What your post-pandemic strategy should look like

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Budget cuts. Remote workers. Emergency projects. Inaccessible data. The pandemic ushered in more for personnel-strapped IT departments to contend with this year than any year I can remember since I began my career in the public sector.

Departments may have survived for six months on macgyvered solutions, but it’s critical to step back and make a plan for the long-term. Constituents rely on the public sector’s ability to operate in all situations and provide the necessary services. Most importantly, resiliency and agility should be at the forefront of this strategy.

For IT teams, there are three actions you should take now to set yourself on that path.

Shift reporting and data access to the business owner’s level

The contractors you’re working with need access to data, and legacy systems don’t make this easy. The pandemic has required the public sector to share data in ways they’ve never done before — broadly, online and quickly. Focus time and resources on ways of sharing data quickly and easily to make it easier for employees and contractors to work and consequently reduce the time spent handling data requests.

Take the National Science Foundation CIO Dorothy Aronson’s experience for example. On a panel, she spoke about how she can foresee the need to cut budgets. If that’s the case, the number of IT contractors could be minimized, which means even fewer resources. To minimize disruption, she focused on making data more accessible to everyone in the organization so they could access it without coding.

One way to do this is to leverage low code. Since it takes the heavy lifting out of coding, you can spend resources on other urgent items or innovate IT projects. Low code can also help companies stay nimble and pivot quickly.

Forgo ripping & replacing legacy technology

Replacing a system right now takes too much time and money. Instead, focus on implementing integrations. Bridging a legacy system with a modern application is a quick, cost-effective way to meet growing demands, whether from remote users or new data requirements. This type of legacy and integrations infrastructure sets an organization up to easily meet new demands.

An example of this is a government team that overnight rushed to support almost 3,000 employees who immediately began working from home and needed VPNs and laptops. However, all the data the employees needed wasn’t easily accessible, as it was still locked on mainframes. My team and I worked with them to integrate the legacy infrastructure with the cloud applications. A rip and replace strategy would have taken months, but we made the mainframe data accessible to remote employees within a very short time period. So as you’re planning for the next six months, incorporate integrations that don’t lock you in, to give you extra flexibility for your legacy applications.

Inventory critical systems, processes and workflows

While some semblance to a normal workday remains, take the time to assess the business. Evaluate the risk around each system and process — especially those which were created quickly and potentially a little haphazardly during the onset of the pandemic. This will give you a game plan of where to focus next, especially in the short term of one to two months.

An example of this is a situation where you’re beginning to send employees back to the workplace, but need to hook up badge access data with health and COVID-19 data. This is probably a critical aspect of returning to site and needs to be implemented quickly and reliably. In this scenario, you would need to focus on breaking down data silos and implementing strict data privacy controls, as the data likely contains personally identifiable information. This will also help you prioritize which legacy systems you need to focus on and create digital bridges for first, whether it’s one that’s absolutely critical to operating, or one that’s most in danger of failing.

What we all thought was a temporary situation that would last two to three months is anything but, and a modern infrastructure will be key to managing remote needs and pivoting quickly. These steps will set you on that path as you look into what will work six to 12 months from now. It requires aligning on data strategy, bridging the legacy tech gaps, and inventorying systems so you know where you stand and what resources are at your disposal.

Alan Lawrence is vice president of federal at Boomi.

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