In the aftermath of an unprecedented year riddled with a teleworking surge, election-year tension and—last but certainly not least—a global pandemic affecting every industry and organization in our nation, it’s safe to say that 2021 was welcomed with open arms.

2020 was complicated, scary, unpredictable and costly, among other things. Now almost halfway through 2021, federal agencies are still working to bounce back while continuing to pursue digital transformation initiatives that propel them further into the digital age—which, simply put, is easier said than done.

The pace of digital innovation has actually accelerated due to COVID-19 and federal workforces being forced to work from home seemingly overnight. In fact, 67% of federal, state and local governments say the pandemic accelerated their organizations’ hybrid cloud adoption by a year or more. Federal government agencies spent the better part of last year catching up, making things work quickly and pivoting for the short term. Now we begin the second half of fiscal year (FY) 2021 hopeful that agencies can inject strategy back into their daily operations and take a breath, slow down, and truly refine and perfect their digital transformation efforts for the future.

The past year showed us how important it is for federal agencies to have an effective and agile digital strategy. Even the slowest to adopt cloud and other digital initiatives were forced to innovate, and in many ways, that is one positive out of the otherwise dark year.

IT priorities in the second half of FY 2021 and beyond
Federal IT solutions and integration experts from Sirius Federal project that these four focus areas will be the top IT priorities for federal agencies as we enter the second half of the year.

Zero-trust security: Security has always been top of mind and hypercritical for our federal government. And with the rise in remote work causing IT teams to work harder to protect endpoints, and the recent SolarWinds breach making national headlines, security will continue to be at the forefront of federal IT priorities.

There is no denying that the new telework norm has opened the aperture for vulnerabilities and access-point threats. Approximately 61% of employees had trouble accessing their network during the first half of 2020, prompting them to consider alternative methods such as personal devices for access, and increasing the organization’s exposure to new risks. Foreign and domestic hackers will never stop trying to find and take advantage of government agencies’ vulnerabilities. As long as these threats exist—and they always will—agencies need to employ an effective, proactive zero-trust security program to counteract the imminent threats.

“Today’s IT climate is the perfect scenario to truly implement a zero-trust model,” said Jason Parry, senior vice president for Sirius Federal. “With zero trust, the user is the new perimeter. Agencies are better protected from threats coming from both outside and inside of their network.”

By granting specific permissions to users, you allow them to access only what they need on your network and deny everyone else. This enables you to have a stronger security posture for your agency in every click, transaction, email, web browser and function your end-users execute.

Cloud migration: The federal government is constantly looking for more efficient and responsive ways to deliver and maintain digital capability that also aligns to their mission. Many agencies are choosing a hybrid cloud strategy to further accelerate their digital transformation because it allows them to easily change direction quickly for peak agility and functionality. In the second half of 2021 and the foreseeable future, cloud will continue to be the new normal or standard. What is especially attractive for government agencies is how they can migrate at their own pace and follow a . The cloud continues to offer government agencies superior security, greater control and customization, scalability, speed and reliability.

Sirius Federal’s Bridge to the Cloud approach uses a proven cloud migration methodology to help agencies navigate every step of the cloud migration process—whether moving to a private, public or hybrid cloud.

Enabled and empowered end-users: Now more than ever, maintaining a productive and connected remote workforce is critical. It is a challenge for the federal sector to accomplish that while also maintaining the security and controls their agency requires. The majority of telework policies will remain in 2021, and it is imperative that agencies provide workforces a seamless link back to work functions and collaboration tools. Government entities are looking for solutions that help them build a connective roadmap for increased productivity, improved efficiency and added agility for their remote teams. Unified communications and end-user computing solutions are going to continue to dominate IT priorities for at least the remainder of this year.

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML): The days of merely trying to keep up with the ever-evolving pace of the IT world are well behind us. In the second half of 2021 and beyond, federal agencies are shifting their strategic focus to getting ahead of the “next best thing” and pose themselves as a leading modernizer in the public sector. Emerging technologies like AI and ML will see a substantial push this year and in the future. According to the FY 2021 Immix report for civilian and DoD budget priorities, “Expanded teleworking has emphasized continued need for strong network bandwidth, mobile technology, remote authentication services and digitized business processes.” In the wake of COVID-19 and today’s digital operating model, federal agencies are realizing the critical need to move away from monolithic, outdated process and adopt a stronger digital-first strategy. AI and ML offer agencies across all levels of government new and innovative ways to do their jobs more effectively and deliver services quicker.

The future is bright
While the areas of focus for the second half 2021 won’t come as a shock to anyone—since they’re not too far from past years’ priorities—the sense of urgency paired with the enhanced rate of adoption and implementation speaks volumes for the digital acceleration we expect to see in federal agencies this year.

It is no secret the amount of strain the pandemic placed on the federal sector from not only a budget standpoint—but also a mission continuity and unified operability standpoint. The challenging events of 2020 set the stage for the foreseeable future in government IT. House Government Operations Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Gerry Connolly recapped the latest FITARA scorecard in December 2020 by saying, “In the midst of a global pandemic, continued reliance on remote work, and an unprecedented and highly sophisticated cyber-attack by a foreign adversary – the importance of federal agencies’ effective use of IT is too great to ignore.”

In the federal space, digital modernization will play as important a role as ever in improving efficiency, enforcing maximum security and optimizing costs.

With over 25 years of experience working with the federal government, Sirius Federal can integrate with your IT teams to quickly design and implement real solutions to help your agency achieve its mission. Contact us to learn how we can help modernize your agency’s IT infrastructure.

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