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Building a better agency through orchestration

In federal IT, there is sometimes fear that software orchestration will render the technology professional’s role obsolete. This mindset, however, is misguided. In reality, the exact opposite is true: Orchestration has the potential to not only make federal IT workers’ jobs more valuable than ever, but also more interesting and perhaps even a bit less stressful.

By creating a system that can handle the mundane, repetitive tasks of IT management, orchestration empowers skilled federal IT professionals to do higher value work: problem solving, innovation and creating efficiencies to move their agencies forward.

Specialization of labor

With the sophisticated technology currently available, it's becoming clear that machines are simply better suited to handle certain IT management tasks, while others still require human input. Luckily, the jobs best suited for computers are rarely the important or interesting ones.

Consider employee onboarding for example. The many steps in getting a new hire set up in an agency's computer system -- creating an email account, granting network credentials, etc. -- are standardized and fairly predictable. Yet they are time-consuming tasks that, depending on the size of the agency, need to be done on a fairly regular basis.

Orchestrating processes like employee onboarding not only allows IT workers to focus on more mission-critical projects, it also makes the processes themselves smoother and more efficient.

Professional problem solvers

Most IT professionals chose their field because they find it interesting and rewarding. Unfortunately, it’s easy for an agency’s IT staff to get bogged down with putting out day-to-day fires, leaving little time to explore strategy and innovate. Orchestration can help prevent many of those fires in the first place, shifting the role of the IT pro from cog in the machine to behind-the-curtain engineering strategist.

By orchestrating lower-value processes to trigger without IT intervention, organizations can free up their experts' time, resources and brain power to tackle bigger problems and develop solutions that demonstratively support the agency’s mission. It can enable streamlined

data storage, improved threat awareness and collaboration with third-party vendors to augment an agency's current stack with new resources, among other benefits. Orchestration gives agencies the opportunity to finally address lingering issues and to attack new challenges as they arise. The increased capacity for innovation may even transform how IT teams function.

The big picture

To illustrate another, less obvious benefit of orchestration, let’s revisit the example of onboarding a new employee. When a HR worker hands off a new employee's file, it circulates among departments where delays and some level of human error inevitably creeps in.

Computers, on the other hand, don’t have to-do lists. They can execute immediately with little, if anything, lost in translation. Still, orchestration can only happen when humans consider the bigger picture and connect the dots to ensure the entire system is working towards a common goal.

This is orchestration’s somewhat hidden benefit -- it gently forces agencies out of their silos. The process requires buy-in from many affected parties, necessitates collaboration and enables agencies to zoom out and assess how the many components of their IT ecosystems function.

Full adoption of orchestration is just around the corner. Federal IT professionals and their agencies should take advantage of its benefits to creatively solve problems and increase efficiencies. For most, this will be a welcomed shift, one that promises to significantly increase the value of the IT worker and of the public service they provide.

About the Author

Greg Foster is a next-gen Data Center and Enterprise networks practice manager at Force 3.

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