SBA CIO: Cloud, AI Deployments Depend on Data Groundwork

Maria Roat, CIO, SBA - Government Tech Talks – Leveraging Data in the Era of Cloud and IT Modernization

Maria Roat, chief information officer at the Small Business Administration, provided a run-down of her office’s extensive to-do list during a keynote address on Thursday at the Veritas Public Sector Vision Day event, and emphasized the importance of laying the proper data-management policy groundwork before embarking on cloud deployments and forays into artificial intelligence (AI) technologies.

Prominent among numerous data-management issues on that list, Roat said her office is making progress on efforts to better understand who is using agency data, and how data is moving in and out of the agency.

In particular, she’s been looking at why some SBA program offices “are using cloud-based solutions that are not in our stack,” and trying to understand their motivation to do so. She is also looking at duplication of data within SBA, and “how do we move away from that.”

“We have laid out our stack,” she said, adding that the next step is “working through the governance piece of it.”

On the infrastructure front, she talked about the benefits of cloud services, but also the need to undertake the necessary ground work for shifting away from traditional on-premises data centers.

“Putting data in the cloud is nice…But if you’ve got a crappy network it’s not going to get you anywhere,” she said in discussing what SBA is doing to prepare for cloud infrastructure.

“You can’t just move it without having all of these other things in place,” Roat said. “Moving data to the cloud…There’s a lot of moving parts and pieces to it…It’s not that easy.”

She said SBA was looking forward to employing automation and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies, but needs to make sure data governance policies are ready first. “We want to get some automation and AI…But you have to get the data layer right before you can do that,” she said.

Roat said her office has adopted Technology Business Management (TBM) practices for running IT businesses and communicating IT costs and benefits, and plans to put TBM in two of SBA’s larger program offices this year. “That’s going to give me a lot of insight into how dollars are being spent,” she said.

On workforce issues, Roat said her office completed an IT workforce plan last year, and as part of that effort is conducting IT competency assessments in order to better focus training for them.

As for the upheaval caused in recent weeks by the partial Federal government shutdown, “We’re a little bit behind…so I’m ready to go,” she said.

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