By Brendan Walsh, SVP Partner Relations 1901 Group a wholly owned subsidiary of Leidos
Generally, when someone thinks about the benefits of Enterprise IT-as-a-Service (EITaaS), the first things that come to mind are: agility, scalability, and a subscription fee model. Especially through the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the world saw first-hand how quick it was to adopt digital video conferencing and collaboration services like Microsoft Teams, Cisco’s Webex, and others with an average of over 400 million[i] daily users of video conferencing and collaboration services being reported during 2020. These examples of EITaaS proved nationwide and global access to communication applications and workflow platforms were effective to learn, work, and socialize, with consumers only paying for what they used.
However, besides agility, scalability, and fee model, there are three (3) not so obvious reasons US government agencies are shifting to and consuming more EITaaS including agency programs in healthcare, homeland security, defense, intelligence, and most mission communities.
The 3 not so obvious reasons are also important features and benefits of as-a-Service; and therefore, worthy of a deeper consideration of and evaluation by agencies as Digital Modernization initiatives emerge across requests for information (RFIs) and requests for proposal (RFPs).
The 3 Not So Obvious Reasons for More EITaaS:
The US Government has been shifting to more of an EITaaS model for years. Some initiatives are winning favor and others less so, but regardless, the desire to allow Government employees to focus on agency mission versus supporting services like IT cannot be denied. Dating myself, I remember working as a subcontractor on the Outsourcing Desktop Initiative for NASA (ODIN), back in the late 1990s, which was one of the first large Federal initiatives to privatize enterprise IT services. More recently, the investments by Cloud Service Providers (CSPs) and Managed Services Providers (MSPs) have enabled the commercialization of EITaaS, and practically all Federal agencies are consuming cloud to enhance their respective missions. CBP Chief Information Officer Sonny Bhagowalia said on Federal Monthly Insights — Cloud: “In terms of enhancing our nation’s security through innovation, intelligence, collaboration, and trust, there are a lot of things that we have to do in technology, which enables our five enduring mission priorities: Counterterrorism, combat transnational crime, secure the border, facilitate lawful trade and protect revenue.”[ii] Today, the maturing move to as-a-Service can be seen in many active acquisitions but there is a subtleness highlighting that the contract is more about enabling resources and operational efficiency rather than just buying a particular IT service. “But once we make the full shift to EITaaS, it will be much less burdensome to the Air Force than it is today,”[iii] said USAF Major General Michael Schmidt, program executive officer for command, control, communications, intelligence, and networks.
Cyber Security Defense
As governmental agencies progress with digital transformation and IT modernization, the reality is that small, medium, and large agencies are pursuing an incremental path forward. This measured approach reduces overall risks by allowing for plans to maintain legacy systems (and applications) that should be maintained while migrating and modernizing systems that can benefit from the variety of commercial, private, and community clouds, all of which creates a heightened need for cyber security and the efficiency with associated regulatory compliance. This is especially true considering the complexities of hybrid architectures. For this commentary, the term “hybrid” means assets/systems/services that use a combination of on-customer-premise and multi-cloud-based components. The not-so-obvious result is that agencies are now faced with defending more complex cyberspace, and therefore, are leveraging the use of FedRAMP[iv] authorized IT services for the not-so-obvious reasons including a) leveraging ongoing cyber security investments made by Cloud Service Providers (CSPs) and Managed Service Providers (MSPs), and b) streamlining the security authorization of hybrid systems thanks to the standardization and transparency of FedRAMP – meaning that each FedRAMP authorized service organizes, documents, monitors, and maintains itself consistently and predictably. This consistent organization delivers time and money savings to agency IT security personnel, especially when they are authorizing cloud-native and hybrid systems that utilize cloud elements. As of this writing, there are 220 Authorized products (or offerings), 54 In-Process, and 34 Ready (to begin authorization) by providers from AWS to ServiceNow to Zscaler (and my favorite from 1901 Group).
User Experience (UX)
User Experience (UX) now spans customer satisfaction and employee satisfaction, and there is no silver bullet. However, the shift to EITaaS reduces the associated pressures and risks for the consuming agency by shifting the responsibility of a) highly delivering performant enterprise IT and b) keeping pace with the high speed of technology change to the EITaaS provider, which can improve the agency workforce satisfaction and customer satisfaction or UX. By consuming more EITaaS, the EITaaS provider must manage more of the “IT stack” which can help improve the User Experience (UX) by reducing potential organizational friction often experienced across an agency’s technology-related teams or silos (e.g., hardware, software, compute, storage, networking, and security, as well as procurement). Harvard Business Review’s The Post-Pandemic Rules of Talent Management, by Becky Frankiewicz and Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, notes: “Over the past decades, rapid digital transformation has enabled organizations to completely reimagine the way they work and manage talent. From reliable video conferencing platforms to digital collaboration software, to ubiquitous cloud-based connectivity, and a data-centric approach to strategic decision-making powered by the synergy between artificial and human intelligence, an imaginary worker from the 1950s would surely marvel at the current landscape of work…and yet, it took a pandemic to truly accelerate this trend and transform the way most people work day-to-day.”[v]
So, you may be asking…what now? Well, a Call To Action (CTA) for all Federal agencies interested in soliciting and procuring EITaaS, is to consider developing evaluation criteria for not only agility, scalability, and fee model but also to include weighting for 3 not so obvious EITaaS features and benefits that allow agencies to:
- allocate more of their resources to their respective mission focuses,
- enhance cybersecurity while reducing the number of resources spent on compliance (especially subtleties associated with hybrid), and
- improve the UX that includes agency mission effectiveness, government employee satisfaction, and agency customer satisfaction.
Similarly, for Industry interested in responding to requirements, be prepared to address:
- enabling value – particularly around operational resiliency or Continuity of Operations (COOP), meaning demonstratable benefits of as-a-Service platform architecture designs that will assist with emergency and unplanned support scenarios,
- improving compliance – specifically around the controls outlined in NIST 800-53, which are the basis for FISMA, FedRAMP, DFARS, CJIS, and HIPAA, meaning demonstratable benefits of the security and privacy controls associated with an as-a-Service offering including overlap among potential regulations and nuances with Authority To Operate (ATO) requirements, and
- streamlining operations – potentially around reducing the number of and/or severity of service requests or “help desk tickets”, meaning demonstratable impact on user submitted tickets due to workflow improvements, self-help innovation, and/or other uses of automation.
[i] The State of Video Conferencing in 2020 [50 Statistics] | GetVoIP
[ii] DHS CBP CIO on cloud for security, speed and reliability – G2Xchange FedCiv
[iii] 071020_FNN-Survey_Perspectives-in-Air-Force_EITaaS.pdf (federalnewsnetwork.com)
[iv] Learn What FedRAMP is All About | FedRAMP | FedRAMP.gov
[v] The Post-Pandemic Rules of Talent Management (hbr.org)
About the Author
Brendan Walsh, SVP Partners Relations 1901 Group, a wholly owned subsidiary of Leidos, leads the partner relations and management efforts and supports business development activities in addition to establishing strategic business alliances with leading cloud service providers and security solutions. He brings over 25 years of sales, marketing, and program management experience to our team, including the successful prosecution of a business process patent during his tenure with FedBid.com.
1901 Group, a wholly owned subsidiary of Leidos
1901 Group is a leading provider of innovative IT services and solutions transforming the delivery of IT services through the use of enterprise manages services that leverage the cloud to security monitor, manage, and optimize complex IT environments through its FedRAMP authorized Enterprise IT Operations Center (EITOC).