COMMENTARY

What tech trends to expect in fiscal 2018

Earlier this year, we shared four technology trends that we predicted would take shape in 2017: IT modernization, the digital connect, data security and intelligence-driven enterprise. Now as we enter the next federal fiscal year, we’re checking in to see how those predictions have fared – and share some thoughts about what we think will happen next.

Under the new administration, the most significant trend we’ve seen take shape is not just about leveraging technology to better streamline service delivery, but enabling efficiencies and cost savings across the federal government while doing so. Since the president’s proposed 2018 budget has not yet been approved, and agencies will likely be working with extensions for a few months at least – not to mention the looming possibility of sequestration, we envision that the focus will remain on investing in, and deploying, and applying technologies that drive outcomes while reducing costs. 

IT modernization

Transitioning the government’s legacy IT infrastructure continues to be a top priority, primarily driven by concerns around budget and system vulnerabilities. The current system’s overhead is becoming even costlier as it ages, requiring extensive maintenance that is neither efficient nor secure, so it’s not surprising that this is where the administration is placing some of its early focus. Even if that wasn’t the case, these legacy systems simply don’t align with the long-term vision for federal government IT. Agencies are moving away from custom-built proprietary IT systems and embracing more open source, modular infrastructures that are more flexible, easier to maintain, and able to support Agile delivery and development. They’re giving more attention to modernization efforts that can be completed more quickly by using applied innovation that focuses on improving business processes.

The approach to IT modernization and respective investments will be based on two key drivers: system security posture and cost efficiencies. With the MGT Act finally getting its approval from the Senate, providing a revolving fund for agencies to use towards modernization initiatives, agencies should now have the resources to take action.

Digital connect

This year, we’ve seen the Trump administration align its technology mission squarely with efficiency and effectiveness. The digital connect/digital transformation process is central to achieving this goal as the government invests in more advanced multichannel digital services that deliver better ROI. Government contact centers, for example, can realize substantial benefits from implementing systems that incorporate artificial intelligence and cognitive platforms to increase citizens’ ability to effectively self-serve, thereby reserving human agents for more complex interactions that require their expertise – but still preserving a positive citizen experience.

As more agencies begin to explore areas for investing in digital tools, we expect to see more exploration into how incorporating automation and AI can bring down the overall process lifecycle costs. This digital medium provides the opportunity to maximize efficiencies, which is a major focus of this administration, while continuing to improve and streamline customer service delivery. The approach will be to identify current non-digital touchpoints that can be leveraged with more advanced digital connect platforms to deliver process and cost efficiencies.

 

Intelligence-driven enterprise

The ability to mine government data for actionable analysis and insights is still a developing competency for most agencies, but an incredibly significant one. Enabling a data-driven approach has perhaps the most potential for creating efficiencies in government, from identifying, monitoring and preventing fraud, waste and abuse to implementing machine learning and artificial intelligence. And, as more agencies explore an intelligence-driven enterprise—in tandem with IT modernization and digital connect efforts—the question becomes how to capture and apply intelligence with an agency process, and make that part of a process to build advanced platforms. Agencies can’t just “do AI” – they need the processes in place to make the information useful in driving improved outcomes and mission objectives.

Digital security

Digital security has remained at the forefront of government priorities following several high-profile breaches across both the public and private sectors. The President has already placed some big bets on cyber security, from his May executive order to shore up critical infrastructure security networks to a $1.8 billion-dollar cash infusion for DHS’ cyber office in July. Given cyber’s front-and-center role in national security—as well as agency IT modernization efforts, we expect it to remain a top priority for the administration, with further emphasis placed on cross-agency sharing of cyber best practices, which we expect will continue to receive attention and investments over the next several years.

The fiscal 18 budget and beyond

Government agencies are under a microscope to deliver increased outcomes and efficiencies, and as we enter a new budget cycle, we expect to see the technology tools and processes that help them do that—such as analytics, digital services and cloud—be prioritized by both the administration and agency leadership.

In the new budget, as well as future investments, the focus will remain on applying technology to trim overhead and maximize efficiencies as the President looks to balance the budget while tackling major reform initiatives in health care, tax reform, veterans affairs, infrastructure, trade, immigration and other key areas. These four trends will continue to set the technology roadmap in fiscal 2018 and beyond.

About the Author

Raj Parameswaran is senior vice president of technology strategy and solutions at Maximus Federal.

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