies on how to implement FITARA – the sweeping legislation designed to make federal IT management more efficient. We can expect agencies to begin implementation in earnest in 2016, and a few breakout agencies will make it a priority and provide success stories that will inform the rest of government.
Implementing FITARA will be challenging, especially for the larger departments with highly decentralized (and powerful) bureaus. However, the track record so far is encouraging. OMB’s guidance is thoughtful and well-considered, and the broader federal IT community has converged around a Maturity Model that can be used to measure progress and hold leaders accountable. Furthermore, Congress seems committed to monitoring agencies’ progress, so there is a good prognosis for FITARA to realize its intent.
Prediction: Federal agencies will adopt new, improved approaches to cybersecurity
For some time now, it has been clear that the traditional perimeter-based approach to cybersecurity is not working. This approach, built around a failed premise of keeping all the bad guys out 100% of the time, isn’t working. Relying on ”moats and castles” is insufficient to secure the modern mobile, cloud-enabled digital enterprise.
We are seeing the emergence of better methods and tools to counter our adversaries, including software-defined networks, virtualized everything, application self-protection and identity-based microsegmentation. Gartner calls this the “adaptive security architecture,” and it represents a more flexible, effective defense.
In 2016, I expect agencies will embrace these new approaches to cybersecurity. Federal security professionals are coming to accept that some malware will get in, so they must focus on solutions that limit the damage intruders can do when they inevitably get in. The priority will shift to protecting the most high-value assets, ensuring that breaches won’t cripple their agencies or endanger the constituents they serve.
In closing, I would like to say thanks to all of the federal workers who have served the country so well in 2015. Happy holidays, and best wishes for a successful New Year!
This post was first published in Federal Times at http://www.federaltimes.com/story/government/it/blog/2015/12/21/3-predictions-federal-2016/77700362/.