What HHS modernization could mean for tech companies
- By Chris Wiedemann
- Nov 01, 2017
Around 40 percent of the systems of record at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) are “legacy IT,” meaning they are no longer supported by their manufacturers and are increasingly expensive to maintain. But that may soon change, according to Chris Wlaschin, chief information security officer for HHS.
Speaking at the recent Washington Technology HHS Industry Day, Wlaschin described an emphasis on modernization at the leadership level that mirrors the focus the White House has placed on overhauling dated federal technology.
The legacy systems still in operation at the agency’s Office of Chief Information Officer (OCIO) have been bucketed into three distinct categories: those ready for migration to a more modern solution, either on-premises or in the cloud; those that cannot be migrated but need to be kept active for the agency to deliver on its mission; and those beyond their useful life and can be shut down (a process that is accelerating).
The OCIO has also outlined a goal to bring 30 percent of its operational systems into the cloud over the next few years, which would represent a substantial increase in current cloud utilization at HHS. All told, it sounds like the pace of change is increasing at the agency with the largest non-defense IT budget in government – and that spells opportunity for the tech industry, especially for the companies that develop tech solutions and their partners.
Of course, the push for cloud migration and legacy system modernization isn’t just aimed at improving agency performance. There’s a significant legislative driver in the form of the Federal Information Technology Reform Act (FITARA).
George Chambers, HHS executive director of IT infrastructure and acting executive director of the Office of Enterprise Application Development, made sure to outline the agency’s goal of achieving an “A by May,” or an A-grade on that month’s FITARA implementation scorecard in Congress.
While FITARA is generally thought of as a management reform bill, an agency the size of HHS attempting to increase its implementation scores in such a short timeframe has a real impact on the private sector as well and could alter the optimal route to market.
In addition to targeting Data Center Optimization Initiative (DCOI) metrics as a primary means of raising FITARA implementation scores, HHS is looking to increase its use of enterprise agreements at the Office of the Secretary level, as well as actively participate in the kind of software license tracking and rationalization required by the MEGABYTE Act.
All of this means that there’s an opportunity for IT vendors with an existing footprint at the agency to have a real discussion around enterprise standardization. Of course, it could also mean a smaller universe of competitors for upcoming HHS solicitations – so vendors will need to make sure they have teaming arrangements and partnership programs aligned to the customer.
All that said, the sense coming from HHS leadership is still that they truly prioritize competition and want to be open to as many competitive solutions as possible for each of their procurements. The best way for technology companies to compete is to team up with a prime contractor on one of the NITAAC GWACs – CIO-CP3 for services, CIO-CS for products – since spending through those vehicles will almost certainly increase as acquisition reform continues to be an administration priority.
HHS is large and complex, but acutely aware of its need for industry partners to meet the ambitious modernization targets coming down from the top levels of the organization. Tech companies that align themselves with that mission will have ample opportunity for success.
Chris Wiedemann is a Senior Analyst with immixGroup, focusing on HHS. He can be reached at Chris_Wiedemann@immxgroup.com