Dan McCune, the acting associate deputy assistant secretary of the Enterprise Program Management Office at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), talked about major themes in the agency’s IT modernization approach during a virtual webinar hosted by Federal News Network on July 21.

The VA’s modernization strategy has three dimensions – people, processes, and technology, McCune explained.

Because people are the most critical resource the department has, it makes significant investments to train its workforce on desktops and product management, and has augmented training processes to “enable that peer-to-peer learning and continue to enhance the capability of our workforce,” McCune said.

On the process front, VA has been trying to get away from operating “siloed” structures between software development and operations, McCune said, and has brought teams to work more closely together to prevent a loss of context that both experienced in more separate structures.

“We prioritized working software over the process and documentation,” McCune said. “We’ve seen an increase in our velocity – a 400 percent increase over the last couple of years, to be exact. And I think that our processes improvements certainly help that,” he said.

Additionally, VA has made significant investments in emerging technology like low code/no-code development platforms, which reduce the need to write code and significantly increase the speed at which applications can be built and deployed.

“The VA traditionally spent about 80% of our resources on non-value-add activities. With low code, no code platforms, we can flip the script and spend about 20% of our resources on those non-value-add activities and 80% focus on delivering business value,” McCune said.

The agency also made a significant investments in cloud technology, which proved its worth during the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, telehealth service was only lightly deployed before the pandemic, but became wildly popular during the public health crisis. Because of its previous investment in the cloud, VA was able to scale up its bandwidth and telehealth delivery dramatically and exponentially for its customers, McCune said.

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Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.