Report: Tech Shops Don't See Themselves Driving Change

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Nearly 60 percent of civilian tech specialists cited insufficient funding as a major barrier to IT modernization.

Government leaders often preach the potential of IT to vastly improve the way agencies operate, but tech shops largely see themselves perpetuating business as usual, a recent survey found.

Seven in ten federal IT specialists describe their office as a “trusted utility” or “mission enabler,” but only 20 percent believe themselves to be on the cutting edge of organizational change within their agency, according to a report by Accenture Federal Services. Furthermore, less than 40 percent of respondents said they can effectively make a case for IT investments to improve their agency’s mission.

And while technology rapidly advances, only about half of those surveyed believe their agency has made notable changes to IT strategy and infrastructure over the last five years.

“These findings suggest that even as IT makes strides in modernization from a technological perspective, agencies still face delays in reimagining mission programs and the business processes that support them,” the report said. The survey is based on responses from 200 federal IT leaders at both defense and civilian agencies.

Nearly 60 percent of civilian tech specialists cited insufficient funding as a major barrier to IT modernization, while only 36 percent of their defense-focused counterparts said the same. Across the board, cybersecurity and reliance on legacy systems were listed as the next biggest constraints.

Respondents ranked commercial cloud and shared services adoption as the two factors with the most potential to improve their agencies’ IT ecosystem, followed closely by agile development strategies. But while more than 65 percent said their agencies were adopting those technologies and techniques in some form, many face resistance to their roll out.

More than half of agencies house less than 25 percent of their computing infrastructure on commercial cloud, according to the report. Some 63 percent of respondents cited security as a major concern when it comes to cloud computing, even though most experts see the system as significantly safer than traditional infrastructure.

While agile methodology has been widely adopted by agency tech shops, respondents said resistance to change and insufficient training have slowed its acceptance. Similarly, many agencies are pursuing shared services, but more than half of respondents worry the strategy forces departments to compromise on their individual requirements.

But despite the obstacles federal tech leaders face, the report said, it’s critical they pave a path forward.

“Enterprises recognize as fundamental the need to digitize their operations to become more scalable, efficient, adaptive, innovative and precise,” the report said. “Federal IT leaders must prepare for dramatic changes in how they operate and deliver value.”