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How to Keep Government IT Up to Date

Level 13

By Omar Rafik, SolarWinds Senior Manager, Federal Sales Engineering

Here’s another interesting article from my colleague Sascha Giese on how improved communications and training can help organizations keep their infrastructure updated. Training is one of those things that’s always a priority but rarely makes it to the top of the list.

Government technology professionals dedicate much of their time to optimizing their IT infrastructures. So, when new policies or cultural issues arise, it can be challenging to integrate these efficiently within the existing landscape.

The SolarWinds IT Trends Report 2018 revealed that, in the U.K. public sector, this challenge is yet to be resolved—43% of those surveyed cited inadequate organizational strategies as the reason for the lack of optimization, followed closely by 42% who selected insufficient training investment. Let’s explore these topics further.

Communication Should Never Be a One-off

Organizational IT strategy may start at the top, but often it can get lost in translation or diluted as it’s passed down through the ranks—if it gets passed down at all. As such, IT managers might be doing their daily jobs, but they may not be working with an eye towards their agencies’ primary objectives.

One example of this is the use of public cloud, which—despite the Cloud First policy being introduced in 2013—is still not being realized across the U.K. government to its full potential, with less than two-thirds (61%) of central government departments having adopted any public cloud so far.

Agency IT leaders should consider implementing systematic methods for communicating and disseminating information, ensuring that everyone understands the challenges and opportunities and can work toward strategic goals. Messages could also then be reinforced on an ongoing basis. The key is to make sure that the U.K. government IT strategy remains top-of-mind for everyone involved and is clearly and constantly articulated from the top down.

Training Should Be a Team Priority

The IT Professionals Day 2018 survey by SolarWinds found that, globally, 44% of public sector respondents would develop their IT skillset if they had an extra hour in their workday. Travel to seminars and class tuition fees cost money that agencies may not have.

Training can have a remarkably positive impact on efficiency. In addition to easing the introduction of new technologies, well-trained employees know how to better respond in the case of a crisis, such as a network outage or security breach. Their expertise can save precious time and be an effective safeguard against intruders and disruption, which can be invaluable in delivering better services to the public.

Self-training can be just as important as agency-driven programs. It may be beneficial in the long run for technology professionals to hold themselves accountable for learning about agency objectives and how tools can help them meet those goals, supported with an allocated portion of time that professionals can use for this purpose. People don’t necessarily learn through osmosis, but through action, and at different levels.

For this and other education initiatives, technology professionals should use the educational allowances allocated to them by their organizations, which can sometimes run into thousands of dollars. Take the time to learn about the technologies they already have in-house, but also examine other solutions and tools that will help their departments become fully optimized, especially when these may form part of a broader public sector IT strategy.

Though surveys like the IT Trends Report have highlighted the existence of a knowledge and information-sharing gap, implementing stronger communication and training initiatives into government organizations could help reduce this. And by producing better-optimized environments for IT teams, the quality of the service that their departments can deliver to the wider public is increased, bringing about better changes for all.

Find the full article on Open Access Government.

The SolarWinds trademarks, service marks, and logos are the exclusive property of SolarWinds Worldwide, LLC or its affiliates. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

11 Comments
Level 14

Thanks for the article!

Level 14

I worked in Government / public sector for a number of years.  Cloud First was great until you realised that almost every system couldn't be put into the cloud because of various pieces of legislation and regulation.  Training never happened because every IT department was cut to the bone and there was no money available and no possibility of time away from the office.  The only training I ever got was - "Here's the product.  Get it installed and working.  You have about half the time you actually need".

Now I'm back in the private sector it isn't much different.  The pay is double though. 

Staying up to date remains mission-critical, and training of staff must be funded if they are to provide the best advice to Management and the best configuration choices for high availability.

However, the fact that less than two-thirds of government departments use the cloud is not a red flag, to me.  Rather, let us draw other conclusions:

  • These departments may not have trained their employees to use the cloud, or to use it safely.  Or even shown anyone the benefits--and risks--of using the cloud.
  • NOT using the cloud might be an indicator of a department being appropriately slow to jump on a popular band wagon--particularly if their staff does not require cloud-based resources, does not know how to fully monitor cloud access and performance, hasn't the tools or training to secure resources in the cloud, etc.

Let's not draw early conclusions about the efficiency of a business or a government department based on their lack of cloud use.  It might turn out in the long run that they and their customers and their data are safer NOT being in the cloud.

Level 13

Thanks for the post.  Many (most?) of the orgs I've worked for over the years have either published or voiced similar goals and aspirations, but as petergwilson​ mentioned the reality was much different due to budget, extremely tight deadlines, understaffing  and the constant drive to get things done.  There are times when I can carve out slices of time (20-30 minutes) to try to catch up, but most of the "training" is actually when I do the implementation.  If it isn't then it's when it breaks and we have to figure out how to fix it.  Not very efficient, but that's the reality.

Level 14

Glad to see it wasn't just me then.   

Level 16

Thanks for the write up.

Level 8

The public sector is one of the top five industries to experience a breach.  Thanks for the tips and emphasizing how much training can help to keep Government IT up to date.


Level 20

Training is a big deal now with RMF and in the Federal space.

MVP
MVP

Good article. I'm currently supporting a government agency and I see big gaps in communication. I've only been supporting them for about 6 months and I've been surprised how many times the coders come to the network team with new requirements and they need them "tonight - because we are going live."

MVP
MVP

Thanks for the article!

Level 13

Thanks for the Article