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INDUSTRY INSIGHTS

Top data and automation trends for 2019

Modernizing government operations will remain high on agency priority lists this year. The President's Management Agenda, released in the spring of 2018, lays out the administration’s vision for modernization, with reform centered around three key areas: modernizing information technology; data, accountability and transparency; and the workforce for the 21st century.

Efforts will be varied and go beyond increasing cloud adoption. A memo from then-Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick M. Shanahan outlined new procurement approaches to support modernization with the help of the National Security Innovation Base. “Industry is often the best source of information concerning market conditions and technological capabilities," he wrote. "This information is crucial to determining whether and how industry can support the Department's missions and goals.” 

Similarly, SPAWAR Systems Center Atlantic head Anne Rideout spoke at the annual CDCA defense summit about the move to modernize seaports that have been in use for 40 to 50 years into smart ports using data analytics and automation.

These efforts illustrate how agencies are working to digitally transform government and its ability to protect this nation.

Here are three data and automation-related technology trends that will help agencies stay ahead of the curve and drive  IT teams drive in their 2019 transformation efforts: 

1. Connect the data dots with IoT

In 2019, we will see a data-feed frenzy. Agencies have already dipped their toes into the internet of things, in particular with the use of connected sensors for smart cities. In some cases, agencies have been early adopters of IoT and have seen tangible cost savings and productivity increases. For instance, the Department of Agriculture's National Agricultural Statistics Service uses sensors to collect farming data that fuels USDA efforts to make farming more profitable.

In reality, 2019 might still not be a breakout year for IoT, but the commonalities are beginning to come together in terms of particular domains. IoT will move from being a generic concept to solving real problems. In other words, it won’t just be about sensors and devices alone, but rather how agencies use the data coming from those new feeds to complete more robust and complete pictures. Agencies must consider how they will store and analyze the vast amount of data they collect and use this intelligence to impact their operations.

2. Go visual and real time

More agencies will see the promise of data visualization and embrace it this year. They will have no choice -- data growth is exponential and increasingly structured because of IoT. Looking at rows and columns of numbers on a spreadsheet doesn’t always tell the whole story. Going forward, automated analytics will find something interesting, create a visual representation of that insight, then show it to a human in an easy-to-understand format so more immediate and strategic action can be taken. Data will be pulled from the whole enterprise, allowing decision-makers to finally see the forest through the trees.

Data visualization can be instrumental in developing strategies for public safety and can help local agencies more easily understand where specific cybersecurity threats are coming from by analyzing the geography, frequency and time of day of attempted attacks. 

Most critical to these efforts will be the ability to view and analyze streaming data in real time; otherwise, decisions will be made on old or stagnant data. Automation is the only way that organizations can move as fast as the data is generated.

3. Make RPA a priority

This will be a big year for robotic process automation, where software robots will take over mundane and routine tasks, freeing up employees to be more productive and strategic. With RPA, agencies are automating tasks like data migration and entry, accounting and compliance. Humans’ role in the enterprise will continue to shift, moving to spend more time looking at the big picture, searching for threats and innovating.

RPA is right in line with the 21st century workforce tenant in the PMA, and the administration is encouraging the use of the technology. Many government agencies are using RPA now, including NASA, Treasury Department’s Bureau of Fiscal Service and the Defense Information Systems Agency. The cost savings for government agencies is proven. Deloitte’s Center for Government Insights said in 2017 that RPA could save agencies as much as $41.1 billion over the next seven years.

Overall, recent regulations have made it easier for government to purchase and implement cutting-edge digital technology. Will we look back on 2019 as the year that agencies moved the needle significantly toward digital transformation and proved the sector to be at the forefront of innovation? It’s now in the hands of the IT leaders to take steps to use available technologies to advance their capabilities in business intelligence and automation.

About the Author

Ruhollah Farchtchi is CTO of Zoomdata.

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