Cloud forecast means changes for federal IT workers

Thursday - 6/19/2014, 3:46pm EDT

By Stephanie Wasko
Special to Federal News Radio

As agencies migrate to more modern technologies, such as cloud, the need for a new kind of information technology workforce and culture is emerging. Megan Schmith, General Services Administration's platform strategy manager, said hard lines between business and technology need to be erased and cybersecurity gaps must be closed.

The IT workforce faces many challenges, according to the most recent CIO survey released by TechAmerica earlier this month.

"Even when resources are available, there is a shortage of workers with the skills needed to manage new programs and technology," the report said.

One of these new technologies adopted by agencies is cloud. The survey showed most agencies are transitioning to either public or private cloud formats. In order to make a successful transition, CIOs stated they need "a robust workforce skillset including big data analysts, product managers and vendor managers."

Agencies need workers who can manage data, said Schmith, during a panel discussion at the AFCEA Bethesda, Maryland, chapter Cloud Technology Symposium in Washington.

She said new technologies require workers who can do more than code. They need to understand business strategies as well. She said the line between managers with Bachelor of Arts degrees and the "techies" is blurring, and without correct management, it will be easy to lose the value of the new cloud format.

Schmith said GSA is looking at new training methods for the evolving job description as they consolidate positions across the CIO organization. They also have been bringing in other resources for cloud computing.

She said the transition to more business-minded IT workers should be an organic one. GSA is not looking to completely restructure its IT workforce, but it wants to help its workers adjust to a different way of thinking about IT.

"It is part of the evolution and progress of the agency," she said.

Schmith said she hopes to change the culture that views IT and CIOs as barriers to success to one that seeks their services.

The cloud not only changes IT management, but also creates a new cybersecurity gap. The Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program created a framework for handling cybersecurity in the cloud.

Cybersecurity, beyond cloud, represents another crucial gap in the IT workforce. The TechAmerica report listed cybersecurity as top priority and concern for CIOs.

The National Security Research Division of the RAND Corp. released a report Wednesday stating this workforce gap is due to the small supply of cyber professionals and the inability for agencies to afford specialized cyber workers.

RAND said agencies lack "the people capable of detecting the presence of advanced persistent threats, or, conversely, finding the hidden vulnerabilities in software and systems that allow advanced persistent threats to take hold of targeted systems."

The federal hiring system only complicates the issue and RAND recommended agencies continue to prioritize hiring cybersecurity staff even with tight budgets. Rand also recommend agencies invest in cybersecurity education systems similar to the National Security Agency's internal training. In 2012, NSA created the National Centers of Academic Excellence focused on cyber. The report stated this system helps the agency maintain its high number of trained cybersecurity workers.

In addition to business minded IT workers and cybersecurity specialists, the Tech America survey stated CIOs are looking for competency in data analytics, acquisition, customer service, business acumen, and program and project management, specifically with an agile development approach to IT systems and software.

Stephanie Wasko is an intern with Federal News Radio.

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