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INDUSTRY INSIGHT

4 components of a digitally resilient government

Governments quickly adapted to sudden disruption and a move to remote work in 2020. The change in the way government staff work and the public consume services has led to a significant transformation in the way public-sector organizations consume and deploy software, infrastructure and applications.

In the Dell Technologies 2020 Digital Transformation Index, 80% of global respondents successfully accelerated at least some of their digital transformation programs in the previous year. Maintaining that momentum will support a digital government model that can scale in response to any disruption, but it will require a continuous, concerted effort.

A greater focus on digital services requires an equal emphasis on continuity of operations. Unfortunately, traditional disaster recovery and continuity approaches are not enough, especially when it comes to modern cyber threats. One of the most essential elements of crisis management is not necessarily crisis specific -- it is about having the right IT infrastructure to put the processes, teams, culture and training in place to navigate unforeseeable, consequential events when they strike.

These four critical components can help achieve a highly resilient digital government:

1. Enabling recovery from destructive events

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, since 1980 the U.S. has sustained 265 weather and climate disasters with damages of over $1 billion each. There is much that goes into disaster recovery, but technology plays a significant role. A robust recovery strategy must be in place. Since power outages are common during natural disasters, redundant data centers in different locations across the country, the ability to failback to site for critical services and automatic access to those systems should be the first steps in every plan. Continuous availability, workload mobility and multi-cloud/hybrid cloud options in addition to baseline backup and recovery strategies are vital considerations to ensure operations continue seamlessly.

As cyberattacks grow in sophistication and impact, data protection and cybersecurity are also essential for disaster recovery plans. Maintaining an isolated copy of the agency’s most critical data off the production network and isolated from production backup systems is critical. The National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Cybersecurity Framework is an excellent guide for overall cyber resiliency and should be used by state and local governments as they build recovery plans.

2. Optimizing data protection for tomorrow’s infrastructure and needs

The multi-cloud-enabled future requires breaking down silos and creating enterprisewide policies that integrate crucial data protection and recovery strategies. Critical functionality should be automated and easily accessible by users. Another key capability of tomorrow’s data protection environment is the deep integration of analytics. Well-designed analytics will provide key metrics that will help agency teams better understand the current state of IT operations and provide concrete data to plan for the future.

3. Ensuring stakeholders are in unison

All government departments must assess the current state of IT continuity programs. Often, an important first step is an interactive workshop with IT stakeholders and non-IT leadership. Bringing these two groups to a consensus will better connect IT procedures with constituent needs, prioritizing availability for the most critical applications first. A key part of a strong availability strategy is simulating various outage scenarios through regular table-top exercises to help ensure all teams are ready to act and that the necessary technologies are available and accomplish the desired outcome.

4. Equipping employees with tools for remote work

In addition to being prepared for outages, it is imperative to ensure agency employees have the right tools and resources to work remotely. In 2020, organizations pivoted almost instantly to support and scale remote work infrastructures. A May 2020 Bureau of Labor Statistics study revealed that over half of state and local government employees surveyed had moved to telework as a direct result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Forty-four percent of global respondents to the Dell Technologies 2020 Digital Transformation Index said that rolling out broader remote work capabilities was one of the most accelerated areas of digital transformation this past year. Quickly adapting and leveraging technology’s power in times of uncertainty must be a top priority.

A crisis doesn’t need to feel like a crisis if teams are prepared and equipped to handle adversity. Government must continue to embrace innovation to enable quicker and more efficient recovery in the wake of destructive events. By optimizing security and data protection, ensuring a consensus among all stakeholders and giving employees the tools to work anywhere, we can maximize the resiliency of government operations.

About the Author

Ann Dunkin is the chief technology officer and strategist, state and local government, for Dell Technologies.

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