Deloitte: Systems Integration Still a Key Factor for Public Sector IT


State and local IT operations may be at an inflection point according to Deloitte’s latest public sector trends report. The report looks at already adopted technology trends happening within public sector that are likely to mature over the next 12-18 months.

CivSource spoke with Mark White, Deloitte’s Global Consulting Technology CTO about these trends and what they mean for the public sector. “We’re now at a point where we need to reinvest in core systems, and redeem some of the tech debt while we can before things get too far ahead,” White says.

According to the report, there are five macro trends that are transforming how government uses technology – digital strategy, analytics, cloud, the renaissance of core systems, and the changing role of IT within the enterprise.

IT shops reading this will be forgiven for cringing at the sight of the phrase “systems integration.” White notes that while the concept has been around since the early IT of the 1990s, the technology of today provides new options to re-platform out of date core systems and maintain service delivery. Within government itself, CIOs will be uniquely positioned to lead this integration if they can take a view into all facets of their agencies, and how their agency works within the broader government framework.

“Integration is a rising tide that either lifts your ship or rocks your ship,” White says. “You have to decide if you want to rip and replace, or if you can re-platform core systems. The problem with that is it’s not always shiny –  there’s nothing shiny about systems and data management. A lot of that work is on processes that aren’t immediately obvious to the end user. That can make the work difficult to justify if you have individuals making decisions without that insight.”

“I explain it to people like this – you don’t always know you have a bad back until you bend over and suddenly you can’t stand up. Systems work the same way, there could be a major incident and suddenly you can’t scale up and respond because you have weakness in the core.”

Adjacent to systems integration is another conversation happening around ambient computing or the internet of things. As CivSource has already reported, IoT vendors are coming up with platforming solutions designed to retrofit legacy systems, which can help on the integration front. More broadly, however, is the work already being done on how to make use of other facets of ambient computing to improve service delivery. Soon it won’t be enough to just be able to see a whole grid for the first time. Big data, analytics, and security are all interwoven into this trend.

“We’ve finally started to learn that in delivering analytics solutions we need to use design thinking to make those analytics actionable,” White explains. “It’s great to have the data points but they need to be usable. We need to think about the internet of the right things. Organizations have to look at the data, the devices, and the people together, and come up with plans that are relevant to the core mission and specific tasks at hand.”

Software and APIs can also help make this relevancy a little more obvious to end users within the government and to the public as well. “There’s a lot of spaghetti architecture out there and organizations are going to have to think about spending in the right places to reign that in,” White says. “If the CIO will invest in integration architecture they will enjoy more economical IT. Most consultants will say it depends. But broadly and deeply, the integration architectures of our departments are some of the most spaghetti systems. It’s a mess and it’s one of the largest things creating the technical debt load on public sector IT projects. That’s a big takeaway from this report. Tech fads are out there, but this is the core task at hand to take advantage of those trends.”