Modernizing Federal Government’s IT Will Require Cultural Shift

A report this year by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) revealed that some of the federal government’s information technology (IT) systems have components from as far back as the 1950s and run software written in outdated programming languages. According to the report, the government spends three-fourths of its IT budget on operating and maintaining such inefficient legacy systems.

Lawmakers have noted the dire situation that many agencies face with their old, vulnerable IT systems and are actively working to address the need for modern technology, but funding is the major obstacle.

Congress failed to pass the IT Modernization Act that called for a $3.1 billion fund for upgrading outdated federal IT systems. However, the House of Representatives did pass a spin-off of that act called the Modernizing Government Technology (MGT) Act, which is now waiting for further action from a Senate committee. The MGT Act tries to address the issue through such methods as re-allocation of cost savings and borrowing privileges.

As momentum continues building to pass some form of legislation, government agencies need to be proactive in promoting the cultural shift that will be required to replace their outdated technology successfully. Scaling new information systems will mean that development and operations teams will have to embrace automation and collaboration.

It’s not easy to manage increasingly complex and vital software delivery initiatives while maintaining regulatory compliance and governance. However, Agile practices for software development can help government agencies deliver secure software faster while pointing to DevOps methodologies that provide the framework for a unified, collaborative culture.

Software Development for IT Modernization

Software development teams play a critical role in modernizing the government’s IT, especially in regard to selecting the tools and methodologies they will leverage to scale software in a demanding environment.

As evangelized by modern DevOps methodologies, software development and operations teams need to align through collaboration and automated testing to ensure that new software complies with standards for compliance, governance, and IP security protocol. Agencies using traditional Waterfall methods for software development will need to strongly consider shifting their strategy to Agile practices in order to scale and streamline the software delivery lifecycle.

For modern government software delivery standards, the bar should be set high when it comes to the security and quality of technology.

Software developers need tools for productivity and to manage cycle times effectively to keep costs down. Many teams also will need to deliver software faster despite distributed development teams. Through effective collaboration, knowledge sharing, code re-use, software lifecycle visibility, and governance, software teams can support and align with IT modernization initiatives.

Government agencies can leverage application lifecycle management (ALM) solutions to accelerate application delivery while using best-of-breed tools, version control systems, and development methodologies that best fit their needs. As the outdated IT infrastructure gets more attention and support for modernization, we can expect to see big changes in the tools and methodologies used to scale and deliver software.

Read more about this issue in the GAO report I referred to earlier.

Thomas Hooker

Thomas Hooker is vice president of marketing at Collabnet. As the head of CollabNet's marketing team, he oversees demand generation, brand, customer marketing, public relations, analyst relations, product marketing, and corporate communications. A 20+ year veteran of high-tech Thomas has held Marketing, Product Management and Engineering positions at a variety of leading companies including BMC, Boole & Babbage, Tidal Software and Cisco.

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