Agency Modernization Begins and Ends with Network Visibility

Digital transformation is a journey, not a destination. Technology is moving at a rapid pace, while public sector organizations race to catch up and “modernize” their digital experiences and network infrastructure. The process reminds me of learning to swim as a child. I would paddle as fast as I could toward my instructor and he would continue to move backward away from me. It felt like I would never catch up and finish my lesson. Yet, each stroke I took strengthened my skill and helped create a foundation for years of successful swimming.

The same is true of digital transformation. Each agency’s path to transformation might be different: an incremental approach, a major enterprise-wide cloud migration or piecemeal system improvements. However, by instituting three fundamental practices, every agency can develop a strong foundation on which to support their modernization efforts. The practices detailed below can set the foundation for a successful digital transformation that will ensure the continued performance, availability and security of your agency’s vital mission workflows.

Practice 1: Assess the readiness of your entire system (cloud, network, service providers and everyone in between)

Virtualization, cloud and software-defined (SD) technologies promise cost savings, new capabilities, better citizen experiences and improved security, yet integrating complicated government IT workflows across hybrid cloud/data center and SD-WAN technologies, is a complex undertaking. Before moving forward with a transformation initiative, you must first have a comprehensive understanding of both your current and desired architecture.

As a first step toward modernizing your systems, assess your entire IT ecosystem. Review your operating centers, data centers, network infrastructure, service providers and everything in between. Today’s complex networks exist inside and outside of agency firewalls and across systems and networks your agency may not own or control. What is your process for measuring and monitoring performance and troubleshooting network connectivity across each of these connections? Which applications must remain and which can be replaced? What connections should be flagged as security risks, or deemed too expensive or complex to involve in the future of your agency IT? (Check out our Network Intelligence Blog for tips on measuring performance across systems and networks.)

Assessments help your agency choose the right applications and services to protect and improve performance. You can develop a benchmark of your current network performance using measures like network latency or jitter to compare against your transformed system to ensure success. Develop a continuous assessment process as you move forward in your transformation journey, using the information you receive from these assessments to fine tune and refine improvements. For example, benchmark and use baseline metrics from your hybrid and private cloud environments to inform future adoption planning and deployments across your agency or mission area. Are you getting the best performance from a particular service provider, or does it make sense to find another option?

Practice 2: Identify potential risks and challenges in your existing architecture

Moving forward without identifying and mitigating potential issues within your existing IT infrastructure is a recipe for disaster. Adding new functionality onto a shaky foundation, without proper visibility into the infrastructure, will only increase your agency’s risk of network interruptions and vulnerability to cyber-attacks. It is crucial that you first step back and understand your current network dependencies before expanding farther outside of your physical data centers and into unknown networks.

Comb through your existing systems to assess potential risks and performance lags. Identify threats both inside and outside of your firewall. Institute active monitoring techniques to pinpoint risks from the citizen, mobile worker or remote agency employee vantage points. Take a 360-degree view to identify and mitigate any issues that might affect your users before moving forward on the next step of your modernization journey. Remember, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, so be sure to assess, test and address each link in your IT infrastructure before adding the next.

Practice 3: Set baselines to measure the performance of your transformed workflows (including cloud environments)

Once your agency implements a solution, it’s essential to measure its effectiveness. Create benchmarks, or measurable determinants, to review your system’s performance. These benchmarks can indicate anything from web performance or network latency to user engagement. Make sure your benchmarks are both comprehensive and objective to allow your operations teams to make informed trade-off decisions to improve the overall digital experience. Monitor how your systems and applications function both inside and outside of your agency firewall and ensure continued performance at those benchmarked levels.

Another benefit of benchmarks is the ability to measure them against the performance of other agencies, best-practices even private industry. They can be used to report performance measures that indicate agency performance and citizen engagement. Monitoring benchmarks can also ensure that service providers are meeting their service level agreements.

Delivering Success

Although digital transformation is an ever-evolving process, its success can and should be monitored. ThousandEyes is a SaaS solution that provides a single-pane view of an entire data network, inside and outside of the agency, across the Internet and around the world. It leverages algorithmic intelligence to deliver smart monitoring of BGP network routes, CDN providers and the most common public cloud providers. This allows your agency to assess external networks and applications as well as your own to identify potential risks and address them before they can impact service. ThousandEyes allows agencies to set benchmarks and continuously test and monitor their systems to ensure mission continuity, improve performance scorecards and reduce phone and technical support requirements.

Make sure your agency is headed on the right path to modernization with “Ready, Set, SD-WAN: Best Practices for Assuring Branch Readiness.”

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