The United States Veterans Administration (VA) over the last decade underwent a massive enterprise-wide IT transformation, eliminating its fragmented shadow IT and adopting a centralized system capable of supporting the agency’s 400,000 employees and more effectively utilizing its $240 billion-plus annual budget. The result: A more reliable and modern IT environment that improves access, availability, and user experience -ultimately supporting the VA mission more effectively.
This now-united IT system comprises five pillars: expectational customer experience for users, IT modernization, strategic sourcing, IT workforce transformation, and seamless and secure interoperability. It dramatically increased economies of scale and boosted buying power. And with that increased buying power, the VA is able to “buy smartly” by making sure the best deal is being made for the enterprise because entities of the VA across the country are utilizing this new and improved IT system.
“Every company, every agency, every organization almost needs to be an IT company in itself to provide the IT services to constituencies and customers, because it’s truly an IT world these days,” Dominic Cussatt, VA Acting CIO / Principal Deputy CIO and principal deputy assistant secretary, said during the recent Cloudera-sponsored virtual Data Cloud Summit.
Cussatt added that the enterprise-focused IT transformation paid dividends when VA operations nationwide, like most of the country, went remote amid COVID-19 last spring—and those benefits continue now. Enterprise-level IT transformation provides uniformity and saving as well as enabling new capabilities for the entire workforce. Data access is enabled through the smart implementation of cloud, which in turn allows for faster and more informed decision-making.
“That enabled us to deal with COVID and quickly scale up with telehealth and telework. We had our cloud environment, enterprise services [and Software-as-a-Service] infrastructure all set up so we could get services out centrally…across the whole U.S.,” he said.
The COVID-19 pandemic underscores Cussatt’s point—with all non-essential work turned virtual, companies had to invest in IT to remain connected and relevant. Since the VA had already successfully implemented a centralized IT system, their cloud enterprises services made the fast transition occur with ease.
As Cussatt put it, “data transformation isn’t about the IT, but about enabling the mission to be able to serve the veterans.” If not for efficient IT, the VA’s services wouldn’t have operated so promptly and smoothly during the pandemic, he noted.
A focus on Enterprise level IT isn’t new, as other federal agencies have and are taking heed of the advice from the VA. At NASA, leaders are currently working on a project to centralize the entire NASA IT ecosystem, focusing on streamlining their distributed IT environment by zeroing in on foundational IT services and core competencies. That includes cybersecurity and how NASA engages cloud services, according to Robert Leahy, CIO and director of the IT and communications division at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.
Leahy, who also spoke on the Data Cloud Summit panel, noted that cybersecurity is an ongoing challenge for NASA’s roughly 90 satellites in orbit right now—some were created and launched before the concept of cybersecurity existed. These satellites’ age means it’s not practical to upgrade those systems.
This is where data strategy and digital modernization come into play. Continuing to do the valuable science and research in a safe and secure manner requires those cybersecurity core competencies as well as strategic governance that capitalizes on modern IT, Leahy said.
“We have a multi-tiered governance to ensure we’re investing the dollars in appropriate technologies and making sure we’re getting the best value. There are significant opportunities to improve what we do,” Leahy said. “How can we provide a core platform that’s much more effective and efficient…rather than one mission operations center for each flight when they’re all running on the same core technology?”
Digital transformation can be an overwhelming undertaking. Cloudera offers a wide variety of solutions to help enterprises harness the power of their data—wherever it may be, in both mission-tailored technology and top-notch customer support throughout the transformation journey. Enterprise cloud offerings such as Cloudera Data Warehouse (CDW), a solution to evolving beyond shadow IT, deliver a hybrid cloud, multifunction data platform that centrally integrates information.
Join us for Emerging Tech Day on April 21 for more on how to maximize your agency’s digital transformation.