Federal agencies looking to transformation and modernize their IT must approach ensure they have a plan for success, explained Joseph Ronzio, deputy chief health technology officer at the Veterans Health Administration.

Speaking at a RedHat virtual summit, Ronzio told Federal IT leaders that before launching any transformation efforts they must first transform their exact modernization needs and understand why they are transforming in the first place.

The government faces unique challenges and requirements, including data retention requirements, the need to be good stewards of taxpayer funding, and complex Federal regulations and laws.

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Because government data lifecycles can last upwards of 100 years, the Federal government needs to ensure that their transformation plan can accommodate that need – and that they are working with the right vendor. “The government data lifecycle predates computers,” Ronzio said. “So finding vendors who can support complicated data retention and lifecycle is key.”

Ronzio acknowledged that the government contracting and purchasing process is complicated, so before heading into it, agencies must hammer out all system requirements and capabilities. That way, they can ensure vendors are fully informed about their needs.

While transformation and modernization is a key focus across the Federal government, Ronzio said that agencies need to know exactly why they are transforming. “Read your mission,” he urged. “Before moving to any new tech, you must come to a definite conclusion if it supports your mission – or not.” He said that “age alone is not a reason;” though, expanding capabilities might be a reason if mission needs exist. However, he did ask Fed IT leaders to consider whether new capabilities can be “bolted on” to existing IT infrastructure instead of adopting entirely new tech. He asked agencies to consider system age, system design, and system function when determining whether to deploy new infrastructure.

Before deploying new technology, Ronzio stressed the importance of testing. He urged agencies to “have a sandbox” to work out any kinks in the new technology. Further, he said IT leaders need to ensure that not only are vendor capabilities proven, but any commercially available off-the-shelf products have been well tested.

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk's Assistant Copy & Production Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.