Zscaler Exec: Pandemic Performance Marks Fed IT Leadership’s ‘Golden Moment’

By Stephen Kovac, Vice President of Global Government and Head of Corporate Compliance, Zscaler

(Editor’s Note: We asked Kovac whether the vitally strong performance of information technology – particularly in the Federal enterprise – would years from now be seen as IT’s “golden moment” – when it had matured enough to carry the nation through crisis in the form of the coronavirus pandemic.  Here’s what he had to say…)

Technology has played a critical role in keeping government services up and running.

And, we’ve learned a lot about how we can operate in the future. The ability to rapidly scale remote work, connect teams, and keep networks and data secure in this new environment has been tremendously important for continuity of operations. Yes, we can grant secure remote access to applications. Our IT teams can provide support from home. And, yes, we can reduce bandwidth use to help cut costs and improve employee user experience – while at the same time improving security. Through zero trust, we have learned how to connect users to applications without putting them on the network.

But we have found we can’t do these things without modern tools. Twenty-plus-year-old VPNs and appliance-based infrastructure can’t scale quickly enough and can’t provide the security needed in a work-from-anywhere world. Modern remote access tools (authorized for use by the DHS TIC 3.0 Interim Telework Guidance) do give Federal agencies new, secure options, including direct-to-cloud Security-as-a-Service models and zero trust architectures. These tools keep employees productive and secure, connected to the resources they need as they keep citizen services up and running.

This said, I wouldn’t say this is technology’s shining moment. Rather, I would say it is a shining moment for IT leaders and their teams. These leaders are overcoming significant obstacles, piloting new ideas, collaborating with each other and industry partners – and getting it done.

Leaders like Maria Roat at SBA, whose team helped SBA deliver $500 billion in emergency loans (and counting) to small businesses, tripled staffing to meet the national emergency, and scaled website capacity to meet a 100-fold traffic spike.

Leaders like Ashley Mahan at GSA, whose team is expediting the FedRAMP process, the crucial backbone of every agency’s modernization efforts. Zscaler achieved a FedRAMP High JAB authorization in just three months from our JAB kick-off meeting.

And, Anil Cheriyan, Deputy Commissioner of GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service and Director of the Technology Transfer Service (TTS), whose team worked with HHS to set up telehealth.hhs.gov to provide resources to a highly-concerned public in a week, and met almost 1,000 FedRAMP reusability requests. TTS worked to meet spiking demand on USA.gov to the tune of 2.5 million website hits, while moving contact centers to telework with a 75 percent increase in call volumes in progress.

We owe all of these teams, and many more, a debt of gratitude for their work on the front lines, keeping government running.

This is their shining moment and hopefully – we’ll learn from these moments and make lasting changes for the benefit of all. While many people have called it the new normal or next normal, I like to call it a golden moment for our technology leadership.

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