Government IT and the problems that matter
- By Gregg Carson
- Nov 20, 2015
The very nature of government IT dictates that there will always be problems to solve and challenges to overcome. Government networks are often highly complex environments with lots of moving parts -- and significant potential for things to go wrong in a hurry. It’s the role of government IT teams to keep mission-critical applications and infrastructure running at peak performance.
In order to run a secure, efficient government IT operation, preparation becomes key. Understanding the issues most likely to arise and threaten your IT operation is critical so that when it happens, you are not caught off guard and are prepared to take action.
Most IT professionals would agree that the most difficult problems to solve are the ones that you don’t know exist. This is true no matter what business or industry you are in, and government agencies are no exception. To that end, my company recently ran a survey of 2,685 IT pros who work in both the public and private sectors to identify the issues of most concern that are expected to create havoc for IT environments in 2016 and beyond.
Due to the sheer volume of potential issues involved in the average government IT environment, the threat of chasing ghosts and potential problems that distract from critical issues at hand is a very real possibility. The findings from this study are intended to provide guidance to IT teams and the agencies they support so that they can strategically align resources and planning with the issues that will most need addressing in the coming year.
While IT leaders within government agencies aren’t likely to be surprised by many of the issues identified by their colleagues, it still warrants important consideration when ranking and evaluating potential issues within their own environments.
The responses for the survey were analyzed and fell into the following eight topic areas:
- Security (25 percent)
- Network and application performance and monitoring (19 percent)
- New technology, updates and deployment (14 percent)
- Time, budget and resource constraints (10 percent)
- Business issues (7 percent)
- Data management and storage (6 percent)
- Device management and end-user issues (5 percent)
- Automation and reporting (4 percent)
Nobody understands the importance of network security quite like the IT pros who work for government agencies. Therefore it should come as little surprise that it was the top challenge identified, receiving 25 percent of all responses. General security issues such as breaches, malware, vulnerabilities and zero-day attacks were the biggest concern for more than half (55 percent) of the respondents in this category.
IT infrastructure and application performance monitoring was the second-leading concern for IT teams, with 19 percent of the total responses. This included everything from sluggish performance to the ability of the network to handle required workloads.
The ability to select, manage and deploy new tools was a leading concern of many IT teams surveyed in the study. Two-thirds (67 percent) of all respondents in this category indicated that making necessary updates and deploying new technology within their organization was the No. 1 issue facing their IT department. This was followed closely by budget and resource constraints.
As IT teams are constantly charged to do more with less, the inability to keep up while battling time and resource constraints was a common theme. Nearly half (46 percent) of all respondents in this category indicated that time and internal resource capabilities hindered their ability to do their jobs effectively. One such resource challenge is what many call “an attrition of highly-skilled technical employees or soldiers,” meaning that as more senior technical staff either transition out of the military or retire from government service, those replacing them often do not have the same level of technical training or experience.
Another 38 percent indicated that limited budgets were to blame for their inability to execute on all necessary projects. Training and educating their IT departments was third on the list of issues with 16 percent, which also aligns with the attrition of skills and training new employees and soldiers to do their jobs properly.
As the workforce continues to diversify – the millennial generation is set to be the majority of the workforce by 2025, and mobile technology is rapidly changing the way we work – IT must adapt to the “new” employees and their steadfast expectations about how they should work and live, which includes working on the devices they are comfortable with while using the applications they prefer.
It’s impossible for an IT team in a government agency to prepare for every eventuality. However, you can be better prepared to deal with challenges by prioritizing the most likely outcomes. IT is intricate and grows more so every day. Simplifying planning and contingency plans is a great first step in winning the battle of complexity.
Gregg Carson is a federal program manager at Ipswitch.