States must use data to drive modernization and strengthen security

INDUSTRY INSIGHT

States must use data to drive modernization and strengthen security

A recent Government Accountability Office report found that legacy IT investments are becoming increasingly obsolete thanks to maintenance of outdated software and hardware, some of which is 50 years old. Not only are these legacy systems costly to maintain, but they are also increasingly vulnerable to cyber threats. Federal leadership responded when the House of Representatives unanimously passed the Modernizing Government Technology Act, pushing IT modernization to the top of federal agenda.

This ongoing struggle to refresh IT is not exclusive to federal organizations, however. Modernizing legacy systems and improving security must be addressed with equal urgency at the state and local level.

Moving on from legacy technology

State and local agencies are facing many of the same challenges as federal agencies, such as complex IT environments, use of manual processes, lack of visibility across systems and insufficient budget and personnel resources. Many of these challenges can be directly correlated to outdated IT systems, and the results are leaving state and local organizations unable to innovate, limiting the citizen service delivery  and opening the door to potential cybersecurity threats.

Let’s face it: state and local agency CIOs have a tough task as they are frequently being asked to do more with less. Consistent budget cuts have taken the focus away from modernization, leaving decades-old systems in place way beyond their lifetime. Perhaps to no surprise, a recent survey conducted by Clarus Research Group showed that 45 percent of state and local IT leaders cite lack of funding and budget as a major challenge in managing IT operations.

The use of often duplicative legacy systems not only wastes scarce resources, but it also increases IT complexity for agencies. More than half of IT decision makers across the public sector believe new IT paradigms are adding to their organization’s complexity. Although cloud computing and DevOps methodologies can help simplify agency IT operations, the complexity and lack of visibility into legacy systems prevents IT leaders from effectively integrating new platforms with current systems. Simply put, it impedes innovation.

This situation highlights one of the challenges of fiscal management: sometimes you have to spend money to save money. It’s time to invest in modern, efficient technologies and end the excessive spending on maintaining legacy systems.

Intelligent analysis is critical

Implementing modern IT solutions will increase efficiency  and security, but intelligent analysis is key to helping agencies make this shift. State and local IT leaders realize that IT data insights are essential to overcoming modernization challenges. In fact, 72 percent of state and local IT leaders agree that insights into IT data are extremely or very important to their organization’s overall mission. But despite this recognition, most agencies currently aren’t able to fully utilize the IT data they collect. They have data analytics tools, but no one trained to run them. They have data, but no way to derive true operational and business value. Legacy systems simply do not have the bandwidth or capabilities to handle the data influx we’re now seeing.

Agencies need a machine-data revolution that provides solutions that are flexible enough to process different types of data, agile enough to scale as more information is collected and flexible enough to adapt to different lenses from new users. Embracing new, innovative data analytics capabilities will increase network visibility and offer a holistic view of how processes, solutions and applications work within an agency.

This insight is also key to identifying anomalous activities and behaviors that could signal an agency breach. And yet visibility is still a major issue for most state and local agencies because legacy systems don’t give IT managers holistic visibility across their IT systems to foresee issues.

Focusing on current and future needs

Government organizations must move away from the culture enabled by legacy systems’  traditional, limited operations and begin sharing information. Moving away from outdated IT systems will help state and local leaders eliminate silos of information and foster the sharing of data analysis and insights -- information that could prove extremely valuable when shared with other departments. Agencies can no longer afford to function in such a fragmented manner, and using modern intelligent data analysis to drive decisions will create and promote both IT operations and security improvements. 

In 2017, state and local IT leaders will no doubt continue pushing for modern and stronger IT operations. But the leadership on the budget side must support updating the IT systems that will provide the tools to buttress security, enhance operations and deliver on agencies’ missions. With intelligent, real-time insights from IT operations, IT leaders will gain a complete view of their enterprise and break down the barriers to information sharing and innovation.

About the Author

Shawn Rodriguez is area vice president, State and Local Government and Education, Splunk.

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