Research Reveals AI Gaps in Federal IT Modernization

Yuichiro Chino/Getty Images

Only one-quarter of study participants saw AI as critical or very valuable to their modernization efforts, and one-third saw it as not very/not at all valuable. 

All federal agencies are focusing on IT modernization to keep pace with changing mission requirements and citizen demands but one of the biggest modernization challenges program managers and mission owners face is time spent chasing problems rather than moving the mission forward. Artificial intelligence-based observability and application monitoring can augment agency resources and free up capacity to focus on accelerating mission innovation. Yet despite the clear benefits of this technology, agencies are not embracing AI solutions that can automate manually intensive trouble-shooting and get missions quickly back on point. Some recent research involving 300 IT and procurement professionals in federal civilian and defense agencies provides insight into why that may be the case and where their efforts are being prioritized. 

The Focus is on the Cloud

A fall 2021 study by Market Connections showed that agencies’ most important areas for IT resource investment are cloud computing and application performance monitoring. In fact, four in 10 see cloud computing investment as essential. Following a decade of learning, agencies’ decisioning process for moving to the cloud has matured. Most now apply a deliberative workload migration approach that is driven by mission requirements.

Still, there are a variety of hurdles to overcome. For instance, 48% of study participants saw cost savings as a big cloud benefit, yet 51% said budget is an obstacle. While these opinions seem to be at odds, there will in fact be significant long-term cost efficiencies and security benefits when cloud adoption is done right and once systems normalize. 

Those gains depend on advanced technology, including AI. Cloud migration compounds an already complex IT ecosystem. It impacts access and control over underlying infrastructure, changes how to handle and manage security processes and policies, and complicates identifying and quickly responding to problems.  

Agency cloud strategies will simply not be sustainable for the long term without AI-based “force-multiplier” platforms that provide deeper capabilities to manage the increased complexity. In fact, more than eight in 10 professionals said they are at least somewhat (or more) likely to use an AI platform to help. Such tools will also help agencies meet the Biden administration’s recent Executive Order on Improving the Nation’s Cybersecurity

Monitoring Is a Challenge

Monitoring and visibility were deemed very important by over 60% of government professionals surveyed. While it’s impossible to sufficiently track, monitor and report without modern visibility approaches, on average study participants reported having visibility into only two-thirds of their entire IT environment (the most for network and operating system performance, and the least for virtual machines and cloud instances). That leaves the other third in the dark.

Legacy application performance monitoring (APM) tools are just not sufficient for today’s cloud-powered missions. With hundreds of apps and millions of dependencies, continual, detailed status information is essential to sustaining operations. Agencies are likely using legacy tools that provide some dependency and network mapping, but lack the more advanced root cause analysis and automation capabilities needed for the modern environment. 

As agencies accelerate cloud migrations, it will be necessary to replace those legacy tools with AI-driven observability platforms that can provide the needed insights into system performance and issue resolution. Observability is the next generation of APM, designed to give end-to-end visibility of all applications and components while adding a layer of automation to address today’s complex, dynamic environments. AI-based observability collects, analyses, predicts, finds root causes and extends all the way to the end-user. 

Observability will also help agencies mitigate cloud monitoring limitations like a lack of resources.  For instance, with root cause discovery and remediation, AI can do in a few minutes what would take a team of people hours, weeks or more. Automating lower level or repetitive tasks frees personnel to focus on higher stake tasks, essentially increasing headcount without the cost.

The AI Trust Factor 

Perhaps the biggest issue the study revealed was government professionals’ lack of trust in AI.  Only one-quarter of study participants saw AI as critical or very valuable to their modernization efforts, and one-third saw it as not very/not at all valuable. Many felt that their people, processes and governance were simply not suitable or ready for AI utilization. 

One-third of participants plainly said they just don’t trust it. Without human-readable understanding of AI, its decisions and recommendations are suspect. Bridging that trust will come from AI systems that provide three key elements: 

First, they must be transparent, so professionals know that the AI-based system follows a deterministic and dynamic approach, and they can easily understand and explain the logic behind its decisions. 

That means systems must be explainable. Allowing IT teams to see a complete set of circumstances leading up to any decision the AI engine makes empowers them to trust that future actions under an identical set of circumstances would be the same. This reduces wasted troubleshooting and chasing false-positive alerts, while accelerating results.

Lastly, systems must provide high quality data. Supplying a precise known state of how everything across the technology stack operates means the AI is working with good data, removing the risk of biased, tainted decision-making. When the AI suppresses noise and provides precise answers with root-cause analysis and problem playback, resolution can happen in minutes, often before a mission is impacted.

Failure Is Not an Option

In reality, IT modernization that incorporates AI-level capabilities is integral to keeping agency mission fulfillment at pace with evolving requirements and citizen expectations. With growing cloud complexity, a widely distributed workforce and clever, ruthless adversaries always lurking, this isn’t a choice—it’s a mandate. As current research reveals, government professionals who need to make this happen aren’t there yet. There is urgency for greater collaboration between them and industry who is obligated to make AI solutions transparent, explainable and high quality. The future of the nation depends on it.

Willie Hicks is public sector chief technology officer at Dynatrace.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.