How Can Agencies Prepare for the Software Future?


Federal agencies and their IT teams must adapt from a hardware-centric model to an increasingly software-defined world.

Jason Parry is the vice president of client solutions at Force3.

For federal agencies and their IT teams, change is inevitable. After all, it’s the nature of IT to change and grow alongside rapid innovation. Today, agencies must adapt as we shift from a hardware-centric model to an increasingly software-defined world.

This shift allows IT teams to drive change in a completely different way, but the transformation also has its challenges. Here’s what you should know to prepare for the evolution.

Manage the Transformation

Faster access to innovation is fundamental to IT development today—largely thanks to the flexibility of software solutions. New platforms are rewritable, updatable and nimbler than ever before. The benefits of this are obvious. But for organizations not used to such rapid change, managing this constant stream of new capabilities, updates and solution offerings can prove daunting.

How can agencies sift through the heaps of offerings and updates to ensure their infrastructure solutions remain useful, optimized and successful? To start, they need a new, proactive strategy for managing a software-based infrastructure.

Fully capitalizing on the subscription model’s agility requires IT professionals to stay current about product offerings and new capabilities being introduced—many of which are readily available through subscription models they could already have access to. Lacking this, an agency’s software solutions risk becoming shelfware and, ultimately, a wasted investment.

Innovate on Demand

Traditionally, infrastructure design consisted mainly of capital expenditure hardware purchases with significant upfront costs—not to mention a potential long-term commitment to technologies that grew outdated before that commitment ended.

In such a model, scaling solutions up and down is a sluggish process, with agency decision-makers forced to watch newer technologies surpass their now-obsolete systems. Meanwhile, tech buyers are limited to whatever capabilities came with their solutions at the time of purchase. That’s no longer true.

Through software-centric solutions and subscription-based models, agencies can trade perpetual ownership for constant improvement. The result? Greater flexibility and constant, rapid access to innovation. Better still, federal IT teams become more empowered to evolve their roles from task-masters to problem-solvers.

Software subscriptions, after all, put the onus of maintenance on the provider, freeing agency employees to concentrate on the bigger picture. With quickly scalable license models and components that can easily be swapped or upgraded based on need, IT pros have more time for strategy and problem solving, instead of tasks and maintenance.

Expand Your Skill Sets

Along with the newfound opportunity to strategize and problem-solve, creativity has become a critical trait for a well-positioned IT workforce in today’s software-centric world. Instead of engineers who simply make the most of existing resources, organizations need problem solvers and knowledge leaders who can synthesize numerous operational demands based on a holistic understanding and approach.

The focus on creative problem-solving and the prominence of software solutions promotes a greater appreciation of those with application and programming expertise. The industry needs people who can modify and automate processes and who take an active role in using IT to drive mission success. It will also place more importance on collaboration between internal and external stakeholders. This means taking the lead in developing joint partnerships that promote success from the onset.

The opportunities presented by software-centric infrastructure are abundant and take a variety of forms. From increased scalability to a heightened customizability, the IT ecosystem is primed to be more dynamic than ever before. But the rewards will not automatically appear: There’s work to be done along the way. True innovation requires a shift in attitude and priorities. Agencies need to be ready to adapt in order to develop a software-centric infrastructure that performs for them.