Our Take on the Modernizing Government Technology Act

We're in support of this Act passing. Big surprise, right?

For those that haven't heard, Bill H.R.2227, Modernizing Government Technology Act of 2017 or the MGT Act is receiving quite a bit of press. President Trump supports the bill and even included $228M in seed money in his 2018 budget proposal. As of 5/18/2017, the bill has passed the House and is now in the Senate's hands.

Although this seems like a slam dunk, there are some important factors to consider before jumping into IT modernization. Here are our thoughts on the areas that the bill funding would support:

  • "...improve efficiency and effectiveness" - Many of the government projects we've participated in use a waterfall project management approach. Waterfall requires a lot of upfront planning, approvals, development, and testing all for the payoff of a big bang at the end (the final product). It's the type of project management we all know and (some) love. Any effort toward modernization will require us all to get comfortable with Agile methodologies. Agile means that a smaller set of desired deliverables are defined and a team sprints toward the finish to complete these deliverables (generally in 2-week to 4-week cycles). The "final" product is not as large as it would be in a waterfall project. The goal is to release something at the end of each Sprint cycle that represents incremental progress toward a larger end goal. Modernization will need to happen in cycles instead of trying to migrate everything to a new system on a certain date. While this might seem like the ideal way to go, there's an inherent acceptance of risk and imperfection with Agile projects. The idea is to take small risks so that they're easier to mitigate. Top leadership involved in a modernization project will need to accept these risks while understanding that they might not get a big splash of a "final" product like they're used to in waterfall projects.
  • "...transition legacy information technology systems to cloud computing..." - Based on our experience with government information technology work, "cloud" is not just a buzz word. There are already initiatives within the government programs we support to move some or all of its technology to the cloud. We're huge advocates of cloud computing. Our firm's use of it allows us to be more responsive to clients' needs and communicate with our team. But, we have to admit, the thought of it being used for government data gives us pause. There's something about being able to walk to the server room and see "your machine" that makes us feel safe and secure - especially when it comes to government-related data. Careful planning that addresses handling of classified information, cybersecurity, and business continuity are a must. Then, there's the human factor. We all know the team member who stays on the payroll because they are the only one who knows their way around an old system to get it to produce what we want. Transitioning out of legacy systems may mean that team member's position will become obsolete. Personnel plans also need to be made prior to jumping into the modernization effort.
  • "...address evolving threats to information security" - We have 3 words - OPM security breach. More than likely the personnel data was stolen from a legacy system, but that's besides the point. We hope that no one feels like IT modernization is a silver bullet making security breaches a thing of the past. Improving technology helps, but even the most progressive systems can be vulnerable to attack. Let's address the human factor here also. Having new technology does not automatically change human behavior related to safeguarding information. Several casual conversations can result in divulging just enough information to give bad actors what they are seeking. Unfortunately, no amount of funding can fix that problem. 

As we said before, we are in support of this bill because we see more pros than cons. We'll continue to monitor the progress of this bill in anticipation of it becoming a law.

 

 

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About Data-Scribe

Data-Scribe, a division of VelaMira, Inc., is an information technology systems integration and modernization firm that takes our clients on a journey through our Think + Write + Build disciplines. Our nationwide team specializes in business analysis, project management, technical communication, website, and training services for businesses, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies.