Data, IT service management improvements needed for federal government

Data, IT service management improvements needed for federal government

The federal government, like virtually every organization in the world today, is becoming increasingly reliant on digital technologies. With a forward-thinking approach to IT, federal agencies can – and, to a certain, already have – improve efficiency while adding new capabilities. Vast reserves of data and new IT services can lead directly to a more effective government. 

Yet without careful policies and strategies, IT services and data can cause a wide range of serious complications, from cybersecurity risks to inefficiencies that undermine their value. With this in mind, it's clear to see that agencies need to embrace upgrades for both data management and IT service management. Fortunately, a number of departments have begun to take steps in this direction, but more progress is necessary.

IT services for the DOD
One of the agencies that recently made significant progress in this regard is the Department of Defense. As Federal Times reported, the Defense Information Systems Agency released a DOD-wide framework designed to standardize IT service management for the whole of the U.S. military. 

"The Department of Defense recognizes that efficient and effective management of information technology services is a critical component of the DoD Chief Information Officer Enterprise Strategy and Roadmap, as well as the success of the Joint Information Environment," said DOD CIO Terry Halvorsen in a memo announcing the policy.

"The framework standardizes IT service management for the whole of the U.S. military."

As Federal Times noted, this new framework takes a multi-part approach to IT service management improvements. Among other steps, the DOD defined standardized terminology and identified areas of responsibility for various IT services. The ultimate goal of this program is to ensure that the DOD's IT services are aligned with the agency's goals, while helping to ensure that the DOD is able to maximize the benefits offered by new IT solutions and also improving technology transparency and security throughout the department.

The source pointed out that the DOD also recently announced  plan to consolidate a variety of IT services as a means of cutting costs and overhead while improving performance. Clearly, the DOD's leadership recognizes that it needs to better harness IT resources in order to succeed in its objectives in the coming years.

Data demands
The White House also sees the need for improved IT operations, specifically in the realm of data management.

David Mader, controller of the Office of Federal Financial Management at the White House Office of Management and Budget, and David Lebryk, the fiscal assistant secretary of the Department of the Treasury, co-authored a post announcing the next stage of implementation for the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act.

Most notably, this phase includes the introduction of 57 data standards. According to the writers, these standards were based on input from federal agencies, constituents, congressional leaders, industry stakeholders and more.

"The 15 finalized standards relate to federal spending data."

Only 15 of the new standards have been finalized, all of which relate specifically to federal spending data. The authors noted that this is an area of particular concern for government-wide efficiency and coordination.

"Currently, the federal government produces huge amounts of data about how it spends money, but in some cases the same words are used in different ways," Mader and Lebryk wrote. "These inconsistencies make it difficult to use this data in a comprehensive way."

To further improve data management and the adoption of these spending data standards throughout the government, the writers reported that the Office of Management and Budget is also issuing guidance in this area. Additionally, the Treasury Department has created a DATA Act Playbook geared toward helping other agencies implement the new data management standards. 

EDiscovery implications
Another, perhaps less obvious, issue arising from the government's lack of sufficient data management strategies is the difficulty in responding to increasing eDiscovery demands, as a recent Deloitte study highlighted. The source surveyed nearly 150 professionals from across the government and found that three-fourths were not confident in their ability to prove that their electronically stored information was "accurate, accessible, complete and trustworthy."

To a significant degree, this lack of confidence can be attributed to the increasing and diversifying nature of federal data. In 2014, only 26 percent of respondents said they had to preserve or collect data from mobile sources. This year, that figure increased to 54 percent

"While the tools and technologies continue to mature along with our understanding of ESI, the expanding scope of the issue is daunting, especially since agency resources aren't growing commensurately," said Chris May, a principal with Deloitte Transactions and Business Analytics, in a Deloitte blog post published by The Wall Street Journal.

This trend demonstrates yet another way that data management improvements are essential for ensuring that agencies within the federal government are able to meet all of their responsibilities and compliance regulations even as they take advantage of new IT services and ever-growing data. To design and implement these new IT service management and data management strategies, third-party guidance from experienced, trusted firms will often prove critical and invaluable.