Agency Modernization of Legacy Systems is Half the Battle

In a previous blog, Agency Modernization Begins and Ends with Network Visibility, we mapped the steps to success in government digital transformation, detailing ways agencies can modernize online service delivery through distributed network infrastructure and software-defined technology. Many agencies are leveraging technology inside and outside of their firewalls and across a variety of systems and networks. The result is a complex matrix of inter-service communication across networks and clouds—one without a reliable steady-state. This introduces new monitoring and management challenges for government IT teams seeking to maintain system uptime and performance.

As agencies modernize, their citizens, ratepayers, taxpayers and staff begin to depend on the new, more convenient service delivery. Procedures are built around new workflows, and FTEs are freed up and reassigned to other tasks. An interruption anywhere within one of these new service channels could create chaos for an agency. For instance, an outage of a critical system at a DMV may cause exorbitant wait times, or a glitch in the network at TSA can leave travelers stranded far away from home.

With the sheer size and volume of Internet usage worldwide, it isn’t uncommon to hear about website and network outages. Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram recently experienced highly publicized outages. These impacted users worldwide as seen on Twitter (#facebookdown, #snapchatdown, etc.). Responses ranged from mild annoyance to frustration, but most users could use other methods of social connection. They could still use Twitter, vlogs or messaging apps—or even communicate face to face.

When government sites go down, the results can be much more disruptive because their customers may not know any other way to access their services. It is extremely important for government sites to maintain access to services for their internal and external customers, yet today’s traditional monitoring and diagnostic approaches don’t deliver the necessary reach or visibility to monitor, troubleshoot and resolve such complex infrastructure. A fresh set of perspectives toward management of these distributed services is needed.

First perspective: Own the outcome, even if you don’t own the IT assets

Agencies are taking steps to maintain transparency and accountability to their customers for their online services, even when managed by service providers. A recent visit to the VA eBenefits website references a link from their homepage to an Outage Calendar, as seen in Figure 1. The VA is taking proactive steps to keep Veterans apprised of future outages, with a cohesive approach focused on service delivery to Veterans, rather than the owner of the specific technology.

However, just one unplanned outage can erode much of the work the VA has done to enhance its customer service image. They must take steps to mitigate and quickly resolve system outages that prevent members from accessing the critical benefits information they need when they need it.

Outage Calendar
Figure 1: The VA maintains an outage calendar that provides transparency into availability of digital services

Government IT teams must develop visibility throughout their whole IT ecosystem, whether services are stretched across the hybrid cloud, virtualized infrastructure and software-defined technologies. This visibility will allow them to see, in real-time, what is going on within their system and across their network to maintain continuity and security, and to quickly troubleshoot and mitigate impacts when and where they occur.

Check out the webinar, Outage Analysis: BGP Routing Errors Ripple Across the Internet, for tips on how improving visibility can prevent Internet disruption.

Second Perspective: Set your baselines early, measure and compare against them often

Measuring your customer experience is the key to truly providing better digital services and automating costly labor-intensive processes. It helps to reduce technical support burdens and improve scorecards. Determine the baseline level of service your agency is able (and currently) delivering to your users, as well as your network performance baseline with metrics specific to your agency’s unique requirements. How do your baseline metrics compare to other, similar agencies?

Use your baselines as a means to review the service level agreements for your service providers and hold them to their contracted benchmarks. Whether owned by internal IT departments or external organizations, Service Level Agreements set the expectations for system performance. Government agencies need guaranteed performance, so when issues arise, data-driven accountability is key.

But setting baselines is just the beginning. Continuously measuring performance of applications across the systems you own and that are delivered by service providers helps you ensure they will be there when your users need them most; whether they are internal or external, on-premise or mobile. Rigorous monitoring at the application experience and network layers can help agencies proactively deliver the best customer experience to users—whether soldiers or citizens.

Your monitoring should include both transactional testing of user journeys as well as active measurements of server and network availability and performance. Integrating this testing into a readiness phase before you launch new applications or updates ensures that you don’t run into nasty surprises.

This webinar, How to See and Resolve Office 365 Performance Challenges, demonstrates how to measure Office 365 Performance against benchmarks.

Third Perspective: Develop a comprehensive network view: From the employee to the cloud and back again

Government users, both internal and external, need to know they can trust apps to be available at all times. If their user experience is compromised, they’re not likely to support migration to new and improved applications. Given the many third-party dependencies, developing a comprehensive network view including external and Internet networks, allows your staff to effectively plan, deploy and operate modern applications successfully and increase buy-in from both your employees and constituency.

Increasing your network visibility allows your IT teams to identify real-time problems as they occur and to establish patterns that can help prevent future issues. Seeing beyond traditional network boundaries helps you ensure that third-party providers uphold their performance commitments.

Utilize algorithmic intelligence to monitor BGP network routes, CDN providers and the most common public cloud providers. This enables a truly data-driven approach that fuels cloud adoption planning, deployment and operations across the agency or mission area. Make sure you can see, know and interrogate every network as well as you do your own.

The following webinar, How Schneider Electric Assures Its Salesforce Lightning Migration with ThousandEyes Synthetics, outlines ways agencies can add visibility even beyond pre-provisioned monitoring points across the Internet and in the Amazon, Google and Azure clouds. See how your agency can gather metrics about hybrid and private cloud environments by deploying lightweight agents inside its firewall.

Focus on Solutions

Find out how to gain distributed network visibility and how you can leverage it within your organization. ThousandEyes accelerates your digital transformation with unrivaled visibility into your applications, the Internet, the cloud and the networks your agency runs on. This ensures your agency continues to deliver digital experiences, modernize its WAN and successfully navigate its entire cloud infrastructure.

Explore ThousandEyes and get started developing your agency’s fresh perspective today.

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