Many Federal Health agencies are pursuing “IT transformation,” but are they following the right steps to ensure the results they seek? Srini Iyer, Senior Vice President, Chief Technology Officer and head of ManTech’s Innovation and Capabilities Office (ICO) weighs in on how Federal health agencies can make “IT Transformation” live up to its name.

Helping Agencies Achieve Modernization

Industry’s goal is to provide the best possible solutions and to meet customers where they are in their journey. Key to this mission is examining technology trends via proactive exploration of new and emerging technologies and their applicability – separating reality from mere hype. One smart approach: exploring quick-hitting, fast-fail micro-projects as well as large, multi-year development efforts. End game: identifying high priority initiatives that accelerate the intersection of innovation with diverse customer missions.

Best Approach to DevSecOps

The first step is to identify the stage the customer is in. If a customer currently does not use DevSecOps or is on a migration path, industry must assess current capabilities, determine the appropriate processes to migrate the project to DevSecOps, and finally, guide the customer through the DevSecOps Capability Maturity Model.

For customers early in their DevSecOps journey, the approach is to gradually introduce new capabilities that help drive transformation from a siloed structure with non-standard, manual processes to a collaborative, Agile environment with automation. The process should involve the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) for Agile and collaborative development, and a cloud migration framework to migrate critical customer systems to the cloud at speed and scale. After that comes “AI Ops” to automate and “ML-Ops” to curate datasets and build AI models that analyze data.

ICO Success Example for DHA and Others

The DHA and other health agencies often support patients in remote areas or in disaster scenarios. In the past, those seeking connectivity to important patient data or experts in patients’ specific Healthcare needs were out of luck when network connectivity was not available. One way around this problem is to deploy EDGE computing solutions or tactical edge platforms that can be used in a remote hospital or disaster emergency response setting. This enables customers to collect the vast amounts of data that needs to be processed, then rapidly run complex analytics, compute, and storage at the ‘edge.’

Innovation in Cyber

There is no question that cyberattacks are today’s digital version of an epidemic. Ransomware is up 158 percent this year versus the same period in 2019, and these sorts of cyberattacks are kindergarten work compared to the sophistication of AI-driven attacks. The smart approach is to do deep research into Zero Day vulnerabilities to identify and fix any systems or device weakness before criminals or hostile nation states do.

One very exciting innovation that achieves this objective is the cyber range, which makes precise duplicates of a customer’s network that can be safely tested for vulnerabilities.

How cyber ranges work: (1) by literally bombarding the safe digital twin with every imaginable form of malware – man-in-the-middle, man-on-the-side and drive-by attacks, DNS hijacking, rootkit infections and many more – to reveal any vulnerability; (2) training the customer’s own cyber teams in tactical response to an attack; and (3) providing appropriate solutions that fix any vulnerability discovered. Such “digital twinning” of physical assets has uses in other IT realms, as well.

Another cyber innovation involves shifting security left. As Federal health agencies know all too well, creating a System Security Plan that meets all the requirements of NIST 800-171 takes many weeks of effort by dedicated cybersecurity experts. A better approach that we apply: shifting compliance and cybersecurity left in the system development lifecycle, and switching to automation and data-centric processes that support Compliance-as-Code to create an automated, sustainable, and auditable environment for the agency.

Best Approaches for AI and Machine Learning

AI/ML and analytics will have a big impact in Healthcare, not only from a disease prevention and diagnosis standpoint, but also in how Healthcare IT operates and automates complex processes to improve patient care outcomes.

The best approach for industry is to provide a modular data ingest platform leveraging AI and machine learning to deliver results at speed, scale and curate data – all on any cloud, whether Google, Azure, or AWS.

As importantly, Government and industry must look ahead. Hyperscale analytics driven by AI and ML in the cloud is a future that Government agencies must get busy with now.

The Importance of Innovation to Start

One of my favorite quotable figures, Albert Einstein, once said, “You can’t solve a problem on the same level that it was created. You have to rise above it to the next level.”

To me that means driving innovation throughout the corporate culture to embrace change, viewing today’s problems through tomorrow’s lens, and focusing not only on where you are today but where you plan to be. Opportunities for innovation exist in every aspect of a company’s business model – they just need to be embraced and invested in.

About Srini Iyer

Srini Iyer is SVP and CTO at ManTech, leading the company’s Innovation and Capabilities Office. With some 30 years of experience he directs ManTech’s focus on emerging technologies including Cognitive Cyber, Analytics, Automation and AI, Intelligent Systems Engineering, Mission and Enterprise IT and Data at the Edge.

About ManTech

ManTech provides mission-focused technology solutions and services for U.S. defense, intelligence community and federal civilian agencies. The company excels in full-spectrum cyber, data collection & analytics, enterprise IT, systems engineering and software application development solutions that support national and homeland security. Additional information on ManTech can be found at www.mantech.com.

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