FDIC includes workforce as it explores IT modernization

Discussions about IT modernization usually revolve around what Howard Whyte, chief information officer of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, refers to as the “bleeding edge” of technology: cloud, artificial intelligence, mobility. But those conversations can often overlook a very important factor — the workforce.

“If we are going to move to the cloud, we have to make sure we have folks who are trained in vendor management, trained in the different technologies, the application stack that Amazon or Google or Microsoft may provide,” Whyte said. “How do we get that information that we would normally walk downstairs and just be able to touch and feel when you are hundreds and potentially thousands of miles away from the new data center?”

Whyte said IT departments need the right HR capabilities for these new operational environments. It is not fair to expect employees used to a certain paradigm to simply adapt without offering readjustment training.

For example, an individual whose job involved managing a data center may now be required to manage data remotely as an agency moves to the cloud and scales down its physical footprint. Or, an employee used to running a contract with an on-site vendor may need to transition to a vendor specialist, managing the delivery of services rather than one of the 900 contractors now working locally.

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And FDIC’s IT workforce will have plenty to do in the near future.

FDIC is looking at its legacy systems, taking stock of its own capabilities, applications and data to determine where it can begin consolidating, eliminating duplication and saving resources.

For example, FDIC uses a number of customized applications, and has always operated under a system where it builds and maintains them itself. But as it begins examining implementation of agile processes, Whyte said the agency is shifting its focus away from those applications and toward delivering capabilities.

Better program cost, life cycle management needed

Whenever FDIC delivers those capabilities, it wants to do so across multiple divisions rather than each organization having its own system. That is one way it expects to reduce duplication, so it has begun examining upgrade cycles and ends of life for certain systems.

Whyte said he is preparing for discussions with systems owners, where one program may be boosted so another can be retired.

He said FDIC need to get better at managing the life cycle of programs. The agency needs to deliver certain capabilities, but it also needs to consider the cost of maintaining programs that are years out of date.

“I would assume that there will be savings to be had,” Whyte said. “We are in a complex environment at the FDIC like other federal organizations. As we look at retiring legacy applications or systems, there is bound to be savings. And we believe that we’ll be able to utilize those savings to invest in new technologies to better serve the corporation.”

But saving money is not necessarily the goal, just a bonus. Whyte said FDIC really wants to align better with other agencies, which is why it is also taking a look at its own data.

Whyte said FDIC is forming a tiger team to look into where that data is stored, where and how it is being used, and how the agency can improve its data management. He said FDIC is trying to look at it as an enterprise capability rather than an individual system-focused development life cycle.

So it needs to be managed centrally while still being available to different owners.

“IT is not here to support IT. IT is here to support the business,” Whyte said.