December 15, 2014 - 4:01 pm
By Dr. David A. Bray | FCC Chief Information Officer

As the FCC presses forward with our plans to transform our IT systems, the question of risk is an important one. Doing anything new inherently is risky. All too often it is easier for folks to say the status quo is good enough, the challenges are too high to overcome, or there's no way to complete a project in time. Such skepticism is healthy—we should always weigh multiple perspectives when deciding the right path to take. At the same time, we must also recognize the risk of doing nothing. At a certain point, the status quo no longer will be good enough. Technology becomes obsolete, further patches on discontinued software will be unavailable, and the total cost of maintaining outdated systems will far exceed moving to something new.

As in most organizations where technology is central to their mission, it's the Chief Information Officer's job to help navigate this landscape. There are risks in embracing new IT, as there are risks in any new effort. To mitigate those risks, we have assembled a strong action plan with controls in place to monitor our progress. We will be working with the agency's stakeholders, both external and internal, to identify and meet their priority needs.

In addition, we have assembled a strong team with staff members who have strengths that complement each other. At the FCC we have a diverse team with backgrounds spanning former military veterans, former Silicon Valley startup entrepreneurs, PhD candidates at prestigious universities who opted instead to support this effort, folks who helped with early Gov 2.0 efforts, and experienced team members who have seen the FCC's IT systems evolve through the 1990s, 2000s, and the present day. This breadth of expertise helps us scan for potential blind-spots and opportunities that we might otherwise have missed as we continue our IT transformation journey.

Lastly, we will manage our risk in timed phases. Our current plans for our IT transformation will occur in three phases:

  1. Stabilization of our aging IT infrastructure
  2. Rationalization of our legacy IT systems to identify in what order we will shift applications to cloud-based platforms to support more efficient internal work processes, and
  3. Modernization of our IT systems, where we will rewrite IT systems to employ a reusable "service catalog" of modular components across the entire FCC, with open Application Programming Interfaces (APIs), and built upon a common data platform.

Is there risk in this transformation? Yes. However there's even more risk in doing nothing to address FCC's aging legacy IT systems—they will eventually break, and the cost of sustaining them will be unsustainable. The FCC IT Transformation will improve the agility, resiliency, and reliability of the FCC's IT services for the public and our stakeholders.

Now is the time to make this transformation to bring the FCC's IT infrastructure into the 21st century.