Guest Column | August 26, 2021

Software Integration In The Federal Computing Environment: Change Meets Challenge

By Randy Cole, NeoSystems


This April was "National Supply Chain Integrity Month," a designation by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). Of the many points put forth in this awareness campaign, Christopher DeRusha, our nation's federal chief information security officer, specifies that agencies should "Strengthen Partnerships: Information exchange between government and industry on current threat information and security best practices is paramount." 

Strengthening partnerships to ensure security must include a discussion on software integrations in the federal computing environment.  Software integrations entail a strategic partnership in an environment that is constantly changing and challenging – for agencies and their partners. And the supply chain must be ever aware of the security consequences within such an environment of change and challenge.

The government IT enterprise is increasingly stressed by a growth in business teams, complex operations, and a demand by end users for software applications and APIs to help expedite their workload. To meet this growth, as more SaaS applications become available and attractive to the extended IT enterprise, more software integrations are taking place.

Many governmental business operations rely on systems and software that must be integrated with new cloud-based SaaS applications into a firm's IT stack. For the enterprise seeking the integration there is a growing sense of urgency as they seek to stay current.

However, firms should be aware that there are numerous challenges faced with software integrations internal to agencies. Such challenges magnify the value of a managed services provider to lead the systems and software integration effort and help agencies achieve their goals. In the federal computing environment, it’s worthwhile to take a look at best practices in software integration to head in the right direction.

In late 2020 MuleSoft sponsored a benchmark study on software integration. They conducted interviews with 800 IT leaders throughout the world and found some useful insights regarding software integration.

  1. The pandemic prompted IT departments to shift priorities to maintaining business operations at status quo, putting software integrations at a lower priority. An overarching theme of their findings pointed to a slowdown of software integration. Businesses were focused on continuing operations with a remote workforce. They wanted to continue operations without any sacrifice of business operations. Consequently, software integrations weren’t as great of a priority.
  2. 2020 was a year of change that challenged IT departments. The year 2020 was a year of change and as a result, subsequent business demands on IT departments grew leaving most IT departments unable to meet many project milestones.
  3. Custom integrations are a great challenge. Problems with integrations slow down digital transformation. Custom integrations pose unique problems to a project as they require more attention, hours, and spending to be successful. The research found that custom integration added about $3.5 million to the overall price tag of a project.
  4. Data silos and legacy IT complicate integration. The research findings stated that "data silos and existing IT infrastructure, including point-to-point integrations, make it difficult for organizations to become more agile."  Integrating to meet desired end user experiences posed complications. The better an integrator understood end user experiences, and can meet such demand, the smoother the digital transformation evolved and the better the project delivery speed was.
  5. Application Programming Interface (API) is instrumental for new integrations and is a profit center for integrators. APIs are a software intermediary that allows two different applications to talk to each other. Most organizations are using APIs sold to them and are profiting from them.
  6. Focus on the needs of business teams and enable them to serve themselves. The survey found that IT enterprises must put full attention to the demands of business teams. This is especially true as teams are becoming highly engaged with data sources and multiple apps. Businesses are seeking advanced ways to precipitate their integrations, employ APIs, and build a definitive strategy around the integration and its impact on business teams.
  7. Seek tools and technology that help take the burden off IT departments. Integrators and those they serve should seek self-service tools where possible to empower the end users and employ easy-to-use integration tools wherever possible. The research found that the IT department should integrate in tandem with functional business operations. Self-service tools would help them more easily integrate applications.

As software integrations within the federal government become more prevalent, more challenges will present themselves. Agency CIOs and contractors that are aware of such challenges, and are proactive in facing them, will be put in good stead for the years ahead.

About The Author
Randy Cole is Senior Vice President of Professional Services for NeoSystems, a full-service IT integrator, managed services, and cloud provider. He has more than 30 years of multi-faceted experience providing a strong financial and technical perspective. As the Professional Services lead for NeoSystems, Randy works to deliver services including system design and implementation, integration, and optimization of ERP software solutions. Previous to joining NeoSystems, Randy held a wide range of roles at Deltek during his 15-year tenure including Vice President in the Software Engineering organization as well as Managing Director for Sales, Services, and Account Management. Randy holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration degree in Finance from East Carolina University.