The following article was written by AINS CEO Moe Goswami and is Part 2 of a 4-part series on digital transformation in government agencies and Offices of Inspectors General (OIGs).
To view the original article, click here.
How does your agency handle the rising tide of digital information? Last week, I touched on the relationship between increased information and growing demands facing government agencies and Offices of Inspectors General (OIGs). Digital information poses new challenges to data management that agencies and OIGs are taking steps to mitigate, from managing surges in Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests and the effects of whistleblowers to complying with new digital transparency laws. Through increased IT spending and automating business processes, many agencies are already making progress. But because digital security and transparency is, in some ways, a moving target, it’s important to take the time to ask: is the current approach sustainable?
The U.S. tech market is expanding at a rapid rate. The level of innovation related to processing speeds, artificial intelligence (AI) processing, and data management continues to grow, along with IT spending. In 2018, Forrester reported an 8 percent growth in software spending in the U.S. tech market between 2018 and 2019. In the same report, software accounted for $315 billion in 2019 tech spending nationwide, and business applications accounted for more than 50 percent of that spending budget.
On the other hand, federal IT spending has grown by 10 percent in 2018, and Bloomberg Government reports a federal budget of $4.1 billion for cloud services, $4.4 billion for software, and $6.4 billion for cybersecurity in 2018. These spending trends make sense, given that data breaches at multiple agencies in the past few years have put pressure to increase our cyber defenses, while legislation like National Archives’ digital records initiative has pushed agencies to make their data digitally accessible by 2022.
However, as with any industry, spending budgets are not enough to accurately assess if government agencies have properly tackled the challenges they’re facing. Just looking at recent Federal Information Security Modernization Act (FISMA) compliance reports shows this may not be the case. The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) found in a 2018 FISMA report that, based on Office of Management and Budget (OMB) scoring criteria, only “42 of the 97 agencies whose data is included in the . . . report were assessed at ‘effective.’” The agencies that scored highly in the OMB report took “quantitative and qualitative measures on the effectiveness of policies, procedures, and strategies… to assess them and make necessary changes.” They had tools in place to provide “managed and measurable” results on various cybersecurity metrics, from risk management to incident response and contingency planning.
The requirements set by FISMA specify that “(1) information security management processes are integrated with budgetary planning; (2) senior agency officials, including chief information officers, carry out their information security responsibilities; and (3) all personnel are held accountable for complying with the agency-wide information security program.” The first step to implementing the tools needed to meet these requirements and that of other legislation is to assess current business processes to see how they can be streamlined. Any agencies still using paper-based or disparate legacy systems can easily transition to innovative cloud-based solutions that will allow them to comply with current regulations, improve the user experience, and tackle large quantities of data more securely.
We have assisted agencies in modernizing their business processes for years, but the massive and exponentially increasing amount of data is going to create even more complex challenges that will require a reimagined approach to managing the workplace. What we need are sweeping enterprise tools that can aggregate data and be configured to meet new needs as they emerge. This perspective challenges agency IT spending trends of purchasing software to automate processes according to specific function without looking at the big picture.
By focusing on just one business process at a time, we cannot transform work in a way that is responsive to the challenges of digital government. For example, Offices of the Chief Human Capital Officer often require employees to use several different applications on a regular basis rather than rely on manual paper-based methods, but each of these applications come with their own user interfaces and other significant differences, which in turn demands extensive training and support costs. This fragmentation in architecture also prevents enterprise reporting capable of generating insightful and actionable analytics, all while burdening operations and maintenance budgets. An enterprise human capital management system, like the one we have built, consolidates the disparate HR processes under one roof, streamlining user experience and enhancing security while opening the doors to exploring new relationships between agency policies (e.g. telework) and employee outcomes.
Often the intentions are good, but because of how agencies receive their funding, products are funded incrementally. Addressing this problem requires a different plan with solutions that are built on platforms rather than function-specific solutions. With a platform-centric approach, agencies are able to easily expand and grow into other functions as needs and funding allow, ultimately conserving investments compared to building new applications every few years.
The federal government, in many ways, recognizes this new challenge. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) advocated in a 2018 report that “modernization . . . is not simply replacing individual outdated IT systems with newer ones; rather, it is a holistic approach to Federal IT that fundamentally transforms how agencies accomplish their missions.” By looking to change the way agencies and OIGs do work, we can transform our processes to be more efficient, secure, and transparent.
The public sector has a lot of work to do to implement open data initiatives, but they are already on the way by adopting a cloud-first, software-as-a-service model. However, the possibilities are endless when you think outside of the box of siloed applications to realize a more secure and transparent workplace. Let it be the responsibility of the vendors to keep technology fresh and to expand as needs grow over time.
 Bartels, Andrew. 2018. “US Tech Market Outlook For 2018 And 2019”. Forrester. https://www.forrester.com/report/US+Tech+Market+Outlook+For+2018+And+2019/-/E-RES143131.
 Cornillie, Chris. 2019. “The Federal IT Market Grew By 10 Percent In Fiscal 2018”. Bloomberg Government. https://about.bgov.com/news/federal-market-grew-10-percent-fiscal-2018/.
 Executive Office of the President, Office of Management and Budget, Memorandum for Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies: Transition to Electronic Records, by Russell T. Vought and David S. Ferriero, OMB M-19-21 (Washington, DC, 2019), https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/M-19-21.pdf.
 Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, Office of Inspector General, Memorandum to the Board of Directors: Summary and Analysis of the Corporation’s FY 2018 Federal Information Modernization Act (FISMA) Performance and Update on IT Remediation Efforts (Special Report No. SR-2020-01), by Robert A. Westbrooks. SR-2020-01 (Washington, DC, 2019), https://oig.pbgc.gov/pdfs/SR-2020-01.pdf.
 U.S. Congress, Senate, Federal Information and Security Modernization Act (FISMA) of 2014, S.2521, 113th Cong., 2nd sess., introduced in Senate June 24, 2014, https://www.congress.gov/113/plaws/publ283/PLAW-113publ283.pdf.
 Executive Office of the President, Office of Management and Budget, Analytical Perspectives: Budget of the U.S. Government Fiscal Year 2018 (Washington, DC, 2017), 191-196, https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/BUDGET-2018-PER/pdf/BUDGET-2018-PER.pdf.
 Belissent, Jennifer. 2013. “Open Data Changes The Business Of Government”. Forrester. https://www.forrester.com/report/Open+Data+Changes+The+Business+Of+Government/-/E-RES77782.
AINS, Inc. has provided innovative adaptive case management products and services since 1988. Our case management platform, eCase, is deployed at over 400 installations, including federal agencies and offices, state and local governments, educational systems, health institutions, and commercial customers. Unlike other BPM solutions that were retrofitted for case management, eCase was built for case management from the ground up, enabling faster prototyping and production of solutions across diverse business processes. By leveraging the power of eCase, AINS excels at analyzing client business requirements and quickly configuring (not coding) scalable solutions that adapt to the needs of our customers.