IT modernization, improved cybersecurity and innovation are all intertwined

New survey shows agency CIOs, CTOs and CISOs agree on the needs, and lament the slow pace of progress.

Shutterstock image (by Your Design): Human head creating a new idea.

The Professional Services Council today unveiled its 26th annual CIO Survey, conducted in partnership with PSC member company Grant Thornton. Not surprisingly, this year the top two priorities for agency technology leaders are IT modernization and improved cybersecurity. Those are not separate thoughts but rather a focusing of attention on the need to move away from outdated technologies and a recognition that the two efforts must be done in parallel.

An aging infrastructure exacerbates cybersecurity vulnerabilities, while any adoption of new technologies must incorporate cybersecurity best practices.

The convergence of technology and services, the power of consumption-based buying and the availability of an ever-increasing array of new technologies provide for a marketplace where the potential for innovation is almost limitless. Around the world, new technologies, applications and opportunities are constantly and rapidly changing the way we live, work and play.

Government must not continue to lag in its adoption of commercial best practices and new technologies, particularly given the fact that federal agencies spend well over $80 billion annually on IT. And they are spending up to 80 percent of their IT budgets to sustain an aging and insecure legacy infrastructure. That ratio would spell disaster for companies that are trying to stay abreast of technology developments.

The survey shows that agency IT leaders are committed to reversing that trend, yet even in the case of well-understood and valued initiatives such as cloud computing, respondents said they believe their progress is too slow.

At the same time, there is a clear understanding of the ever-increasing cybersecurity threats that agencies face and the need to move away from security through “denial of service” to a world of “secure information sharing” and “trusted computing from untrusted devices.”

The CIO survey highlights the necessity for simultaneously modernizing legacy IT and improving cybersecurity. Aging IT infrastructure creates a host of problems for government, including spending too much money, falling behind on cybersecurity and being unable to take advantage of new innovations and delivery channels.

Together, industry and government can reverse the federal government’s increasing reliance on an outdated IT infrastructure by accelerating the adoption of cloud computing and similar technology upgrades and by rationalizing or retiring legacy systems.

The survey also identifies the compelling need for the federal IT workforce to be trained and ready to take advantage of innovative new technologies and approaches. Earlier this month, PSC released a report titled “Ensuring the Effectiveness of Federal Chief Technology Officers.” Recognizing that the CTO position is a relatively new phenomenon at most agencies, the report provides recommendations to address CTO priorities, organizational placement and the importance of a federal council to share ideas and collaborate on initiatives — all to address the need to make it easier for agencies to innovate and adapt.

As both studies make clear, IT modernization, improved cybersecurity and greater access to innovation are all intertwined. Much will change when a new administration takes office in January, but one thing will remain constant: There is a tremendous opportunity for government to capitalize on the insertion of new technology to deliver more effective mission results.