How the US Federal Communications Commission Managed the Process of IT Modernization
Situation faced: This case examines how the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) executed its information technology (IT) modernization effort. In 2013, the FCC was spending about 80% of its IT budget on maintaining its legacy systems. Further, the FCC had experienced constant changes in top leadership that resulted in several fragmented IT modernization efforts. The outdated IT systems were not only costly to maintain but were prone to cyber-attacks and verge of major failure. And, the employee morale was lower, and they feared IT modernization and transformation. Overall, the FCC faced several technical and human challenges with IT modernization.
Action taken: Acknowledging the eight previous years of fragmented implementation, the new CIO conducted inventory of both IT and human infrastructure. The CIO commissioned an IT tech team to conduct an inventory of the existing IT infrastructure in the organization with a focus to understand vulnerabilities and level of exposure to cyber security. Further, the CIO also took steps to understand the sentiments of employees, customers, and top leadership about IT modernization efforts. Public agencies often promote silo functioning and employees are fearful about change. Thus, the CIO designed several initiatives to solicit feedback from diverse stakeholders and regularly engage them in the process of IT modernization.
Results achieved: The FCC moved 207 on premise IT systems to either public cloud environments or with a commercial service provider. In the process of this successful transformation, the Commission reduced the amount spent on operating and maintaining systems from over 85% to less than 50%. The FCC achieved this with a flat budget, thereby increasing the percentage of funds available for new development even. The FCC also reduced the time it took to prototype new systems from approximately 7 months to less than 48 h to produce a prototype.
Lessons learned: The FCC’s IT modernization efforts offer following lessons to C-suite leaders: (1) develop a IT modernization strategy that includes both IT systems and the people supporting it; (2) plan a phased approach that achieves ‘quick wins’ in cloud implementation to increases momentum; (3) take time to align both top leadership and employees’ expectations with the IT modernization effort during planning; (4) adopt an open innovation approach that encourages and empower ‘change agents’ within the agency to creatively address in a cloud environment the longstanding challenges associated with the agency’s legacy endeavors, IT systems, and roles; and (5) effectively engage and communicate openly with internal and external stakeholders.
We thank David Bray and his team at the FCC for providing us material for this case study. All errors and omissions are solely our responsibility.
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